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Grab launches new consumer financial services, including micro-investments and loans

Grab announced today that its financial unit, which previously focused mainly on services for entrepreneurs and small businesses, is launching a slew of consumer products, including micro-investments, loans, health insurance and a pay-later program.

Based in Singapore, Grab began in 2012 as a ride-hailing company before expanding into on-demand deliveries and other services. In January 2019, it formed a joint venture with ZhongAn Insurance to build a digital insurance marketplace. Since then, its financial services portfolio has grown through a series of partnerships and the acquisition of Bento, which allowed it to offer investment and wealth management services as well.

In February, Grab announced that it had raised up to $856 million to speed up development of its payments and financial services.

Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Grab raised $200 billion from South Korean private equity firm Stic, bringing its total funding so far to more than $10 billion at a valuation of about $14.3 billion. A Grab spokesperson declined TechCrunch’s request for comment on that raise.

Tapping into a growing market

During a call with reporters today, when asked if Grab has a timeline for reaching profitability, Reuben Lai, senior managing director at Grab Financial Group, said there isn’t one yet, but “research has shown that there is a real demand for the products we are launching today. What we really want to do is focus on consumers and make sure we deliver products they use. We think profitability and sustainability will follow.”

Grab Financial Group’s new products including AutoInvest, a platform that allows consumers to invest small sums of money through Grab’s app; consumer loans; a buy now, pay later program; and expanded insurance offerings, including hospital insurance that will first launch in Indonesia.

While Grab’s new consumer products were in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lai said the crisis has accelerated demand for services like online shopping, digital payments and insurance.

Grab’s consumer products will compete with services like StashAway, an online investment platform based in Singapore, but Lai said Grab Financial Group’s competitive edge is that there are already millions of Grab users in Southeast Asia. This gives it a built-in consumer base and also data to continually refresh the scoring models it uses to determine creditworthiness.

According to a 2019 report by e-Conomy Asia, a research program run by Google and Temasek, about 70% of people in Southeast Asia are “underbanked,” meaning that they lack access to credit cards or long-term savings products. Even in Singapore, one of Asia’s financial centers, about 40% of consumers qualify as underbanked. Bain and e-Conomy estimate that the digital financial services in Southeast Asia can generate $60 billion in revenue by 2025, making it a lucrative market for Grab.

Micro-investing and insurance

Most of the unit’s insurance was previously focused on Grab’s ecosystem, including drivers and merchants on its platform. But new products, like hospital coverage that will launch in Indonesia first to supplement the country’s national healthcare system, are targeted at consumers.

Chandrima Das, who founded Bento in 2016 and is now head of GrabInvest, said Grab’s new micro-investment product will be accessible through Grab’s digital wallet. Returns can be cashed out and spent on Grab services or merchants that accept GrabPay. it is partnered with liquid fixed-income funds managed by Fullerton Fund Management and UOB Asset Management, and allows users to invest as little as SGD $1 at a time, with the potential to earn returns about about 1.8%. It will launch first in Singapore at the beginning of September.

While Grab Financial Group already offers working capital loans to drivers and purchase financing for merchants on its platform, its new consumer credit products include PayLater, which allows users to pay for Grab services at the end of each month, and will first be available in Singapore and Malaysia.

The company is also offering consumer loans from third-party licensed banks and financial institutions with an application process that it Ankur Mehrota, Grab Financial Group’s head of lending, says is so simple “you can do it while sitting on your couch watching Netflix.” Once approved, Grab serves a distribution platform for the loans.

Mehrota said benefits of the program for merchants include increased gross merchandise value, larger basket sizes and lower cart abandonment rates.

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Grab and Singtel team up to apply for a digital full bank license in Singapore

Grab and Singtel, one of the largest telecoms in Singapore, announced today that they are applying for a digital full bank license together. If approved, the license will allow them to offer simple credit and investment products, before progressing to a full-functioning bank if they meet the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) criteria.

Grab will hold a 60% stake in the consortium, with Singtel holding the other 40%. A joint statement said the companies are “committed to contributing to the financial services sector with a differentiated offering that addresses the unmet and underserved needs of consumer and enterprise segments in Singapore,” including SMEs that need access to credit. Securing working capital is a major pain point across Southeast Asia, with several startup and financial institutions working on new tools to gauge creditworthiness and manage loans.

Grab launched in 2012 as a ride-sharing company, but now bills itself as “Southeast Asia’s leading super app,” with app that provides a wide array of service, including transportation, logistics, food delivery, ticket and hotel booking and financial services, through one portal.

It entered financial services in 2016 with the introduction of GrabPay Wallet, a digital wallet, before launching Grab Financial Group in 2019. Grab Financial Group’s services include online payments, lending and insurance products that it says reaches 100 million users across Southeast Asia.

In a press statement, Grab Financial Group senior managing director Reuben Lai said the consortium’s plan is to “build a truly customer-centric digital bank that will deliver a variety of banking and financial services that are accessible, transparent and affordable.”

MAS announced in June that it will issue up to two digital full bank licenses and three digital wholesale bank licenses, as part of a bid to to liberalize Singapore’s banking sector.

Source: TechCrunch