Tech Crunch: Open Banking Startup Finverse Wants to Build the Asia-Pacific region’s Plaid

Tech Crunch: Open Banking Startup Finverse Wants to Build the Asia-Pacific region’s Plaid — Based in Hong Kong, Finverse’s ambitious goal is to enable open banking throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The startup recently came out of stealth mode with $1.8 million in seed funding, and is now live in four markets (Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam) with connections to 30 banks. Founder and chief executive officer Stephane Lesaffre told TechCrunch that Finverse plans to launch in one new market per quarter, with the goal of covering about 75% of consumer and SMEs banks in each place.

Participants in Finverse’s seed round included Febe Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, SixThirty, Venturra and angel investors.

Finverse is among a crop of fintechs developing APIs that allow easier sharing of financial data. The most prominent examples include Plaid in the United States and Tink and Truelayer in Europe (Finverse’s seed funding included angel investment from Truelayer employees).

Before starting Finverse in 2020, Lesaffre was senior product manager of financial data integrations at NerdWallet, working with account aggregation APIs like Plaid and legacy player Yodlee.

Plaid won the U.S. market because it was reliable and developer-friendly, Lesaffre said. It did not offer as much data coverage as Yodlee, but “what it did do is a very narrowly-focused set of data very well, and very easy to build. My ultimate learning from NerdWallet is that bad data is really worse than no data.”

Finverse wants to do the same thing for the Asia-Pacific region by building dependable APIs and data integrations. “At the core, we are a basically a consent-based data pipe where a consumer allows Finverse to connect to their account and share it with another fintech or financial institution,” said Lesaffre.

This can include information about accounts, balances, transaction histories and bank statements. Accessing this data gives financial institutions a sense of the consumer’s assets and liabilities, and can be used to perform things like income estimates, credit checks and gauge ability to repay.

Lesaffre said that Finverse’s early adopters are mostly fintech startups, including a mix of SME lending providers and buy now, pay later services.

Finverse’s APIs can be used for a wide range of use cases, but most of its current potential clients are focused on consumer or SME lending. Many of them want to transition from a heavily manual process that requires applicants to upload documents, to a digitized credit decision that can take as little as one minute.

Finverse is currently focused on banked consumers, or people who have traditional bank accounts and credit histories, but over time it also plans to add digital wallets, neobanks and other less traditional institutions. Future use cases include financial tracking as more people in Asia start using e-wallets, investment apps and online bank accounts.

“If you are a smaller digital bank, you know that a lot of your customers will have another primary account at a larger bank, so a lot of smaller banks are quite keen to be able to get a full perspective on their consumers,” said Lesaffre. “One way to do that is to let consumers track all their accounts in one place.”

Another use case for Finverse’s APIs is cross-border payments verification, compliance and KYC.

Other open banking startups focused on Southeast Asia include Brankas and Finantier. Lesaffre said Finverse’s approach is different because it is targeting the entire Asia-Pacific region, instead of focusing on specific markets. Its new funding will be used to grow its engineering and business development teams.