Ascend Group chief executive Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa demonstrates the new features of TrueMoney’s e-wallet application.
TrueMoney, a subsidiary of Ascend group, plans to officially launch nano-financing and personal loan services for Thais by next June.
The move is to capitalise on the large number of people who lack access to formal lending, including unbanked people, and to become a key digital financial player in the region.
The value of underground loans in the country is larger than that for formal loans, said Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, chief executive of Ascend Group.
Thailand is similar to several countries in Asean where most of the population is unbanked or people have no access to formal loan services, he said.
At present, 370 million people, or 60% of total population in 620-million-strong Asean, are unbanked.
Some 500 million in Asean have no access to formal loans, 530 million have no insurance, and 600 million have no investments.
Mobile applications allow people simple access to financial services, especially e-wallet services.
The number of e-wallet users in the country increased 100% the past year thanks to increasing adoption of cashless services and an ecosystem driven by the state and private players.
TrueMoney has some 3 million active users, increasing from 2 million last year. The company targets having 4 million active users by the end of this year, 8 million by the end of 2018 and 30 million by 2020.
E-wallet is a digital platform that helps unbanked people to access formal loans through digital service.
Mr Punnamas said TrueMoney is working on details of its imminent nanofinancing and personal loans services, including negotiations with banks regarding partnership.
“We are not a rival of banks but we will partner with them,” he said, adding that details of personal loans will be concluded by the second quarter next year.
Mr Punnamas said of the two options, nanofinancing loans will offer more flexible conditions but will charge higher interest rates than personal loans.
“We may provide one or both,” he said, adding that the company may offer a loan only or a loan with credit for customers to buy products and services of the group.
Ascend chief said first target group of TrueMoney’s loan services is its TrueMoney customers because the company already has data of their transactions.
TrueMoney e-wallet records seven transactions per month per user on average, an increase from three transactions per user in January.
Ascend Group Co is a subsidiary of Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group Co Ltd. It operates the e-commerce arm Ascend Commerce, the fintech unit Ascend Money with TrueMoney, the digital enabler arm with True IDC, and Ascend Capital, a venture capital firm.
Mr Punnamas said Ascend has 60,000 digital financial service agents for TrueMoney throughout Southeast Asia, of which 20,000 (including 9,000 branches of 7-Eleven) are in Thailand.
Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group, bought 20% stake in Ascend Money, a subsidiary of Ascend Group, in August 2016.
Mr Punnamas said the partnership with Ant creates a comprehensive and equal access connecting users with an innovative financial service.
“We have learned a lot from Ant, especially regarding fraud and risk management, which are important factors for the launch of our nanofinance and personal loan services in the near future,” Mr Punnamas said.
TreuMoney, meanwhile, announced new features for its wallet application, allowing its users to enjoy more than existing bills payment, mobile top-ups and money transfer functions.
Its users will now be able to make investments in mutual funds and buy insurance via TrueMoney services starting early next year. The app will also provide credit ratings and include fraud prevention features.