Over the last few years, there has been a rush for digital banking licenses in Southeast Asia. Last December, Singapore issued two digital full bank licenses to Sea Group and the Grab and Singtel consortium. Grab rival Gojek acquired Bank Jago in Indonesia with plans to add digital banking services to its platform.
The demand for digital bank licenses is expected to continue as several other Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia look to create their own infrastructure and issue licenses soon.
WeLab Bank, which obtained its digital bank license in 2019 in Hong Kong, was one of the first fully licensed digital banks in Asia, and it is now looking at expanding its banking operations. It has raised USD 75 million in the initial close of its series C-1 round of funding led by Allianz X, the digital investment unit of the Germany-based insurer and asset manager Allianz Group. Existing investors also participated in this round, with its final close expected in the next few months.
Founded in 2013, WeLab operates several online financial services across Hong Kong, mainland China, and Indonesia. This includes its digital bank WeLab Bank, online lending platform WeLend, its business-to-business enterprise solution platform, and its mobile lending platform Maucash. To date, it has raised over USD 600 million in funding from investors, the firm said.
The startup anticipates that the new funding will bolster the acceleration of its pan-Asian growth strategy and expansion of its digital financial services. WeLab and Allianz have also established a strategic partnership to form a fintech collaboration across Asia, including a digital wealth management platform, which will be a part of WeLab Bank, by the end of this year.
The platform will be launched in Hong Kong first, with plans to roll it out to the Greater Bay Area through the Wealth Management Connect scheme that regulators passed just last month. The region hosts a population of 72 million and is home to some of China’s wealthiest people. WeLab will later bring the wealth management platform to Southeast Asia, starting with Indonesia, where it already has a presence through online lending platform Maucash.
Unmet needs in Southeast Asia
The company aims to answer the unmet investment needs in Asia, where it says only 27% of the population confer with financial advisors, resulting in a sizable under-advised population of over 3.4 billion people. This year, it will be hiring around 100 employees.
WeLab and Allianz will further explore opportunities to offer new digital investment and insurance products in Southeast Asia by combining the latter’s expertise in investment and insurance and the former’s network of customers and technology.
Simon Loong, founder and group CEO of WeLab, tells Tech in Asia that he sees a USD 3 trillion revenue opportunity in terms of the total addressable market size for financial services in Asia. “We see this as a first-in-market four-way partnership where there are abundant synergies between WeLab, as a fintech leader and a pioneer in digital banking, and Allianz, as a global insurer and asset manager,” said Loong.
This article was originally published by Tech in Asia.