Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong account for 5% of the country’s total population. As they have to remit their hard-earned cash back home, this has led to Hong Kong’s thriving traditional remittance services industry. However, exchange rates were never ideal and these foreign domestic helpers could only remit money on their day-offs, as they have to go to the physical stores to send money home.
Founded in 2012, TNG began by exploring the ways to use technology for more convenient and cheaper remittance services for the foreign domestic helpers.
When TNG Wallet was launched by the end of 2015, many Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers started to flock to sign up as TNG’s Super VIP members. They can now remit money anytime, anywhere, all on their mobile via TNG’s app. TNG’s chief executive and founder Alex Kong revealed at its launch that users of the app will not be charged any transaction fee. TNG Wallet secured its Stored Value Facilities license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) in August 2016.
Its ‘’Global E-Wallet Alliance’’ has now expanded to 12 other Asian countries including China, The Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Additionally, it also offers more than just remittance services, but also person-to-person (P2P) money transfer, global bill payment, global SIM card airtime top-up, foreign currency exchange and purchase, and cash withdrawal etc. Its global users now can get access to 24/7 cash withdrawal services via a network of 852 banks and more than 183K cash pick-up points.
TNG today is a financial service enabler for the unbanked in the Asia region and has raised up to US$115 million to date. The investors include New Margin Capital, Nogle Group, and Infinity-KBR Group.
Kong shared with KrASIA at a recent interview that the move from the PC-web to mobile-web is only logical. More than just a tool, he sees the mobile app essentially as a virtual storefront, giving him the vision to expand TNG from just mobile payments to grow into a branchless virtual bank for the unbanked.
With Hong Kong preparing the way for virtual banks with the issuance of a virtual banking license, TNG is now set to expand its business to become a branchless virtual bank, looking to offer the full range of banking services ranging from interest on deposits to lending and investments.
And this is where TNG aims to be different from the other major FinTech players. In an interview with KrASIA, Kong says that digital payment players like WeChat Pay and AliPay are mainly focused on mobile payment services, while is looking to offer a wide range of financial services – like traditional banks – to the unbanked all on their mobiles. He is eyeing at the great potential in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia where there is a wide pool of the unbanked people.
Still, the swift growing TNG in Hong Kong has attracted more competition. By end of June this year, Alipay Payment Services Group, Ant Financial, and the Hong Kong-based joint venture of CK Hutchison Holdings have come together operate an e-wallet just for Filipinos in Hong Kong. The plan is to become the first blockchain-backed remittance service provider that functions pretty much the same as TNG. The aim is to meet the needs of the 200,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong, by providing faster, cheaper, and safer remittance alternatives for a market size of about US$700 million quantum amount per year.
While TNG has been in the market longer and has a clear competitive advantage, it is important to highlight the resources of Alibaba Group’s subsidiaries – Ant Financial. The latter has grown significantly to become worth 50% larger than Goldman Sachs.
Editor: Ben Jiang, Nadine Freischlad