Following the success of 2018’s FinTech Challenge Vietnam, ADB Ventures sees a big opportunity to accelerate inclusive economic growth in the Mekong region through financial technology.

The Opportunity for FinTech

Small and medium-sized enterprises accounted for 98% of all enterprises, 38% of gross domestic product on average, and employed 66% of the national labor force in Asia during 2007–2012. Just 27% of Southeast Asia’s population had a bank account in 2018. Banking penetration is low, leaving some 438 million without access to finance. The number of unbanked individuals rise the further into impoverished rural areas you travel.

FinTech can reach the massive unbanked population across the region. It can stimulate productivity and enhance efficiency in the banking sector. It can expand access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Innovation through Collaboration

Sponsored by the Asian Development Bank’s Mekong Business Initiative and the Australian Government, the FinTech Challenge Vietnam was the first-of-its-kind in Asia. It acted as a bridge between FinTech innovators, early-adopters (nine commercial banks), and the regulator: the State Bank of Vietnam. The Vietnam Banks Association (VNBA) and FinTech Club Vietnam acted as co-sponsors.

Sandboxing their solutions with banks, the finalists of FinTech Challenge Vietnam underwent a six-week incubation period that allowed them to refine their products and their pitches. 15 finalists pitched their solutions in May 2018, following extensive collaboration with Vietnamese banks

Winning Solutions

Winners from the challenge took home cash prizes, with Weezi Digital Corporation selected as FinTech Champion from Vietnam, taking home a prize of US $25,000 for their “self-banking” machine-learning solution. The Weezi Digital team is comprised of deeply passionate and technologically adept engineers, who hope to promote financial inclusion through biometric onboarding (eKYC) that makes financial management more accessible.

The first runner up was KIU Global, also from Vietnam, which won a prize of US $15,000. Kiu has developed an integrated solution for SMEs that includes an e-commerce market platform (KIU Market), a comprehensive enterprise resource planner system (KIU ERP), and cash advances on invoices (KIU Pay) – all of which generate data that makes it easier for business owners to acquire loans from banks.

The 2nd runner up, WeCash from China, was granted US $10,000 for their innovation that provides loans to users with no or low credit history. It does this by evaluating their credit instantly through a proprietary engine that evaluates their GPS, ID, social networks, e-commerce activity, and more than 4,000 variables in their mobile apps, allowing them almost instant access to loans.

Additional awards of US $5,000 were awarded to three other promising entrepreneurs.

  • Most Innovative FinTech award went to Tradle of the United States. Their award-winning software program develops user-controlled KYC portability, blockchain-based due diligence and real-time regulatory supervision.
  • Best Young Local FinTech was given to Vietnam’s, which has developed a marketplace and matching algorithm that connects borrowers and lenders. Vietnamese SMEs have difficulty accessing loans from financial institutions because they lack transparent accounts and often don’t own real property to offer as collateral. Even when they can secure loans, they often pay high interest rates.
  • Most Inspirational FinTech was won by Enablecode of Vietnam – a company that actively works to employ computing experts with disabilities. Together, they’re working to shift Vietnamese perceptions on what a strong business looks like.

© 2019 Asian Development Bank.