A KPMG report pointed out that nearly 73% adults in southeast Asia do not have a bank account, and only one third of the small and medium sized companies are eligible to loan and have credit line. The absence of traditional financial services has provided a large market space for the rapidly-rising financial technology sector in the region.
Thunes, a cross border B2B payment solution provider from Singapore, finished its series A round funding in May. Steve Vickers, the CEO of the company, told Volanews that 1.7 billion people living in the emerging market have been excluded from the global economic system because they don’t have bank accounts. Thune’s mission is to change this situation and make global financial services accessible to all. We discussed with him on how Thune changed the lives of 1.7 billion people through its financial technology services.
An Atypical Fin-tech Start-up from Singapore
Thunes used to be a part of a “atypical” financial start-up from Singapore. It was a business department of TransferTo, a financial service company established in 2005 by Eric Barbier. Some of TransferTo’s businesses have gone towards two different directions. As a result, two independent brands were split out from TransferTo in accordance with their business areas in February this year. The brand for the solution business is named DTOne. Thunes is the brand for the cross-border business. Steve Vickers was appointed the CEO of Thunes by TransferTo.
Steve Vickers has an MBA degree from Sloan School of Management of MIT and a bachelor degree from Oxford. He used to work at Navteq and McKinsey for many years, after which he became the managing director of Xiaomi Southeast Asia and a member of Grab’s management team. Having worked in Singapore for the past decade, he has accumulated rich business experiences and is quite familiar with the southeast Asia market.
He told Volanews that Thunes’s three major businesses are commercial international transfer, large payment by companies, and B2B payment.
“In terms of international transfer, we are transferring money to electric wallets and bank accounts in emerging markets on behalf of Wester Union, the traditional money transfer service provider, and Paypal, the digital money transfer system. We are seeing a three-digit growth rate of the international transfer market in southeast Asia, so we are trying to work with more money transfer service providers.”
Thunes’s biggest clients by far include West Union, PayPal, and Mpesa. It connects two major payment interfaces: the Indian payment giant Paytm currently worth at around $15 billion, and the super unicorn of southeast Asia Grab currently worth at around $14 billion.
Take Grab as an example. Thunes helps Grab to pay millions of dollars of salary to drivers (many of them ask for daily payment), and transfer drivers’ income to their Grab wallet, bank accounts, or places where they can withdraw cash.
Steve Vickers gave another example, “it becomes simple to use Kenya’s mPesa mobile wallet to transfer money in to PayPal accounts with Thunes’s solution. Through PayPal, users can enjoy the convenient e-commerce payment, and participate into the global e-commerce service.”
In terms of B2B payment, “We mainly work with partners in emerging markets. Most of them are still using SWIFT, which is neither real-time nor efficient.”. Thunes, on the other hand, provides a better B2B solution.
Thunes’ profit mainly comes from the basic service fees on each transaction and foreign exchange difference. Thunes has a specific financial and foreign exchange transaction department in charge of Thunes’s foreign exchange rate and daily buy-in.
From Grab and Paytm to Global Emerging Markets of 1.7 Billion People
Steve Vickers told Volanews, “with nearly 100 employees globally, Thunes now covers over 80 countries and regions, enabling seamless transfer of over 60 currencies. It has now accumulated over 9,000 payment partners including Western Union, LendMN, Stellar, EcoCash, Orange Botswana, and Singtel.”
Thunes has clients in North America, Central America, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Thunes pays close attention to and highly values the southeast Asian and Asian markets. Steve pointed out that Thunes processed over $2 billion worth of payment in 2018, and the number is going to reach $4 billion this year. It is estimated that the biggest growth within the next 12 months will come from China. In addition, Steve believed that the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are countries with huge potential for growth because of their large mobile users and the absence of the traditional banking industry.
Thunes’s remarkable performance wins them the attention of investors. Thunes raised $10 million in a series A round funding from GGV Capital this May.
Steve said the investment will help Thunes to expand globally. They will set up offices in San Francisco, Dubai, and Pairs in addition to its London, Singapore, and New York offices. It also plans to set up new offices in China, and continue to improve its technology to boost the growth of B2B real time payment, and expand as well as enhance its partner network. Steve also disclosed that Thunes is going to launch a series B round funding in Q1 2020.
When it comes to Thunes’s future, Steve believed,
“Thunes is a reliable and independent aggregator of the decentralized payment industry in global emerging markets. Without such an aggregator, payment transaction companies will waste a lot of time and resources to develop connections with each other, which damages the inclusiveness of digital financial products, and reduces the usage of digital financial service terminals.
Thunes makes life easier for users living in emerging markets. They can easily pay and transfer money online, do online shopping, and pay their bills on mobile phones in real-time. Without the support of an efficient cross border payment network, they will not be able to conduct seamless transfers between different payment providers.
Undoubtably, Thunes is having an actual impact on global financial inclusiveness.”
South Africa Today