by Scott Bales

As I prepare to head to Europe in the coming months to promote my new book, Innovation Wars, I find myself faced with a key question. What can European Bank learn from success of Fintech in Asia. We’ve all heard the big names like Ant Financial, AliPay, WeChat Pay, Grab, Omise, and many more. But how do their experiences, covering both lessons learned and success, translate to insight for European banks. Particularly as many of the European banks look to Asia for new growth.

The unique approach that Asian fintech startups are applying in countries have clearly demonstrated that the merging of finance and technology leads to synergies, disruptions and hence better products and profits. It is now time for European banks to play catch up to this paradigm shift or risk losing profits. (Rajgopal & Shek, 2018).

Open banking will disrupt bricks-and-mortar institutions

European banks must innovate their Fintech processes as the structure of the global market’s changes.

Asian fintech startups provides a good case study for European banks. For instance, Asia is geographically fragmented, as there are more than 20 countries in the region, each with their own economy and regulations (Desai, 2016). It is only China, India and Indonesia which have a large market for fintech in their countries. Otherwise, the other Asian fintech founders are forced to seek markets outside their countries. Those that can function in diverse markets and engage in successful international market entry have ended up making a success of their fintech activities.

GrabPay has been a successful service extension for the ride sharing startup

GrabPay has been a successful service extension for the ride sharing startup

In Asia credit card use is very low, and this has made e-commerce retailers to come up with payment strategies that allow consumers to pay for goods and services directly from their online and offline accounts.

Millions of people in Asia do not have bank accounts because they distrust banks, and they are also used to paying for goods and services in cash (Banning-Lover, 2015). However, with the advent of fintech, these individuals are able to even access credit making it more popular. This should be a focal point that European banks should seek to replicate.

European banks should realize that the digital customer wants seamless transactions that offer value, personalized experiences, convenience and satisfaction

Mobile phones have become a focal point for fintech in the region as smartphone penetration increases. This is a reason for the success of fintech in Asia and particularly in China, and European banks also need to exploit digital devices in order to provide their services.

European banks should therefore realize that as the concept of open banking gains ground, more consumers will find credit card usage and traditional banking processes less palatable as they swiftly transform from cash to a mobile wallet.

ANT Financial’s dominance in the region was boost when it won and Virtual Banking license in Hong Kong

ANT Financial’s dominance in the region was boost when it won and Virtual Banking license in Hong Kong

Customer experience is another key factor promoting Fintech. For instance, WeChat easily connects people and also makes it easy for its users to pay their bills and make transactions, all with the virtual human smile of an emoji at the end of a transaction. Is this too much to ask from European banks?

The next-generation customer is more individualistic and less forgiving of brands that do not deliver

Fintech services such as Alipay take the minimal fees from their transactions, and this provides an economic incentive to the consumers. It is therefore fair to assume that with time, consumers will move to such services and avoid traditional banking services which usually take transaction-based fees for providing their services (Holm, 2018).

European banks need to understand that data is a very valuable asset and they should leverage on it to ensure that they provide highly personalized customer experiences through digital systems (Matthews, 2018). It is time European banks need to start thinking and acting more like tech companies, using real-time information in order to collect and utilize customer data so as to properly anticipate customers’ needs and to offer them individualized products and services for optimum results (Euro Banking Association, 2017).

In order to solve their problems in the new Fintech way, banks must restructure themselves

The banks should also find new ways of handling their business processes in line with the digital transformations experienced in the financial industry. For instance, they could convert their core services into a platform of APIs while also creating an ecosystem around their capabilities. However, such changes can be complex and scary because they require that in order to solve problems, the banks must restructure their internal processes in order to do new things externally (Mason, 2017). It is in such instances that an institution’s organizational structure, and how it handles change, will mean the difference between business success and failure.

The hard reality that’s driving the success of ANT, Grab and WeChat is their strong alignment to consumer value chains and use cases, where the payment is essentially dissolved to become invisible. Which appeals to the consumer that just wants to enjoy their experiences, not worries about how to pay.


Asia is no doubt a world leader on the ideation and development of alternative financial ecosystems ranging from consumer payments, to SME Supple Chain lending. These new Super Apps are reshaping the financial services landscape in Asia, but the lesson for Europe is ‘be aware’. While European banks floked to Asia in pursuit of new growth, these Asian born Fintech could easily move into Europe and disrupt the market faster than they did in their home region.


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Haddad, C., & Hornuf, L. (2016). The emergence of the global fintech market: Economic and technological determinants. Small Business Economics, 1-25.

Holm, S.E. (2018, November 29). “Interview: China – payments, tech & the future.” Retrieved from

Rajgopal, K., & Shek, A. (2018). “Synergy and disruption: Ten trends shaping fintech.” Retrieved from

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Matthews, P. (2018). “How banks can prevail in a fintech, techfin world.” Retrieved from