July 23, 2024

Advancing Digital Growth

Pioneering Technological Innovation

Don’t pluck out fintech talent; plow them back in

4 min read

The Luxembourg House of Financial Technology in April 2024 launched an  to boost financial inclusion in the Asean region. Fifteen fintech startups from Southeast Asia were selected for a two-week bootcamp that was held in Bangkok, Thailand (in April) and in Luxembourg (in June). Delano caught up with Amor Maclang, convenor of Digital Philipinas and co-founder of the International Digital Economies Association, and Lhoft’s deputy CEO  at the Nexus2050 tech conference to hear more about the programme and nurturing fintech talent.

Serving the “global digital majority”

How did Southeast Asian fintechs end up in the Luxembourg programme?

The International Digital Economies Association focuses on the “global digital majority,” of which India, Africa and Asean countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) are “very strong pillars.” The organisation aims to advance global digital integration and support startups. But “the last thing that we want is to take startups, where they are, solving problems where they’re needed, and then incubating them in–no disrespect intended–global north countries like the UK or the US,” said Maclang. Take Revolut, for instance, which Britain considers its “pride and joy.” The neobank, she pointed out, is actually Lithuanian.

“So what we said was, we will work very closely on incubation and acceleration that keeps the talents where they are, and also matching them with global partners, both on the mentor and the market side,” said Maclang. And the Lhoft is “the most impactful acceleration and incubation programme–for me–in the world.” They work collaboratively with the fintechs to ensure that they’re not being “plucked out” of their initial locations, but rather “plowed back into Asean where they can continue to serve their markets.”

The inclusive support from the Luxembourg government, the foreign affairs ministry and the Lhoft has been “unparalleled,” she added. “I’ve been working with a lot of global north countries, if I may, and the [programme] here in Luxembourg stands out.”

“I would have to say this is probably one of the most enabling,” said Maclang.

Boosting financial inclusion

The Southeast Asia Catapult programme is a follow-up of the bootcamp, which aims to help startups enhance financial inclusiveness and scale their business and will hold its seventh edition in November.

This is the first edition of the bootcamp for Southeast Asia, Lhoft’s deputy CEO Alex Panican told Delano during the conference. There’s a focus on countries where we can see that fintech can have a “massive” and positive impact on the population. “So the programme’s goal is to identify and help the fintechs on three main pillars.”

The first pillar is “impact,” where fintechs learn about “how to have a better impact with their product and services,” he explained. “The business model is not just to make money, but also to have a positive impact.”

Pillar two is “scalability,” with a focus on doing good not just locally, but also throughout the region. “For that, we work with associations,” said Panican. Associations from several Asean countries–Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam–were present at the Nexus2050 conference, where in their countries. These associations can help startups expand their impact across the region.

“The last pillar is funding. We work with VCs and experts to help those companies to raise money,” he said. Luxembourg, which has organisations that promote inclusive finance like Appui au développement autonome (Ada), Cerise or SPTF, has a lot of relevant and useful microfinance expertise to offer these fintech startups. And in addition, “meeting the VCs and the ecosystem in Luxembourg can help them grow.”

And the winner is…

Invest Ed (Philippines), a fintech lending platform for Gen Z consumers, took home the , with a special “coup de cœur” award going to Farmvocacy (Philippines), which aims to helps farmers increase their income through the use of a climate-smart high-yielding farming system for rice.

Invest Ed, a fintech from the Philippines, was the winner of the Lhoft’s inaugural Catapult Financial Inclusion Southeast Asia programme. Screenshot: Lhoft Linkedin  post

Invest Ed, a fintech from the Philippines, was the winner of the Lhoft’s inaugural Catapult Financial Inclusion Southeast Asia programme. Screenshot: Lhoft Linkedin post

The inaugural edition of the Catapult Financial Inclusion Southeast Asia programme also featured the following fintech startups: Alforesee (Indonesia, credit score company); BlueDuck (Malaysia, underserved customer-focused risk management company); Ekko (Vietnam, IT consulting enhancing financial wellness); Fina Fintech (Laos, digital financial services provider), Finfra (Indonesia, lending infrastructure for sustainable financing); Good Tech Information Systems (Philippines, sustainable finance platform for financial institutions); Global Credit Pros (Philippines, financial education); ICare Group (Singapore, social enterprise focused on low-income women workers); Laneth Tech Company (Thailand, banking solutions for rural financial institutions); Lao Mobile Money (Laos, platform for digital payments, remittances and bill payments); LTS Ventures (Laos, fintech for financial inclusion); Noburo Wealth-Being (Thailand, financial well-being for employees); and Wahine Capital (Malaysia, digital vault designed for women by women).

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