Inclusion Needs Robust Fintech Ecosystem
Since its inception, the financial technology (fintech) industry has recorded exponential growth rates and helped supporting small business players to drive the country’s economy.
A joint study by the think tank Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) and the Indonesia Fintech Association (Aftech) launched in August 2018 showed that the industry, directly and indirectly, contributed Rp 25.97 trillion (US$1.8 billion) to Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually.
While the figure was still relatively small compared to Indonesia’s total GDP of Rp 14,837.4 trillion last year, fintech firms continue to expand to play an imminent role to reach the previously un-bankable sectors. Fintech services are becoming increasingly popular among customers because of the ease and efficiency that the companies are providing.
In 2018, the amount of loans distributed through peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms grew 681.25 percent on-year to Rp 20 trillion while the number of debtors reached 4 million, according to data from the Financial Services Authority (OJK).
In early March, at least 145 P2P lending platforms are in the registration process at the OJK, ready to join 99 fintech companies that have already been licensed by the agency.
Fintech true promise lies in its potential to provide basic banking services including settling payments, sharing risk and allocating capital. The industry is being driven by innovative trading, P2P lenders and payment service providers in addition to conventional financial institutions who are adopting new technologies to strengthen their businesses.
The industry challenges the status quo in the financial services sector and assists groups of unbanked and under-banked individuals as well as small business owners to formally build their credit profile, avoiding the risk of falling victims to deceptive trading practices by loan sharks.
In contrary to people’s belief, fintech industry does not stand as the demise of the conventional banking industry. Fintech, on the other hand, complements services provided by conventional banks which face barriers in expanding their businesses, resulting in sluggish loan growth and low financial inclusion rate.
The rapid proliferation of smartphones help provide a more effective way to jumpstart efforts to expand access to financial services for the underserved — those who do not have bank accounts, have never been approved of any loan and continuously being deemed as un-creditworthy by conventional financial institutions.
For greater inclusion, rapid technological innovation and adoption of new data collection and management system play a vital role in building a more equitable financial system that will enable millions of individual customer or owner of small and medium enterprises to unlock their potentials and expand their businesses.
The P2P lending industry, however, could not sustain its growth in an unsupportive environment. While Indonesia’s fintech start-up ecosystem is getting more mature, more needs to be done to allow the industry to continue democratizing financial services and promoting financial inclusion.
Over the past years, Indonesian regulators have sought and produced measures to nurture the budding fintech industry. Consumer protection and business sustainability are placed high on the agenda; a move that is welcomed by business players who expect robust growth over the expansion of financial services to Indonesia’s under-banked.
More efforts are also required to improve public understanding about the fintech industry. A survey involving 2,000 respondents in 33 provinces by Daily Social and the OJK last year showed that more than 29 percent participants were still unsure about the definition and scope of the industry.
The increasing awareness of digital innovation and non-bank financial services calls for improved efforts to improve financial digital literacy across Indonesia. Conducting a series of financial literacy education programs will accelerate efforts to ramp up Indonesia’s financial inclusivity. More communities must be reached and empowered while measures to build public trust must be continued in the bid to connect them to digital financial products.
For the underserved communities, the hope of a better future remains a pipe dream if they lack of understanding in the effective utilization of any new financial tools and solutions. Financial ignorance can impede the progress made possible by the adoption of new technology and prevent fintech companies from realizing their maximum growth potentials.
The rapid technological development has provided a mean to leapfrog decades of inertia that has prevented significant number of global populations from accessing the financial system. It has also opened tremendous growth opportunities for the people and the economy.
Moving forward, building a supportive ecosystem to allow the fintech industry provides better-targeted services to help increase financial inclusion rate is obviously imperative, It requires active involvement and strong collaboration of all stakeholders as well as the establishment of supporting infrastructure, both tangible and intangible, to serve the unbanked population in Indonesia.
Within the industry, business players have realized a stronger partnership between them will open ways to tap into greater opportunity of growth and improve services. As more companies making foray into this space across emerging markets, it is just as important for all stakeholders to take a responsible approach that also focuses on the development of progressive regulatory frameworks, data and consumer protection, collaborations between the public and private sector, and education to balance the risks and benefits.
A joint action of the public and private sectors is needed to achieve greater financial awareness and educate stakeholders —including customers — to cultivate responsible behavior. A greater cooperation between regulators and industry players is imperative in order to establish a stimulating and secure environment for the industry to play its role as the new economic force.
The writer is president director of FINMAS — the fintech lending platform of Asia-focused Oriente in joint collaboration with Sinar Mas Group.
SOURCE : thejakartapost.com