Ride-Hailing Giant Grab Gets Into Old-School Financial Services

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(Bloomberg) -- After gaining success in ride-hailing, Grab co-founder Anthony Tan is pushing his startup into a new challenge: catering to those under-served by traditional financial institutions in Southeast Asia.

Tan, together with GrabPay Southeast Asia Managing Director Jason Thompson, laid out his vision on Tuesday as the company tries to become a major financial services platform in the region.

Grab, once an underdog compared with bigger rival Uber Technologies Inc., has become the dominant player in Southeast Asia after winning customers from Singapore to Vietnam. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that the two companies were close to finalizing a deal under which Uber would sell its operations in the region to Grab.

“I wake up every day thinking about how we are going to empower the next 100 million micro entrepreneurs by 2020,” Tan told the Money 20/20 conference in Singapore. “I know it’s tough. People called us a taxi app. Dealing with competitors was impossible. But our job is to make impossible possible.”

Even though Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing regions for smartphone adoption, only 27 percent of adults have a bank account, according to the World Bank. With more than 86 million downloads, Grab already has a solid base of customers who can start using its app for their financial needs.

Tan is encouraging other financial institutions to join a new joint-venture with Credit Saison Co. called Grab Financial Services Asia. By using its rich data on customer behavior, the platform plans to provide loans to millions of people who are not served by traditional banks. Grab is also teaming up with insurer Chubb Ltd. to offer policies to its 2.6 million drivers.

Thompson echoed Tan’s vision to serve the “invisible people” who will benefit from having access to financial services.

“Nobody has any data on them; the platform is all designed around them,” Thompson said in an interview. “We’ve built the largest internet platform in Southeast Asia and this is another extension of that story.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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