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What's the catalyst behind their success?

Vietnam is an exciting country when it comes to digital innovation, with a young population of digital natives, high internet penetration and around 125 million mobile phone users. These factors combined with the impact of the pandemic have resulted in a surge in the use of digital financial services in the last two years in Vietnam, particularly in online or mobile payments and e-commerce services. In fact, online payments increased by 76% in the first quarter of 2020, with the total value rising to 129% compared to 2019.

Capitalising on this boom in digital financial services, most Vietnamese banks have now either developed or are developing digital transformation strategies. That being said, there are three standout Vietnamese digital banks that have already made a significant impact on enhancing financial inclusion in Vietnam, improving access to financial services and making banking easier and more convenient for millions of Vietnamese consumers.

Timo, TNEX and Cake - all powered by Mambu - are three very different digital banks that have disrupted the rather traditional banking industry in Vietnam over the past few years.

N.B. With no digital banking licensing framework in place, digital banks in Vietnam must partner with existing traditional banks (that hold a bank licence) in order to offer financial products and services.

Timo, which launched with VPBank in 2015 as Vietnam’s first digital bank, underwent a complete overhaul, relaunching with Viet Capital Bank as its partner in September 2020. While it is primarily a digital bank, key to Timo’s success is its innovative partnerships with retailers like 7-Eleven and McDonald’s, which are home to Timo’s ‘hangouts’, enabling new users to sign up to become a Timo customer in minutes. Timo has a clear focus on helping consumers stay on top of their finances and leveraging technology to better understand and serve their needs.

In 2022, Timo has successfully raised $20 million from investment fund Square Peg, and has its sights set on eventually acquiring a standalone digital banking licence in Vietnam.

TNEX, which launched in 2020 as a digital-only bank, partnering with the well-established MSB (Maritime Bank), positions itself as a technology company rather than a bank, and has invested heavily in tech and culture. With no branches to speak of, TNEX’s vision is to tap into their target audience - primarily Gen Z - with an agile and customer-centric, end-to-end digital banking offering. The provision of free financial services offers a huge drawcard for young Vietnamese consumers, and TNEX has gone on to win multiple awards since launch. With Mambu at the core, TNEX’s offering combines gametech, messaging, socials, and a full-merchant ecosystem with a complete payments network.

One of Vietnam’s fastest growing digital banks is Cake, which was launched by the high profile Be Group and VPBank in January 2021. Cake’s USP is that it is integrated with the very popular ‘Be’ ride-hailing app - the first Vietnamese bank to be embedded with a ride-hailing app - allowing instant mobile access to financial services to millions of Vietnamese consumers. Cake is building a ‘lifestyle banking app’ with a goal of enabling faster and easier access to financial services for its customers.

In recognition of Cake’s innovative and tech-focused approach, in July 2022, Cake won the ‘Core Banking System Initiative of the Year - Vietnam’ at the Asian Banking & Finance Retail Banking Awards, for implementing a core banking replacement project - utilising Mambu’s cloud banking platform - in just 74 days.

These three high-achieving Mambu customers have demonstrated how investing in cutting-edge technology like Mambu’s cloud-native banking platform, AI, data analytics and machine learning, and putting the customer first can lead to phenomenal growth.

Government initiatives to boost financial inclusion

While financial inclusion within the country remains relatively low, with 69% of Vietnamese adults considered formally ‘unbanked’, around two thirds of the adult population use e-wallets on a weekly basis and over 70% of Vietnamese adults own a smartphone, with 5G mobile service available since 2020. Vietnam also has a thriving fintech ecosystem. The e-wallet space in particular has been booming in recent years, with more than 40 e-wallet providers now operating in the country.

The Vietnamese government, recognising that formal financial inclusion remains an issue,  introduced a strategy in 2020 which aims to have 80% of the adult population formally ‘banked’ by 2025. The government has been working closely with the Vietnamese fintech sector to encourage innovation and find new ways of bringing more people into the formal economy.

One innovative government initiative currently being trialled is the Mobile Money service, which involves the development of services using mobile phone credit to pay for small-value goods and services. To date this initiative has had extraordinary takeup - more than 1 million people have used the service in its first year, with around two thirds of those in rural and remote areas that have traditionally been excluded from formal financial services.

Vietnam remains ‘one to watch’ in Southeast Asia, and Mambu is thrilled to be working with three of the best digital banks in the country.

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