UK’s Experian leads $20m investment in HK-based CompareAsiaGroup

Experian CEO for Asia Pacific Ben Elliott (left) with CompareAsiaGroup CEO Sam Allen.

London-based consumer credit giant Experian on Tuesday announced that it has led a $20-million first close of an ongoing Series B1 funding round for Hong Kong-based fintech startup CompareAsiaGroup.

The investment in CompareAsiaGroup will enable the fintech firm to access Experian’s technology and intensify its focus on delivering enhanced customer solutions.

Founded in 2014, the fintech startup claims to have catered to 60 million users across six markets that it operates in, namely Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

Including the latest investment, CompareAsiaGroup has now raised a total of $110 million in external funding. The company had last disclosed raising a $50 million Series B round led by International Finance Corporation (IFC) in July 2017. Its existing backers include Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, SBI Group, H&Q Utrust and Jardines.

“This partnership further strengthens our ability to empower people to build healthier financial lives, a shared mission for both CompareAsiaGroup and Experian. We look forward to connecting more customers with the right products, especially consumer loans and cards, and offering a secured and integrated digital experience that is unique to each customer,” said CompareAsiaGroup CEO Sam Allen.

The deal marks Experian’s fifth investment in the Asia Pacific region. It recently made headlines for investing an undisclosed amount in Grab’s ongoing Series H funding round.

“Five major investments in Asia Pacific, within the past 18 months, show our commitment to powering the region’s credit economy. We will continue to work on strengthening the financial profile of Asia Pacific consumers,” said Experian Asia Pacific CEO Ben Elliott.

Bridging the financial inclusion gap in Asia

Interestingly, Experian is also an existing investor in Malaysia-based Jirnexu, which operates a similar business as CompareAsiaGroup. The London firm led a $10-million Series B extension round in Jirnexu last December.

Elliott told DealStreetAsia that Experian sees its partnerships in “a different and nuanced way”, although some of the principles of why and how of partnering are similar. It strategically invests in companies with different strengths in different markets across Asia.

“We’re always on the lookout for like-minded partners who share the same values and mission in driving financial access and how we can complement each other’s offerings through various capabilities. For example, Jirnexu is well-established in Malaysia, while CompareAsiaGroup has an extensive regional reach, that spans Hong Kong and Singapore,” he said.

Besides Jirnexu, Grab and CompareAsiaGroup, Experian has previously backed Singapore-based C88 and Bankbazaar in India. Elliott added that Experian is currently exploring a number of opportunities in the Asia Pacific market in terms of venture investment or even full acquisitions.

“We will continue to look at companies that can help us reach a much wider group of customers that need more accurate and comprehensive access to financial solutions,” he added.

Elliott noted although much progress has been made in financial inclusion globally in recent years, there remains a significant gap in certain Asian markets.

The challenge of financial inclusion is not limited to emerging markets, he noted. Across developed markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong, many face unique obstacles while trying to access financial services as they plan for their future financial needs.

According to a report by the International Monetary Fund, close to half of the adult population in low- and middle-income group in the Asian economies are still unbanked, and less than 10 per cent have borrowed from formal financial institutions.

“As part of our strategy to work closely with fintech companies, Experian has established Experian X Labs — our first Asia Pacific (APAC) incubator and collaboration centre to build upon our innovation efforts,” said Elliott.