Vietnam digital bank relaunches as e-commerce booms (Nikkei Asia)

Vietnam’s first digital bank on Monday relaunched its services with a new partner, promising to offer more than just basic financial services to a population seen to be ready to embrace online banking amid an e-commerce boom due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Timo Plus, Vietnam’s first online-only bank, will operate in partnership with Viet Capital Bank, which has replaced VPBank. Timo Plus also has a new CEO, Henry Nguyen, whose sprawling portfolio includes a McDonald’s franchise in the country and a Los Angeles football club.

Nguyen said under the old partnership that launched in 2016, Timo was more of an external party to VPBank, but this time around, the two sides will work closely to introduce new products.

“We have a bank that has the same goals and vision we do, and wants to be innovative,” Nguyen told Nikkei on the sidelines of the relaunch event held in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday. He said Timo was expanding beyond basic financial services: “Now we’re talking about savings products, credit products, insurance, basically all aspects of people’s financial lives.”

Phoenix Holdings now has a controlling stake in Timo. Nguyen runs Phoenix with his wife, Nguyen Thanh Phuong, daughter of ex-prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and a board member at Viet Capital.

Online-only banks, which often piggyback on existing ATM networks, are starting to pop up in Southeast Asia. The Philippines just granted its first license to a virtual bank, Tonik, that will launch by the end of the year. The U.K.’s Revolut operates in Singapore, where China’s Ant Financial, a unit of Alibaba Group, and TikTok owner ByteDance are jockeying for a handful of digital bank licenses.

Vietnam is seen by analysts as a market ripe for digitization. A recent Boston Consulting Group survey showed that just 40% of the population had bank accounts, a rate lower than in neighboring Indonesia and Thailand. Vietnamese said in the survey that they would shift 13-15% of their deposits from legacy banks to digital banks, the highest proportion among Southeast Asians polled.

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Nikkei Asia

28 September 2020

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