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Survey seeks to assess challenges for ASEAN consumers and small businesses seeking access to digital finance

Joint study with Asian Development Bank Institute seeks to identify how fintech channels may compare with traditional financing options in providing underserved groups with access to financial services.

Central business district in Singapore reflected in the water of Marina Bay at dusk.

The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS), and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) has jointly launched a research study to provide a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities faced by consumers and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region when seeking finance through financial technology (fintech) channels.

The ASEAN Access to Digital Finance Study also aims to identify how fintech channels may compare to traditional financing options, such as banking, in providing underserved groups with access to financial services. The study has launched with a survey being targeted at individual consumers/households and MSME customers who have accessed credit or raised funds through digital lending or capital raising fintech platforms in the ASEAN region (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand).

Relevant fintech activities included in this survey are peer-to-peer or marketplace and balance sheet lending, invoice-trading, buy-now pay-later (BNPL) and equity crowdfunding. The usage of digital financial services has grown exponentially across the ASEAN region, with fintech firms offering innovative products and services to households, individuals, and small businesses.

However, little empirical evidence is available on how customers utilise fintech channels and how fintech has enabled their individual financial journey. Findings from the CCAF’s previous studies strongly suggest that fintech has played a valuable role in combatting financial exclusion; this new research programme hopes to validate this hypothesis by focusing on the end-user.

The ASEAN Access to Digital Finance Survey includes qualitative questions and should take no more than 20 minutes to complete, will be conducted online and will run through March.

“In order to ensure the widest reach to potential respondents, we have collaborated with leading digital lending and capital raising fintech platforms and fintech associations from across the region,” says Tania Ziegler, Global Benchmarking Lead at the CCAF. “By participating, both consumers and businesses will be helping to create valuable data that will support evidence-based decision making for the future of the fintech ecosystem in the region.”

“This survey should provide an excellent source of first-hand information which will be very valuable to researchers, policy makers, regulators and practitioners in the fintech field,” says Peter J. Morgan, Senior Consulting Economist and Vice Chair of Research, ADBI.

All the survey responses will be collected anonymously, and participants will have a chance to win local retailer Gift Cards, in USD or local currency, as applicable. The resultant report will serve as a public good and will be disseminated across the key stakeholders including policymakers and regulators to further enable growth of the fintech ecosystem in the region.