Grab chasing South-east Asian wealth clients ‘unhappy’ with banks

SINGAPORE – Grab Holdings is looking to broaden its financial product offerings for the South-east Asian wealth market, where it plans to fill a gap left by banks, its president Ming Maa said.

“Over 40 per cent of our customers are unhappy with their current banking partners, whether it’s very expensive fees, hidden fees” or long waiting times, Maa said in an interview with Bloomberg Television from San Francisco. “We want to make banking as simple as ordering a ride.”

Backed by Softbank Group, Grab is seeking to build market share in South-east Asia, where Maa said most investable assets are held in cash accounts and subject to value erosion thanks to inflation. That would pit the technology firm against incumbents including DBS Group Holdings and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, the region’s largest banks, which also sell wealth products to individuals.

Grab and its partner Singtel are among seven group applicants for full digital banking licenses in Singapore, two of which will be awarded around June. Other candidates include Razer, a Hong Kong-listed maker of computer game accessories.

A priority for Grab this year is to deliver new financial products for the mass market, Maa said. The company recently bought Singapore-based tech start-up Bento Invest Pte, which comes with a license that allows the firm to manage an unlimited amount of funds.

Following the deal, Grab will launch new wealth products in Singapore during the first half, before a roll-out to other parts of South-east Asia, it said earlier this week.

Maa declined to say whether Grab has any firm plans for an initial public offering. When Grab acquired Uber Technologies’ South-east Asian business in return for a stake in 2018, Grab agreed to go public by March 2023 or allow Uber to exercise a cash redemption option.

Uber booked a US$2.3 billion (S$3.2 billion) gain from its 23.2 per cent stake in Grab in 2018, the US-based firm said in its prospectus at the time.”We’re not announcing anything today about an IPO,” Maa said. Capital from investors “will allow us to just keep our heads down on our business for now,” he said.

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