Leading bitcoin wallet provider Blockchain recently joined UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s delegation of top-tier UK companies touring Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
As announced by the Prime Ministers office, Cameron invited Blockchain along with Earthport and Pennies as a part of his commitment to make the UK the leading global fintech hub and to the tenants of the Innovate Finance’s “UK FinTech 2020” manifesto.
From July 26th to July 30th we visited Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia, Blockchain CEO Peter Smith engaged with senior regulators, bank CEOs, telecommunications executives and other leaders on an open financial platform.
After the trip, Smith discussed his impressions. He noted that, although Southeast Asia is growing rapidly, the financial services in the region are weak.
Indonesia alone is projected to move from the world’s 16th largest economy to the 7th largest by 2030. Despite rapid economic growth and tens of millions of consumers entering a consumer class, only 20-30 million Indonesians out of 250 million have a credit or debit card. Of those, fully 70% are under 35 years old.
The overall outlook is remarkably similar throughout SE Asia and is characterized by rapidly growing economies that are going increasingly digital, with high smartphone penetration amongst predominantly under 35 populaces.
In broad terms, heavy financial infrastructure, i.e. large corporate finance, investment banking, and private equity funds are relatively well-developed in the region. Consumer and SME level access to stable, trusted digital financial tools capable of transferring value within the region is less advanced and is perhaps a key market opportunity for fintech companies in London.
Smith indicated that, like much of the world, people in Southeast Asia did not understand or knew little about the Bitcoin Protocol
It is incredibly easy to become immersed in one’s own environment. In my world, it sometimes feels as if nearly everyone knows what bitcoin is, how it works, and that it will change the world.
We’ve come a long way in spreading the word over the last four years, but we are nowhere close to being done. Almost everyone I spoke to in SE Asia either had only the vaguest idea, or had barely heard of bitcoin. Interestingly, the few exceptions were regulators and bankers in Singapore.
This is consistent with the difficulties that proponents of bitcoin and the blockchain technology have bringing it to mainstream commercial enterprises, big and small.