Microloans are Asia’s most popular fintech products as Gen Z and Millennial Online Shoppers prefer to buy now, pay later
Chinese online shoppers have long been used to what are also known as microloans, small amounts of credit powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics. Group of ants, a subsidiary of the owner of this newspaper Alibaba Holding Group, operates its Huabei service since 2014 – while rival JD.com Baitiao started the same year.
âThe buy-it-now and late-pay industry in China has grown rapidly in recent years, although people generally regard it as online microcredit,â said Han Feng, McKinsey partner in Shanghai. “But it’s an area that is being regulated now, so the industry has gone through dramatic changes and growth has slowed down.”
What are the dominant electronic payment methods in the Asia-Pacific region?
|2020 (%)||2024 (%)|
|Digital / mobile wallet||60.2||65.4|
|Cash on delivery||4.1||2.0|
|Debit and deferred debit card||0.8||0.4|
|Buy now, pay later||0.6||1.3|
Certainly, China’s online microcredit products differ from the BNPL services seen in the West. Huabei, which means âjust spend it,â works more like a virtual credit card that offers borrowers up to 40 days of interest-free loans.
Most BNPL plans derive their income from increased spending at merchants, letting buyers take advantage of their interest-free credit.
Some of these services, like LexinFintech’s Maiya and Happay, offer interest-free BNPL loans. Hong Kong, Singapore and the rest of Asia are also getting closer to BNPL.
âThe trend of online microcredit has slowed in China, but for some Southeast Asian markets there is still a good chance of growth, especially for Thailand and India. [where there is] a lack of credit cards, âHan said. “This region is now like the first stage of the Chinese market.”
Tencent Holdings, which has its own credit product called Fenfu Via its ubiquitous social media network WeChat, has invested in 3% of Southeast Asian tech giant Sea. Its e-commerce platform ventured into BNPL’s offerings in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
BNPL loans are highly regarded in Asia as they satisfy both consumers and merchants. Buyers are drawn to the payments niche as it stretches their dollar, while merchants welcome a higher volume of sales.
âDespite the strong adoption of digital payments around the world, what consumers lacked was paying over multiple time frames,â said Warren Hayashi, Asia-Pacific president of Dutch payment processor Adyen, which manages online payments. and in-store via a single platform for merchants. .
âSometimes you see installment payments for more expensive items. These are legacy solutions owned by banks; consumers have little choice of how to pay over a period of time.
BNPL’s services received a boost during the global Covid-19 pandemic, as social distancing rules funneled the use of cash into contactless online payments, while job shifts increased the need for short-term credit.
Millennials and Generation Z – those born between the late 1990s and early 2010s – are the biggest users of BNPL services, said Arvin Singh, co-founder of BNPL Hoolah service in Singapore.
Launched in 2018, Hoolah offers BNPL services in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore through stores like Zalora, Klipsch, and GNC. He declined to disclose his user count, but cited a 400% growth in user numbers over the past year.
âThese buyers – aged 25 to 35 – are savvy, they appreciate the flexibility of payments and better cash flow,â Singh said. âIt also serves the underbanked – those without access to credit cards – and workers in the odd-job economy. We also notice [younger consumers] prefer to use debit rather than credit.
Unlike traditional hire-purchase, BNPL services are mobile internet products, offering interest-free loans for small amounts, typically starting at a minimum of around HK $ 100 on average.
They receive the product in advance, after making the first payment. In stores, consumers pay by scanning QR codes. BNPL’s online services are integrated with payment options, a trend increasingly adopted by merchants, said Hayashi. Swedish bank Klarna Bank and Australian Afterpay are two of the big names in fintech that Adyen has added to its platform.
For merchants, BNPL generally costs more than credit cards. But vendors say merchants benefit from larger baskets and higher paying customers in return. Often, the vendor assumes the credit risk, pays merchants in full upfront, and takes care of user reimbursement.
Atom, a Singapore BNPL provider operating in nine Asian markets, charges merchants a fee of over 1-3% of transactions, the rate charged by credit card companies.
âWe take the risk that customers don’t pay,â said Eric Yu, Managing Director of Atom Hong Kong. âThese fees include costs such as marketing, coupons, and credit card fees that we incur. “
Founded in 2019, Atom has 20 million users in mainland China and Hong Kong.
âIn return for paying for this service, it has been proven that merchants benefit from increased sales and transaction size of up to 30%, while still benefiting from lower customer acquisition costs compared to traditional channels. Yu said.
The BNPL craze has also drawn traditional banks into the fray, as they aim to cash in in a market that could grow 43% annually over the next three years, according to forecasts by FIS-Worldpay.
Standard Chartered, with roots dating back to British colonial times 167 years ago, announced an investment of US $ 500 million in Atome Financial in October. United Overseas Bank (UOB), one of Singapore’s three largest banks, last month announced plans to introduce BNPL service in Indonesia through its digital banking app.
In Hong Kong, virtual bank Livi launched its PayLater product in July, which is “easy for the customer to assess and monitor,” said its product manager, Carol Hung. Livi is co-owned by Bank of China (Hong Kong), Jardine Matheson Group and JD Technology, the fintech arm of JD.com.
Users can split their bills into installments of three to 36 months, leveraging a MasterCard debit account. They pay a monthly processing fee of around 0.20 to 0.80% of the transaction, depending on the outcome of their credit score. Approximately 42,000 users have signed up for their product to date and the average usage time is 12 months.
As the sector matures, the trend is also drawing the attention of regulators, criticized for weak credit controls or encouraging overspending. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said customers should be aware that some buy-it-now, on-payment service providers may not be regulated, typically non-bank institutions, in an email response to the To post.
For banks, buy-it-now and on-payment plans fall under personal credit products and are subject to regulations, such as a “double reminder” for users – emphasizing product features and characteristics. key details, including interest rates and repayment terms, the HKMA said.
Livi, as a licensed bank in Hong Kong, performs credit checks with its own risk models based on data from a variety of sources, including the Credit Bureau and its shareholders. Most applications do not require proof of income from users.
Non-bank institutions have comparatively more flexible credit checks. Atom rates users with its two-minute credit profiling technology, requiring the user’s personal data, identity documents, and an active debit or credit card linked to their account.
BNPL products will go mainstream and experience strong growth, said Hung.
âHong Kong people have been using installment plans for a long time,â she said. âBuying now, paying later is just a different way of doing things and some may not yet know what the term means. But they are practical and smart. Once they see these plans as something that adds value or helps with cash flow, they get started.