Asia-Pacific is a fascinating region, and a particular focus since the Cards and Electronic Payments Summit and Awards took place in Singapore in September. It is a place where developing countries sit alongside highly developed payments markets. Anna Milne writes
Some developing markets are leapfrogging – take Myanmar for example. Since the end of military rule, to say the country’s appetite for mobile and online activity and digitisation has soared is almost an understatement.
In the space of two years, the number of SIM cards in the country had increased by 400% and the number of people going online by 95%, according to government figures as of the second half of 2016.
Singapore’s government is involved in a serious project assessing the viability of blockchain to decentralise its real-time gross settlement system. And in H2 2017, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the formation of a payments council which has since been tasked with devising a common QR code standard. These are big developments.
Certainly something was needed to boost the city state’s drive towards cashlessness. According to Standard Chartered’s global head of credit cards, the number of cards per head in Singapore is into double figures, at ten per person, making the volume of cash transactions in the country rather disproportionate, at 40%. A common QR standard could be just the ticket to bring the hawker trade into the electronic payment realm. The public transport system has already been given a digital makeover.
There is huge potential in this region to capture unbanked market share and to capitalise on the trend towards digital services, and it will be an interesting track to follow, because it is likely that development here will cause increased divergence between this and other global regions.
For all the conversations about common standards and convergence, individual ecosystems will inevitably evolve in different countries to suit its own citizens, taking into account culture, current infrastructure, established banking system, and so on. Take a look at pages 12 and 13 in this month’s edition for the World Economic Forum’s take on the various and divergent global payment pathways.
In India, as an example, after the sudden demonetisation effort, the progress of Paytm has been astronomical, building its own ecosystem out of a most singular set of circumstances.
But back to Singapore. It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to chair the Cards and Electronic Payments International CEPI Summit and Awards, which honoured the best of the best Asian card and payment products and services.
As the chair of the Global Payments Innovation Jury said of late, just under 50% of jurors would choose Asia as the location if they were starting a payments business today.
Congratulations to all the winners at CEPI. We are looking forward to seeing what the next year’s worth of brilliant innovation brings.