Fintech Holds The Key To Myanmar’s Future
Thursday, November 3, 2016
As recently as 2013, CNN described Myanmar’s banking system as “outdated and debased, open for decades to abuse by the previous regime, and shunned by about 90 percent of the population.”
The article described the story of a man who kept only a small portion of his money in the bank, and he only did that for fear of a house fire. The majority of his wealth he held in cash, in his home.
That story exemplified the skepticism with which people viewed the banking system, and the situation is not entirely different today. Mistrust of the financial system pervades the majority of Myanmar’s 53 million people.
“The banking system doesn’t cater to the mass market,” said Brad Jones, CEO of mobile financial services provider Wave Money.
But the circumstances are changing, thanks to Wave Money and other financial tech platforms that are democratizing financial services in the country. Access to online services has skyrocketed in Myanmar in recent years, with mobile phone penetration reaching at least 50% and 80% of first-time phone buyers choosing smartphones. Mobile phone penetration was roughly 10% in 2014.