By Catherine Shu for Techcrunch.com
CompareAsiaGroup, which runs online financial marketplaces in seven Asian countries, has closed a $50 million Series B. The round was led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and includes capital from new investors Alibaba, SBI Group and H&Q Utrust. Returning investors like Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, which led CompareAsiaGroup’s $40 million Series A in 2015, Nova Founders Capital, ACE & Company and Route 66 Ventures, also participated.
CompareAsiaGroup claims that more than 28 million people used its sites last year, making it the largest personal financial management platform in Asia. The company’s marketplaces, which operate under different names in Hong Kong (MoneyHero.com.hk), Indonesia (HaloMoney.co.id), Malaysia (CompareHero.my), the Philippines (MoneyMax.ph), Singapore (SingSaver.com.sg), Taiwan (Money101.com.tw) and Thailand (MoneyGuru.co.th), allow users to search for credit cards, bank loans and insurance plans based on their needs and risk profiles.
In several of these markets, credit cards and online financial services are only just starting to see traction, which makes IFC and CompareAsiaGroup important strategic partners for one another.
“There are more than 600 million people across those markets and what we are passionate about is helping customers build healthier financial lives,” CEO Sam Allen tells TechCrunch. “That is aligned with IFC and what they are planning to do, which is build financial literacy and financial inclusion.”
CompareAsiaGroup, which launched in 2014, will use its new funding to improve user experience across its sites and grow its team. Its marketplaces use machine learning and artificial intelligence to match consumers with several products based on their needs and risk profiles. The company claims its recommendation system is more efficient and transparent than brokerages and other traditional financial service providers because users are able to compare different products before deciding which, if any, to sign up for.
Credit card penetration rates are still very low in several of CompareAsiaGroup’s main markets (for example, in Indonesia it is less than 10 percent), so risk profiles are assessed with data from different sources, in addition to credit bureaus, in each country.
CompareAsiaGroup currently works with about 100 brands and financial institutions, including American Express, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citibank. It makes money by sharing revenue with companies when customers sign up for their services through a CompareAsiaGroup site.
Even though it needs its partners to sell products in order to make money, Allen says revenue-sharing incentivizes CompareAsiaGroup to remain neutral and provide accurate information in order to convince customers to continue using the site, which in turn convinces financial companies to stay on its marketplaces.
“The absolute foundation is that we are impartial and objective and will always act in the best interests of consumers. We’ll always be free to use for consumers and so that’s a very clear line that filters through every part of our organization,” says Allen.