Though 80 per cent of the population remains unserved by Myanmar’s banking system, Wave Money aims to enjoy much higher growth over the next few years thanks to its continuous expansion of distribution network, said the firm’s top executive.
Brad Jones, chief executive officer of Wave Money, said in an exclusive interview the firm has over 1.3 million customers and is partnering more than 20,000 agents so far.
“We will continue to expand our distribution network, which is growing considerably every month. We will continue to roll out our agent network,” he said.
Since January last year, transactions through Wave Money application have grown by 31 per cent with revenue growth of 22 per cent on a monthly basis.
“Both transactions and revenue have grown considerably. We now have the biggest distribution network among mobile money services here. We have 10 times the number of bank branches and six times the distribution of automated teller machines in Myanmar,” he said.
“People can transfer money from anywhere to everywhere in the country. For example, if you want to transfer money from Yangon to Chin State, you can do that today. Likewise, if you want to send money from Myeik to Myitkyina, you can do it quickly. It saves a lot of time.”
Jones said the firm had covered all states and regions, with its services reaching to 273 out of 330 townships in the nation. The network has been growing at more than 1500 new Wave shops per month.
He considers heavy investment in the market and its extensive distribution network as the two key drivers of the growth.
Earlier this month, Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd (YSH) announced the acquisition of a 34 percent stake from First Myanmar Investment Co (FMI) in the firm for US$19.4 million. Post-acquisition, Telenor Myanmar will hold a 51percent stake, YSH 34 per cent, FMI 10 per cent, and Yoma Bank 5 per cent in the company.
Previously, FMI held a 44 percent stake while Telenor and Yoma held the same shares. According to YSH, the parties have agreed on a total equity value of Wave Money of $57 million.
Jones said the acquisition would provide opportunities for Singaporean investors to invest in Myanmar’s fintech market. Additionally, he sees many opportunities to leverage particularly in the areas of financing and leasing.
Currently, the firm mainly focuses on money transfers but Jones foresees a lot of rooms for improvement in digital services including ecommerce, top up, and digital contents, thanks to consumers’ demand for digital products over the next few years.
According to Jones, there are 8 or 9 major competitors, and some companies are also eyeing the market. He warmly welcomes the competition, as it can play a crucial role in educating consumers about mobile financial services.
“We think it is a good thing. As they invest in the market, more and more people here will know about mobile money. Though we are the market leader here, our customer base is only 2.5 per cent of the population in Myanmar. So it is not sharing a small pie but a growth industry for everybody involved in the market,” he said.
“Obviously, the market opportunity is huge. We see ourselves very complementary to the banks. We are not going to offer the full range of services banks are offering. We offer only the basic financial services to avoid waste of time and make money transfers easier for customers’ convenience.”
He considers new entrants as complementary to digitalise cash in Myanmar.
He said it would take time to see the people completely shift from cash to digital money, as Myanmar is a cash-dominated society. He urged to build trust on the financial system.
Though Telenor and Yoma are major investors, the company is also willing to cooperate with other telecom operators and banks. Currently, it cooperates with CB bank, KBZ, Global Treasure Bank and Myanmar Economic Bank (MEB). Its recent cooperation with MEB aims to make payments for government pensioners easier.
The firm now has 106 employees in Yangon – only 10 per cent of them are expatriates who will go over time.
It took about one year to prepare before the firm started its business in August 2016.
In case of assistance with its services, the firm has a 24-hour call centre in place, located at FMI City in Yangon.