In 2021, as Southeast Asia gradually normalized life amid the pandemic, Akulaku launched the digital banking app Neobank under Bank Neo Commerce (BNC), formerly Bank Yudha Bhakti.
Based on App Store reviews, Neobank garnered generally positive feedback. User feedback highlights the ease of use of the BNC’s digital banking app and services, the absence of management and transaction fees, and attractive interest rates on deposits. The reviews also express how helpful the services have been for people in financial difficulty during the pandemic. How could a local bank, Bank Neo Commerce, backed by Akulaku, an internationalized Internet company, be able to obtain such favor from Indonesian customers?
Akulaku’s journey in digital banking
Since its inception in 2014, the company has built a range of financial services, including digital finance, e-commerce, digital investing and insurance brokerage, and built a recognizable brand.
After accumulating knowledge of the market and customer demands, the Akulaku team realized the importance of providing comprehensive financial services in a single application and the business potential of doing so.
In Southeast Asia, banking services are still inaccessible to many people. Traditional banks tend to have higher fees, tedious processes and long waiting times. Deposit and balance minimums were too high for a large number of consumers, leaving a significant portion unbanked. According to Google, Temasek, Bain & Company’s 2019 report on the future of digital financial services in Southeast Asia, more than 92 million adults are unbanked in Indonesia. Another 42 million fall into the underbanked category, a segment that does not have access to credit cards. These consumers are also underinsured and do not use any long-term savings product.
Akulaku saw digital banking as a way to increase access to financial services and provide multiple services through a single account. Offering a full suite of cost-effective services not only seemed ideal for many customers, especially small and micro-merchants, but also worked as an effective mechanism for increasing long-term user loyalty. Additionally, Akulaku was able to assess each individual’s credit risk through consumption habits and behavioral data of its users, which was gathered from payments and personal wealth management actions, improving risk control while bridging the gap in small-scale credit reporting.
This desire to create a complete suite of digital banking services eventually led Akulaku to acquire Bank Yudha Bhakti in 2019. The institution was later rebranded as Bank Neo Commerce in September 2020.
A bold move pays off
A fintech start-up taking a stake in a traditional commercial bank is unusual, but it was ultimately a strategic move. Akulaku has served nearly 20 million customers in three Southeast Asian markets: Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The company’s annual transaction volume in 2021 is expected to surpass $4 billion as the pandemic has accelerated user adoption.
In March 2021, the BNC launched Neobank, promoting free transfers and Neo Now, a savings account with attractive daily interest rates. Since the launch of the app, the bank’s monthly transaction volume has increased by more than 10,000% to over $200 million. According to the NBC’s third quarter 2021 financial report, the bank’s total assets in September increased by 41% to around $600 million. Tjandra Gunawan, chairman of BNC, also said the number of Neobank accounts exceeded 10 million, a 14,000% increase since March.
In December 2021, BNC raised IDR 2.5 trillion (USD 180 million) by issuing 1.92 billion shares at IDR 1,300 per share. The bank’s market value reached IDR 24 trillion (USD 1.7 billion) and successfully attracted participation from major secondary market funds, including JP Morgan, Citibank and CGS-CIMB Securities.
Akulaku’s vision for the future
All of this is just the beginning. Akulaku’s vision is to serve 50 million users in ten countries and regions by 2025, and build a new virtual network of credit and debit payment system for the underbanked and merchants. In addition to its growth through various methods of customer acquisition, Akulaku also conducts R&D activities in the field of artificial intelligence, big data and other fintech-related technologies. These developments aim to improve risk control as well as assist in marketing and precision decision making. The company plans to build a digital banking and banking-as-a-service ecosystem over the next few years, while exploring other fintech solutions.
With a population of 260 million, the Indonesian market has become a competitive location for many Southeast Asian players. Akulaku has a considerable advantage as a first mover in its home market. Akulaku, which means “everything is sold” in Bahasa Indonesia, has taken the first step towards wide-scale adoption and continues to contribute to the fintech space.