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News Digest: April #2

China fintech player Ant Financial amasses 50m users in new health plan

Ant Financial Services has amassed more than 50 million users for a mutual health aid plan. The plan is marketed on their mobile payment app, Alipay. It provides participants a basic medical coverage with the risks and expenses distributed across all members.

In particular, the plan has proved popular with the poorer societal groups within China. These communities often struggle to pay for medical services and are underserved by insurers due to an inability to service insurance premiums, complicating their situation. Across the globe, people finding themselves slapped with rocketing medical bills have also turned to crowdfunding as an alternative, last resort means to get funds.

In the description of this health plan, every participant pays up to 188 yuan (SG$38) per month. In return, they receive protections against 100 critical illnesses with a one-time payout of up to 300,000 yuan (SG$60,655). Despite its mutual insurance features, Ant Financial has clarified that the plan is not a health insurance product.

Source: Nasdaq

Google Pay launches gold trading feature in India

Google Pay has launched gold buying in India in a partnership with bullion refiner MMTC-PAMP India, the country’s only LBMA-accredited gold refinery.

Under this partnership, users can buy and sell gold any time at the most current prices. Purchased gold of any value will be stored and safeguarded on behalf of Google Pay users by MMTC-PAMP, in secure vaults.

Gold is a highly coveted asset for Indians all over the world and plays a significant part in culture. In the report, Google Pay notes that India is the world’s second largest consumer of gold, using it to mark several auspicious occasions such as weddings, and Diwali. (China is the largest consumer). India’s association with gold is so well documented that in the UK, homes of Indian-origin have lost a combined 140 million pounds of gold value to burglaries.

Google Pay is not the first platform to introduce gold trading features on its platform. Paytm launched its digital gold offering in 2017, while PhonePe and MobiKwik introduced it in January and October 2018 respectively.

Source: India Times

SG ranked 5thin SEA mobile payment use, Vietnam tops list.

In a study by PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey 2019, out of six Southeast Asian countries for growth in mobile payment use, Singapore came in fifth. Vietnam topped the list both regionally and globally. The use of mobile payments in Singapore climbed 12 percent to reach 46 per cent in 2019, while Vietnam’s mobile payments usage growth increased by 24 per cent to reach 61 per cent.

Shirish Jain, payments director at Strategy&, said: “Asia remains the powerhouse in leading customer shift to mobile payments with the report reflecting eight Asian nations in the top 10, and six are in South-east Asia.” However, he also notes that a sophisticated and established traditional ecosystem coupled with too many mobile payment choices, as is the case with Singapore, can slow down adoption.

Related: China’s Cashless Society: What It Means For The Future of Payments

Mobile payment usage has increased across the board in Southeast Asian nations; meanwhile, Asian consumers are more socially engaged online than their European or American counterparts. However purchases made directly through social media remain low at just 21%.

Source: Straits Times

Uber aiming to raise 10bn in IPO; still not yet set to make profit

Ride-sharing platform Uber is seeking to raise US$10 billion in an IPO. It has applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) according to a filing with the US SEC. The offering could value Uber at around US$100 billion.

Details on the company’s financials were also revealed in the filing. In 2018, the company revealed that it had lost US$1.8 billion on a revenue of $11.3 billion. It was also revealed that revenue growth was beginning to slow. Additionally, Uber has yet to turn a profit. In its quest to grow its market share, it has provided generous incentives to riders and drivers alike – an effort that that worked in some markets and failed in others.

“We will not shy away from making short-term financial sacrifices where we see clear long-term benefits,” Mr Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, wrote in a letter accompanying the prospectus.

Uber is just one of many tech “unicorns” that have made use of aggressive user onboarding tactics to attain stellar growth in a short span of time – but it remains to be seen whether they’re able to keep things going.

Source: Straits Times (1) | (2) 

North Korea could target SEA’s crypto sector

Ever had a problematic neighbour?

According to the British defense and security think-tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), South Korea has been on the receiving end on several hacking attempts by their unfriendly neighbor for some time now. (Link – Page 12) Several attacks have been on cryptocurrency exchanges, with the likely aim being to use cryptocurrencies to work around heavy economic sanctions. A second summit between the US and North Korea fell apart after an agreement between the two parties could not be reached.

The RUSI has also pinpointed North Korea’s cyber capabilities as a threat to Southeast Asia’s growing cryptocurrency sector. The report states that “Southeast Asia’s growing virtual asset sector and lack of coordinated regulation make it vulnerable to exploitation by North Korea”; it also notes that some responses are already underway.

North Korea could not be reached for comment. However, the country has constantly denied their involvement in any cybercrime.

Source: CNBC | CCN


Social crowdfunding site GoFundMe bans anti-vaccination campaigns.

Anti-vaccination campaigns have been banned from raising money on GoFundMe.

Following reports of an “anti-vaxxer” raising tens of thousands in donations, the crowdfunding platform announced it was carrying out a “thorough review” to remove any anti-vaccination campaigns. It follows a string of other online platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Youtube, which have implemented their own approach to stop anti-vaccination messages.

The American Medical Association previously sent a letter to major tech sites, urging them to curb the spread of health misinformation. Meanwhile, GoFundMe’s move has drawn criticism from some for being a form of censorship and stifling of free market ideas.

What are your views? Should platforms intervene in these matters?


Editor’s Note: We believe that vaccines are a key tenet of modern healthcare, as proven by countless peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Source: The Independent UK