Forbes says Thailand emerging as regional fintech hub

The same week that Thailand’s KBank launched a new venture capital fund to support fintech startups, United States business magazine Forbes reported that the Kingdom is emerging as a new fintech hub in Southeast Asia, developing innovations with global commercial potential.

Forbes described several startups, incubators, venture capital funds and other actors that are fueling the rapid rise of fintech in Thailand. Those involved in the Thai fintech scene, the magazine said, believe the innovations being developed have the potential to make a mark on the regional and global startup scenes. While most people associate Thailand with beautiful beaches, backpackers, elephants and temples, Forbes wrote, that could soon start to change as more fintech innovators emerge in the Kingdom.

“TechGrind, an organization striving to create the next Silicon Valley in Southeast Asia, sees Thailand as an advantageous hub for its companies,” Forbes wrote. “Although TechGrind operates in six countries in the region, it has relocated several of its startups to Bangkok so they can make use of TechGrind’s network and resources there.”

The most successful Thai fintech startup so far, though, is Omise, a payment management system, co-created by Thai and Japanese developers and that raised $17.5 million in venture capital in 2016, according to the magazine. Omise is now operating in Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore and is serving as an inspiration to other Thai startups.

The innovations emerging out of fintech startups are bound to have crossover effects on other sectors. “Fintech startups have the potential to stimulate innovation across not just the Thai financial services industry, but across other adjacent industries such as commerce, healthcare, and even education,” Paul Ark, managing director at Digital Ventures, told Forbes.

The Thai Fintech Association was just founded in 2016, and it is serving as a conduit between startups and investors, including big banks. It is working to establish a fintech sandbox where products and innovations can be tested in a safe environment. Earlier this year, the Bank of Thailand also established a similar sandbox.

One of the big banks involved is KBank, which last week established its first venture capital fund for fintech, called Beacon, with nearly $30 million to be invested in promising fintech and other startups in Thailand. It’s not the first startup fund KBank is involved in, it is also part of Dymon Asia, a fintech fund based in Singapore.

The bank also intends to try and attract investment to its own Kasikorn Bank Technology Group, which offers access to its five million mobile banking customers to fintech innovators with promising programs and applications.