As regulators increase license allocations and set standards for a new generation of banking, there is a unique opportunity for both incumbents and new entrants to get involved.
Not every Asian digital bank is a success story, of course, but those that have developed a productive business model and scaled effectively have thrived. Once established, digital banks can generate higher revenues at a lower cost to serve than incumbents, putting them in a position to expand market share. In addition, their digital architecture enables them to access ecosystems of businesses and customers, bringing exponential benefits in terms of knowledge and data.
While digital banks in other geographies are often startups, Asian digital banking is being driven largely by established companies and consortia. Despite structural challenges with regard to governance, consortia bring significant advantages in terms of achieving scale. Just five years after launch, Tencent-backed WeBank serves some 200 million people, and Alibaba-supported MYbank has more than 20 million SME customers. Over a short period, China’s digital banks now have a roughly 5 percent share of the country’s RMB 5 trillion (~$700 billion) unsecured consumer loan market and more than 7 percent of online SME loans. South Korea’s KakaoBank, launched in 2017, attracted more than 10 million customers in its first year and now has a roughly 5 percent share of the country’s unsecured consumer loan market.