I'm a journalist and brand content writer covering fintech, financial inclusion, personal finance, AI, and how tech communities can drive economic development.
In entrepreneur Ayesha Khanna’s view, microfinance is only part of the equation. She believes microinsurance must go hand-in-hand with microfinance, and she sees artificial intelligence as the catalyst for both in the emerging markets of Asia.
Financing is a core driver in achieving economic equality for women. The World Bank reports that women own 30-37% of small- and medium-sized enterprises in emerging markets. But many struggle to grow because they don’t have formal bank accounts and cannot secure credit or loans.
“Access to credit can open up economic opportunities for women, and bank accounts can be a gateway to the use of additional financial services,” according to the World Bank. “However, women entrepreneurs and employers face significantly greater challenges than men in gaining access to financial services.”
Through its partnerships with microfinancing organizations, Hapinoy is helping close that gap for women in the Philippines. Hapinoy is also facilitating tech partnerships that benefit the shops’ growth, as well as improved access to financial services in poor and rural communities. These services include mobile bill payment and remittance transfers, which are particularly crucial in areas where many families are supported by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Hapinoy founder and social entrepreneur Mark Ruiz said accommodating the demand for mobile services is key to the sari-sari stores’ futures.
Achieving universal financial access requires a multi-pronged strategy. One aspect of that is extending lending services to people who have sparse credit histories or who have been unable to open traditional banking accounts.
Lenddo, a fintech company that deals in non-traditional data, is helping lenders reach such consumers. Founded by CEO Richard Eldridge and Chairman Jeffrey Stewart in 2011, Lenddo operates on the premise that non-traditional data can be used to vet potential borrowers and provide financing to underserved consumers.
Startups like Coins, which use cryptocurrencies behind the scenes to offer fast, low-cost services to their customers, may be on the front lines of improving financial inclusion in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. Thanks to growing mobile phone penetration, even low-income consumers can take advantage of their services.
The people behind Timo, Vietnam’s first neobank, are offering an alternative to traditional banking. Rather than operating formal branches, Timo invites customers to its “hangouts,” which are hybrid coffee shop-banking centers.
“The BSP knows that Bitcoin as a technology will be almost impossible to regulate, and they basically sat down with us and hammered down the best possible way to regulate, and in effect, legitimize, the industry itself,” said Miguel Cuneta, co-founder of Satoshi Citadel Industries and Bitcoin Organization Philippines. “What they did was to regulate the points of entry and exit of Bitcoin and other crypto to Philippine pesos, which makes a lot of sense on their end. Of course, there is also consumer protection and anti-money laundering to consider, and they made provisions for that, too.”
A growing number of people are opting for location-independent lifestyles as so-called “digital nomads,” those who work remotely while traveling. Exactly how many fall into this category is difficult to quantify, but with the Digital Nomads Around the World Facebook group at almost 37,000 members and the Webworktravel - Digital Nomad Network page at more than 21,000 members, there is clearly an interest in working while you see the world.
You can do a lot with a laptop and a good Wi-Fi connection, and among nomadic digital workers, professions vary. On any given day in a nomad hub like Chiang Mai, you might meet writers, programmers, designers, SEO experts, affiliate marketers, and dropshippers. You can co-work in the middle of rice fields in Bali, reply to emails on a pristine Thai beach, and network over coffee and arepas in Medellin.
But can globetrotting ever truly be compatible with financial stability and career success? I turned to some veteran digital nomads to find out.
It may seem unsexy, but meetings with a financial advisor will prove invaluable for you and your spouse. Unless you’re both experts at managing money, professional finance advice can help you establish solid footing for your life as a couple. From saving to investing to building a diverse portfolio, you really want to meet with someone who can assess your situation and devise a plan for financial success. These meetings can be costly, so use your registry to help lessen the burden.
You’ve probably been hearing since you were a kid that your wedding day is the biggest, most important day of your life. And while it will probably rank pretty high on your list of momentous occasions, “biggest, most important” really packs on the pressure, both to your psyche and your wallet.
You can learn a lot about a person by looking at her credit card statements. At least, I learned a lot about myself when I looked at my own.
In an attempt to organize my finances before 2017, I sat down late last year and opened my budgeting app of choice, You Need a Budget. YNAB is a fantastic platform for breaking down your budget and tracking spending. The idea behind it is to give every dollar a job. This makes it easier to save, budget for big purchases, and avoid overspending on things like fast food and random products that looked cool on Instagram.
At least, that’s how it works when you use it consistently. My YNAB profile was a little out of date by the end of 2016. From about June to December, YNAB had been the last thing on my mind as I traveled around the country for friends’ weddings and then hosted a flurry of guests throughout the fall. Who has time to budget when you’re having so much fun?
Of course, those were the months when I most needed a budget, and I knew it was going to take some disentangling to make sense of where my money had gone.
Best Trip includes travel guides to some of Myanmar’s choicest tourist destinations, including Yangon, Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw, and allows users to book hotels right on the app, making it a one-stop shop. The company is currently partnered with 15 hotels, though it aims to increase that number to 300 by mid-2017.
It also offers information on popular festivals so tourists can plan their visits accordingly.
“When I was younger, we were taking the bus a lot. In 2012, I was surprised that the way we traveled 30 years ago is still the same way people travel now, despite the fact that the people who are lining up for these bus tickets would have smartphones in their hands, they would have tablets, and they’re lining up for tickets,” said Au Soriano, founder of PinoyTravel.
Cats started the We Women Foundation to help women in Myanmar gain access to higher education. The goal is to help her students learn about public policy and become community leaders. We Women provides scholarships, tutoring, coaching, and other support to students throughout their academic careers and beyond.
Whenever personal finance was brought up, the shame would swell, and I would find myself terrified someone might find me out. Everyone would know how poorly I had managed my finances; that I had no savings; that I was behind on credit card payments; that I was a total fraud of a human being. Here I was living abroad, pretending to be a savvy, self-employed expat who had my life together. In reality, I was a total financial screw-up who had mismanaged my finances so badly I had essentially ruined that part of my life—at least, that’s how I saw it at the time.
While insurance is a global market, it currently reaches only a small percentage of households in Asia. Swiss Re Sigma reports that insurance penetration over GDP in Myanmar currently stands at .08%, a number that the Asia Insurance Review predicts will rise to 1.4% by 2030, at which point premium volume could reach $2.8 billion. Stonestep hopes to spur insurance adaptation by enabling mobile networks, retailers and other companies to sell affordable risk transfer products via mobile apps and platforms.