In Southeast Asia, over 95 per cent of companies are small and medium-sized businesses, many of which find it difficult to gain access to funding. Now technology companies like Grab, Ant Financial and Tencent’s WeChat are hoping to fill the market gap by offering financial services like loans and payments. Grab, the Singapore-based ride-sharing company that has now expanded into everything from food-delivery to mobile payments, said on Tuesday that it is making a “full-scale push into lending and insurance”, starting with its home market of Singapore. Partners that it works with for its ecosystem would be able to take out loans with Grab and drivers, for example, would be able to pay for insurance that covers them only when they are driving. “Drivers will be able to pay as they drive and switch seamlessly between personal and auto insurance … this lowers the effective cost of operating for drivers,” said Reuben Lai, senior managing director at Grab Financial, at a media briefing during the Money 20/20 conference in Singapore. Lai said that SMEs and consumers would also be able to take out loans from Grab, which allows them “to move outside of the platform to buy big ticket items”. In a push to encourage more consumers to use Grab’s ecosystem of services, it also announced its new “Pay Later” product, a service that lets users pay for the Grab services they have used at the end of the month, or in monthly instalments. Grab’s move into financial services in Southeast Asia mirrors that of Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, which has over the last decade become one of China’s leading providers of mobile payments as well as financial services, such as its money market fund Yu’e Bao and consumer lending products like Huabei. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post. Grab to open on-demand services platform to third-party providers Ant Financial has also made a play in Southeast Asia, investing in a variety of mobile payments wallets including GCash in the Philippines, and Thailand’s TrueMoney. “Use cases are the foundational elements to build a global payments business, and frankly today we are in the first innings of mobile payments,” said Douglas Feagin, Ant Financial’s president of international business, during a panel. “There are players, including a number that our partners are using … ride-sharing or other types of digital goods to get started but that’s only the tip of the iceberg,” said Feagin. “As soon as you get people to adopt, you can build connections into financial services systems, with banks and other players … for the whole ecosystem.” Small businesses are the ones that will see the biggest impact when it comes to mobile payments and financial services, according to Feagin, as they will be able to better market to customers and even be able to sell online via Ant’s platforms. Ant Financial acquires UK payments firm WorldFirst Ant Financial rival WeChat Pay has also been making strides in the Southeast Asia market. The company has been working with mobile wallet partners outside of China, according to WeChat international business director Ma Yao. “We have already evaluated over 49 different regions all over the world,” said Ma. “In these regions, partners who have a financial licence and abundant resources can apply … [to work with] WeChat Pay.” Ma said that WeChat Pay currently supports over 20 different currencies, although the majority users of this service are outbound Chinese tourists who shop overseas but settle their purchases in yuan instead of foreign currency.