Fintech in Southeast Asia: The Way Forward

Recent research by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute examines the factors behind financial technology adoption in the Greater Jakarta region, providing transferrable learning points for governments and businesses alike.

Astrid Meilasari-Sugiana, Siwage Dharma Negara and Hui Yew-Foong, from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute published “Financial Technology Adoption in Greater Jakarta: Patterns, Constraints and Enablers” this month. This research is part of the Institute’s Trends in Southeast Asia series, which serves as in-depth analysis of contemporary geopolitical and social-economic forces in the region.

Drawing upon insights from an online survey assessing over 3,157 respondents’ experiences and perceptions of fintech, the authors outline patterns, constraints, and enablers behind fintech adoption in Greater Jakarta. Their findings are relevant for policymakers looking to accelerate fintech adoption. 

The survey found that socioeconomic status did not seem to influence fintech adoption when fintech infrastructure was sufficiently developed. Factors such as income, education, gender, age, and occupation were found to influence the kinds of fintech tools preferred. 

Notably, while users remained generally undeterred and enthusiastic about experimenting with fintech adoption, data leaks and fraud were nonetheless identified as the main perceived obstacles to adoption across all socioeconomic groups.

As such, it is clear that trust and confidence in Digital Financial Service (DFS) providers remains key to fully unlocking the potential of fintech.

This aligns with ongoing research on trust in DFS at the Tech For Good Institute, in which we see digital literacy as an important factor for the adoption of services across Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Initial findings indicate that trust in DFS providers positively predicted e-wallet usage in half of the countries surveyed. When it came to the usage of other DFS products such as loans, insurance, and investment instruments, trust continued to positively predict usage in all countries surveyed except Thailand. 

The work of Meilasari-Sugiana et al demonstrates the importance of understanding the needs of target fintech users, not only those traditionally underserved by financial institutions but also those with limited or no digital infrastructure. By addressing user pain points and barriers to adoption, fintech will be better placed to fulfil its promise in improving financial inclusion across the region.

The Tech For Good Institute hopes to work closely with partners and stakeholders in helping raise the awareness of these barriers and pain points, and bring to light innovative solutions from the digital economy that will allow Southeast Asia to fully realise its potential as an equitable and prosperous region.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.


Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management.


Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 14 countries worldwide. Her portfolio covered sustainability, brand and data privacy. She was concurrently the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, the private philanthropy of the owner of the COMO Group.


As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to SuperNature Pte Ltd, COMO Hotels and Resorts (Asia) Pte Ltd, COMO Club Pte Ltd, and Mogems Pte Ltd. In the not-for-profit space, Ming is an Advisor to Singapore Totalisator Board and serves on the boards of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, St. Joseph’s Institution International and COMO Foundation.


As part of her commitment to holistic education and the arts, she also sits on the Advisory Panel of the Centre for the Arts of the National University of Singapore.


Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.