Grab Buys Robo-advisory Company in Singapore to Beef Up Its Fintech Offerings

The wealth management products will be launched in Singapore first

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Grab Holdings on Tuesday said it bought Bento Invest, a Singapore-based robo-advisory start-up, that will offer the company’s clients retail wealth management solutions.


The company did not disclose the deal value.

Bento will be rebranded as GrabInvest, and its products will be launched on Grab’s platform in the first half of the year, according to the company’s press statement.

The aim of the acquisition is to tap the underbanked population in Southeast Asia that do not have access to investment tools easily, or might find it expensive even if they do.

“In Southeast Asia, there is a lack of access to affordable wealth management products and retirement planning solutions for most people. As we face an increasingly volatile and uncertain economic environment, it is imperative for Southeast Asians to acquire the tools and knowledge to protect their future by sustainably building wealth for themselves and their families,” said Reuben Lai, senior managing director of Grab Financial, the company’s fintech arm.

Traditionally, wealth management has been limited to those who could afford to pay investment managers a lot their services. The ticket size of these investments was also quite large since investment banks need to earn enough from returns.

But that is changing now, thanks to artificial intelligence and robo-advisors, which have made investment advisory not only affordable, but also easy to understand and, most importantly, accessible.

Banks in the U.S. have also given robo-advisory a big push, but that is mostly to target millenials who prefer conducting as much business as they can on their smartphones.

In Asia though robo-advisory has a different demographic because it targets those who don’t have access to financial services at all.


Fintech in Asia

Financial tech has truly changed the face of banking in Asia, more than it has perhaps in the West.

Of the 400 million adults that live in Southeast Asia, only 104 million are fully “banked”, and have full access to financial services, which leaves 198 million people that do not have even rudimentary access to financial institutions, a joint study by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co showed.

Very basic problems like infrastructure costs, absence of public registers and reliable credit information, along with stringent financial regulations, make it difficult for institutional banks and insurers to penetrate the region in a meaningful way.

Fintechs have tried to plug that gap, and using Asia’s rapid tech innovation, boomed into a multi-billion dollar industry in the region, serving tech savvy millennials, and undocumented Asians alike.

Digital payments are expected to cross $1 trillion by 2025 in Asia, and account for nearly one in two dollars spent in the region. The market for e-wallets is expected to grow even faster, from $22 billion in 2019, to $114 billion, a more than fivefold jump, by 2025, the Google joint study said.