COVID-19 saw a wave of digitalisation sweeping across entire industries and businesses, forcing them to stay relevant through providing online services and payments. The trend started in 2020 during the early onset of the pandemic, and only continued growing in 2021 despite the return to a sense of normalcy through office-based work and vaccine rollouts across the world.
International corporations, SMEs, and consumers like you and I, having tasted the widespread benefits and convenience of e-commerce and digital payments, are simply reluctant to revert back. Numerous FinTech and financial trends have hence emerged from the new digitalisation transformation accelerated by COVID-19.
So what are these financial trends that have shaped, or even changed the industry in a post-COVID world? Here are four key trends that have defined the new digital age.
1. ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Programs (BNPL)
According to the Q4 2021 BNPL Survey, the BNPL payment industry in Asia Pacific is expected to grow an astounding 61.5% annually to reach US$133.7 billion in 2022. The reason for strong growth in the BNPL industry is largely due to increased e-commerce activity, as well as the wider economic slowdown.
This makes the option to pay for purchases later a key service for online merchants to offer.
The Asia Pacific region is home to many of the world’s largest BNPL companies. Examples include:
- Australia’s Afterpay (acquired by Square for US$29 billion)
- India’s Pine Labs (US$7 billion valuation)
- Japan’s Paidy (acquired by Paypal for US$2.7 billion)
- Singapore’s Atome (US$2 billion valuation)
- Indonesia’s Akulaku (US$1 billion valuation)
However, the prevalence of BNPL might sometimes be over-exaggerated. Recent estimates expect BNPL to account for just 2% of e-commerce payments in Asia Pacific by 2025. Indeed, even in Singapore, BNPL payment services have yet to pick up, with most people still depending on payment methods like credit cards and PayLah / PayNow mobile payments.
Who knows? Perhaps BPNL might become the new norm in Singapore in the near future.
2. Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)
With the accelerated digitalisation brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns, central banks all around the world have been exploring issuing digital tokens that are pegged to their own fiat currency. As CBDCs, these digital dollars have the exact same value as paper dollars.
China became the world’s first major country to develop a digital currency (e-yuan), in a bid to push more Chinese to go cashless while building greater resilience to tech giants-backed payment systems like AliPay.
However, despite the push for digital currencies in recent years, it is unlikely for Singapore to adopt CBDCs anytime soon. In March 2022, Singapore’s Minister of Finance, Lawrence Wong responded to a parliamentary question about CBDCs and clarified that there is “no pressing need for its issuance” in the near future.
3. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investing
Increased pressure for more sustainable investing goals has led to an acceleration towards ESG-related goals. In June 2022, Singapore announced the issuance of up to S$35 billion of Green Bonds in order to support Singapore’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Climate change has become an ever-increasing concern for the younger generation of Millennials and Generation Z. This fad of sustainable consumption has also spilt over to the investing world, as investors want to pump their money into the companies that align with their value of caring for the environment.
As the younger generation becomes more financially savvy, the demand for ESG investing in Singapore also increases. You can check out our guide on the best online brokerages in Singapore for ESG investing right here.
ESG funding presents a huge opportunity for banks to respond with relevant financial instruments that can help fund ‘green’ and ‘social’ projects, promoting improvements for the environmentally and socially aware investor.
Neobanks has become a buzzword in the FinTech world in recent years. This is courtesy to more organisations stepping up to offer convenient banking services as technology catches up with the financial sector. Since then, the term “Neobank” has acquired traction. But what exactly are Neobanks?
Neobanks in Singapore, also known as Challenger Banks, are a new kind of non-bank FinTech businesses that aim to redefine traditional banking.
Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar banks, Neobanks stand out in the sense that they often do not have physical branches or locations. Instead, they shine in providing services digitally, and pass on the savings of zero rental in the form of lower fees.
A majority of traditional banks are hampered by outdated infrastructure. As a result, they fall short when it comes to providing financial services to SMEs, such as payment gateways, invoicing software and diverse perspectives on cash management.
This is where Neobanks have stepped up. Currently, there are up to two digital full bank (DFB) licences and three digital wholesale bank (DWB) licences in Singapore. Neobanks can also collaborate with bank partners to provide licensed services.
COVID-19 has indeed heralded a sweep of digital transformations in Singapore. Even the majority of traditional hawker centres have started to accept mobile payments, a sight that is entirely unseen before the pandemic.
Interested in being part of the new financial trend? You can start off by taking a look at our BNPL guide which explains everything there is to know about BNPL plans, whether they are actually worth it, and how you can start off with them.
If futuristic sounding acronyms like CBDCs, ESG or BNPL are still making your head spin, and you’re just interested in the basics of personal finance, we also have the thing for you! You can read more about financial planning like the best credit cards, insurance plans and loans in Singapore right over here.