Ascend Money, a Southeast Asian fin-tech business under Thailand’s Ascend Group, has reached 50,000 agents — local franchises and networks such as convenience stores, pharmacies, street vendors, and cafes, that conduct financial services for customers — across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Ascend Money has strengthened its foothold in the region through major partnerships, with the latest cooperation with Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) to extend financial services to rural communities.
“Having reached 50,000 agents in Southeast Asia we are expanding quickly to become the region’s leading financial services provider,” CEO Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa said.
Southeast Asia’s unbanked population faces several barriers to financial inclusion, such as the predominant use of cash, lack of trust in internet banking, and lack of access to urban centres or bank branches. Agent networks are crucial for bridging these gaps, by providing the unbanked with cash-in and cash-out services, reliability and trust through an established local presence, and convenience of access beyond urban areas. We’re moving closer to fulfilling our mission of enabling everyone access to innovative financial services, leading to better lives.”
Ascend Money currently has more than 20 million customers, with half based in Thailand. Following the successful rollout of TrueMoney Wallet across Thailand in major retail outlets such as True Coffee shops and 7-Eleven convenience stores, Ascend Money is leveraging Ant Financial’s technical and strategic expertise to expand their services and payment options to increase convenience for digital users. TrueMoney users in Thailand are now able to pay for purchases in the App Store, Apple Music, and iTunes directly from the TrueMoney account.
Ascend Money has already reached 16,000 agents in Indonesia and recently announced their cooperation with BNI—Indonesia’s fourth largest bank—to enable 16,000 TrueMoney agents to provide banking services to rural communities who have not been touched by banking services. Through TrueMoney agents, unbanked customers can open an account, deposit and withdraw cash, purchase phone and utility credits, and pay monthly bills. TrueMoney holds a remittance license and a Shariah-complaint e-money license.
Between 2016 and 2017, Ascend Money launched TrueMoney payroll services in Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines. Through the service, employees can cash out with Ascend Money’s agents, or transfer money directly to their bank account.
“Serving over 100 companies and almost 30,000 employees across three countries, Ascend Money’s new payroll services address another pain point in accessing financial services—the burden of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises to apply for and maintain employee payroll accounts with banks,” Mr. Punnamas added. “Faced with limited bank players, complicated documentation, and high maintenance fees, MSMEs — which make up the backbone of Southeast Asian economies — can now easily access financial services that were previously unavailable.”
Ascend Money has expanded rapidly across the region, with the Philippines and Vietnam as the newest markets. With 10,000 agents across both countries, Ascend Money will introduce services for both digital consumers and the unbanked, including the e-wallet app, bill payment and remittance services.
In Cambodia and Myanmar, where Ascend Money’s agent networks already exceed the number of outlets of the largest banks, users can make domestic money transfers, phone top up, and bill payments. In Myanmar, Ascend Money has recently partnered with the VisionFund, a microfinance NGO, to expand their agent networks to rural households. Through the partnership, the VisionFund’s 600 mobile agents will provide all TrueMoney services; meanwhile, VisionFund customers can repay loans at any TrueMoney agent nationwide.
“As we continue to innovate and add new services to improve the lives of ASEAN consumers, Ascend Money is rapidly expanding our footprint through partnerships that bring financial services to the heart of Southeast Asia,” Mr. Punnamas said. “Whether we’re reaching one of the region’s 200 million digital consumers, or one of the 438 million unbanked, the opportunity to access greater financial stability will help unlock Southeast Asia’s economic potential and future prosperity.”