Cards and Payments Asia 2016 presented an enthralling look into the future of the digital finance space in Asia and beyond. It covered a range of areas from financial inclusion to e-commerce as well as changes in payment processes. Re-branding itself as Seamless next year, the conference pushed for a change in approach, adopting its name from the frictionless experience technological changes will bring to the entire Cards and Payments ecosystem.

“Disrupt or be disrupted” was the theme of Cards and Payments Asia 2016; calling for players within financial systems to get on board with the change (but it should not be done just for the sake of it!). It was emphasized that the various players should understand their goals for change and adapt accordingly.

Digital commerce shows no signs of slowing down in Asia. This is highlighted by the event’s popularity with over 8000 attendees, 200 expert speakers, and 140 international exhibitors. Less than a week after the conference, Alibaba announced that it would pay $1 billion for a majority stake in regional online marketplace Lazada. Growth is set to accelerate further as digital adoption continues.

Lazada Shopping Infographic

Lazada Shopping Infographic

To summarize the immense opportunities the conference presented, we have identified four key areas of interest, mainly:

A. The Ubiquity of Transport Payments System

Contactless transport payment cards like EZ-Link (Singapore) and Rabbit (Bangkok) are improving the payments landscape by offering rewards for customers to use their cards for more than just transport.

Of notable success in Asia is Hong Kong’s Octopus card, where retail transactions now account for over 40% of an estimated HK$130 million (US$16.7 million) worth of daily Octopus card transactions. Figure 1 below shows the increasing trend of the circulation of Octopus card as well as the extrapolated prediction in the near future.

Hong Kong Octopus Card

Figure 1. Octopus Cards in Circulation, Hong Kong (WikiBooks, 2014)

Additionally, EZ-Link and Rabbit also shared that they are headed towards becoming lifestyle providers by offering value-added services. Rabbit demonstrates significant development here with its new partnership with popular messaging app payment system LINE Pay, which will be called Rabbit LINE Pay. The company aims to build the biggest integrated offline and online payment platform in Thailand.

B. Financial Inclusion and the Bottom of Pyramid

Before the main conference began, we attended the Financial Inclusion Summit which highlighted that over 2 billion of the world’s population are still unbanked or under-banked. Developments in this space, from companies such as Lenddo, Uangteman, and Nearex demonstrate the opportunity to improve welfare whilst developing new market opportunities.

C. From eCommerce to sCommerce

Commerce is changing. Companies cannot simply sell online as ecommerce providers; they have to adapt to various digital platforms available today, from mobile apps to ecommerce marketplaces, and position themselves as social lifestyle providers for customers or social commerce (scommerce).

Brands and merchants have to recognize that the customer has now the power; they have to construct an engaging online experience to attract and retain customers.

One of India’s leading ecommerce sites, Snapdeal, has addressed this challenge by expanding into omnichannel for a first-of-its-kind “hybridized commerce” ecosystem to enable online-offline transactions in India. Read more here!

D. The Opportunities of Exploring Partnerships and Pilots

Disruptions from startups might seem to pose threats to corporate industries. Figure 2 below shows the number of startup companies valued at $1 billion or more, which shows that their emergence would serve as competition to corporate industries. However, this should not be seen as a death knell for these entities, but should rather be seen as opportunities for improvement.

Partnerships and innovation labs are the way to go as we see companies branching out into startups or collaborating with startups to embrace change.

Infographic: More and More Startups Reach the Billion-Dollar Milestone | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

To conclude, change is coming at an ever faster pace in Asia, which is the forefront of new developments. Corporate businesses can (and should) anticipate and adapt to these changes and participate in the new financial landscape that Asia is pioneering.

Get more insights by downloading the full report, “the State of Payments in Asia”, following the Cards & Payments 2016 Conference in Singapore.

Check out as well our slideshare presentation for a summarized version.