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As ‘buy now, pay later’ gains traction in Indonesia, banks are after a piece of the action

Written by Khamila Mulia Published on     3 mins read

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With deeper balance sheets, banks have the resources to develop BNPL products but that doesn’t guarantee replication of fintech innovation.

“Buy now, pay later” (BNPL) is one of the most popular types of fintech products in Indonesia right now. As its name suggests, BNPL allows customers to commit to a purchase and make partial payments over time until the balance is settled. BNPL has found fanfare in Indonesia over the past two years as part of the maturing e-commerce and fintech sectors. Major players in this sector include Kredivo, Akulaku, Traveloka PayLater, GoPay, Ovo, and ShopeePay.

Last year, 55% of new e-commerce users chose to use BNPL options when they made purchases on e-commerce platforms, according to a survey by Kredivo and the Katadata Insights Center. The survey was based on 10 million transactions on six e-commerce platforms made between January and December 2020. In all, 41% of consumers said they use BNPL to keep their monthly cash flow under control.

Not to be outdone, various conventional financial institutions are entering this segment by partnering with fintech and BNPL providers. For example, Traveloka was tapped by state-owned lenders BRI and Mandiri in 2019 and 2020, respectively, for their BNPL offerings.

Meanwhile, BNI has partnered with both Traveloka and Shopee PayLater. In September, BNI and Traveloka launched a “virtual card number” that allows Traveloka PayLater users to perform transactions on e-commerce platforms beyond the travel bookings platform’s ecosystem.

Several banks are developing their own BNPL products. Bank Mandiri reportedly plans to launch its BNPL product in the fourth quarter of 2021, with a balance limit of up to IDR 5 million (USD 350). CIMB Niaga’s comparable service is expected to be launched next year, while BCA is reportedly reviewing the possibility of creating a similar product.

“This is a natural progression of the tech industry. As tech and market adoption mature, incumbents will start to follow and create their own products,” Kenneth Li, partner at MDI Ventures, told KrASIA.

BNPL is not a new concept. It is similar to existing installment financing products. However, BNPL has garnered popularity because of the convenience brought on by app-based integration with e-commerce platforms.

While credit card applications may take days or weeks to be approved, users can apply for a BNPL account and receive an activation notice within 24 hours, making it the preferred choice for many millennials and Gen Z consumers.

“Credit card penetration in Indonesia is very low, at around 5%. And since the pandemic started, credit card production has slowed down. This shows an opportunity for BNPL to overtake credit cards in terms of penetration, mainly due to the scalable nature of the product,” Li said.

When it comes to distributing short-term personal loans like BNPL, established banks have several advantages. Banks have deeper balance sheets that set them apart from even the most well-funded fintech startups. This gives banks the means to offer higher limits than standalone fintech providers. Banks also have large existing consumer and merchant bases that may be more willing to adopt new services, particularly if they are bundled with existing features. New BNPL products developed by banks diversify their offerings, giving the institutions new ways to reach customers who don’t own credit cards, like MSME owners.

However, Li argued that it is not easy for conventional banks to replicate fintech innovation. “Traditional banks are restricted by regulations and compliance, not to mention that their risk thresholds are also lower than that of full-fledged BNPL players.” Li believes that banks and fintech providers can co-exist in this sector. He predicts that more banks will team up or even acquire fintech platforms to offer this service instead of developing their own products from scratch.

“Rather than take a risk on creating and deploying expenses into a new business model that may not work, it would be wiser to partner with existing players and tap into an established ecosystem like e-commerce firms that already have millions of merchants and customers,” Li said.

Read this: Singapore is laying the groundwork to snatch a piece of fintech’s multi-trillion-dollar industry

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