Financial inclusion remains a major issue in Southeast Asia (SEA) today, and a number of startups have risen up to the challenge of opening greater access to financial services for society–including Salmon.
It is a fintech company that aims to bring modern banking to underbanked consumers in SEA, starting with consumer lending in the Philippines. The company’s mission is to bridge the financial inclusion gap in the country and empower Filipinos financially.
“Salmon aims to leverage favourable dynamics in the Philippines market and our team’s technical and financial know-how to bridge the financial inclusion gap and bring consumer credit and enjoyable daily banking to 114 million Filipinos, empowering them to reach their personal and financial goals,” explains Raffy Montemayor, Co-Founder and Business Head in the Philippines at Salmon, in an email interview with e27.
The Philippines is a vast market with huge potential for growth. The country recorded 7.6 per cent GDP growth in 2022, and its population is young and digitally savvy, with over 50 per cent aged 24 or younger. However, there are only about six million unique credit card users across a population of 114 million people, which highlights the significant opportunity for Salmon to make an impact.
Salmon’s revenue model is based on expanding financial inclusion by starting with consumer lending to build a robust revenue-generating engine and eventually adding additional products such as deposits, payments, and other types of lending to leverage cross-selling opportunities and become a full-scale neobank.
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“If you compare this approach with other fintech [companies], particularly those that are struggling in Western Europe at the moment, you can see that an over-reliance on cheap capital and a focus on uncontrolled growth has resulted in complacency over companies’ ability to achieve sustainable profits in the longer term. Our model ensures that Salmon operates differently,” Montemayor says.
The company’s focus on healthy unit economics ensures the sustainable growth of the business, and its team’s experience in launching and scaling multi-million dollar financial businesses in other emerging markets makes them confident they can execute on their ambitious strategy.
“We are making consumer loans more accessible to quality borrowers, who have historically been overlooked by legacy banks. As a starting point, we have been leveraging partnerships with major local retailers and a physical presence in retail stores to build out our initial customer base. Our sales representatives use facial recognition and other proprietary technology to establish a new customer’s identity and assess their risk profile so that we can approve new loan applications in under 10 minutes and subsequent applications even quicker,” Montemayor explains.
“We are proud to highlight that 92 per cent of Salmon customers would recommend the company’s services to friends and family, according to our recent surveys.”
But running this business is not without challenges. One of them is the lack of credit history for a lot of Filipino consumers. However, the company’s approach to pool data from different sources and using its know-how and tech expertise to create robust credit scoring models is essential in addressing this challenge and creating a more vibrant and better functioning financial services sector for all.
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“We are committed to investing in the local tech talent and partnering with other industry players to address this challenge together in order to create a more vibrant and better functioning financial services sector for all.”
Maintaining a strong momentum
Started by co-founders Pavel Fedorov, George Chesakov, and Montemayor, Salmon’s team consists of experienced tech and finance professionals who collectively bring decades of experience in launching and scaling startups and fintech companies across different emerging markets.
In its first year since launching, Salmon has achieved several significant milestones, including launching its first point-of-sale lending product, establishing partnerships with leading local retailers, and creating its own proprietary service app.
The company also raised US$16 million in a Series A funding round from a list of investors that includes DisruptAD, the venture platform of ADQ, one of Abu Dhabi’s leading sovereign wealth funds, as well as a prominent European venture fund and a group of Filipino investors.
Looking ahead, Salmon aims to maintain its strong momentum, expanding partnerships with local retailers to bring its products to more people, working together with regulators and other industry players to expand financial inclusion, and reinvesting PHP10 million (US$180,000) in the local tech ecosystem. In five years’ time, the company aims to be on track to becoming a leading credit-led bank in Southeast Asia.
Salmon’s commitment to developing local tech talent in the Philippines, providing transparent and easy-to-understand financial products, and improving financial literacy among the general population makes it an exciting company to watch as it continues to make an impact in the region.
Image Credit: Salmon
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