Singapore-based Grab has launched a new fintech platform that offers loans and insurance, starting with its driver-partners and “middle economy” business owners.

Speaking at the Money 20/20 conference at Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday (Mar 13), CEO Anthony Tan announced the launch of Grab Financial, which will encompass Grab’s payment system, rewards programme, agent network and financial services.

As part of this, the launch of Grab Financial Services Asia (GFSA) was also announced. GFSA is a joint venture (JV) between Grab and Japan’s Credit Saison which will provide loans and lending services to “millions of unbanked and underbanked consumers, micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses across Southeast Asia”, the company said.

Jason Thompson, managing director of GrabPay Southeast Asia said at the event that Grab’s move into Grab Financial is “entirely logical”.

“If you want to start a business that’s about drivers, and drivers can’t buy cars, they can’t start a business,” he said.

Thompson said during a media keynote session after the announcement that its JV with Credit Saison will leverage on Credit Saison’s experience in financial services as well as utilise Grab’s extensive regional reach and vast datasets on consumer behaviour.

According to Grab, which has a network of 2.6 million drivers in Southeast Asia, its app has been downloaded onto over 86 million mobile devices across 191 cities today.

With over a billion transactions made via Grab annually, the company’s datasets are expected to provide a sophisticated, alternative resource for measuring credit ratings.

This way, Grab Financial can offer alternative data points to assess credit worthiness in ways traditional credit scoring methods have not been able to, the company said.

The initial phase of the JV will focus on providing products for its driver-partners, agents and merchants, such as working capital loans, financing for smartphones and durable goods, as well as consumer goods financing.

Eventually, the JV is also expected to offer credit scoring services to financial institutes which can use Grab Financial’s data to provide other services such as virtual credit cards.

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Jason Thompson, MD of GrabPay SEA. Handout

“The new joint venture, Grab Financial Services Asia, puts in place a much-needed infrastructure that will accelerate financial inclusion in Southeast Asia,” Thompson said.

When a journalist in the room asked if Credit Saison had made any investments in Grab, Thompson replied: “That’s not what we’ve launched. We’ve launched a joint venture together.”

“We’ve not announced anything about Credit Saison investing in Grab,” he added.

At the same event, Grab also announced that it had partnered up with insurance firm Chubb to provide insurance products for driver-partners and customers.

Using the Grab app, drivers will be able to select different insurance options such as loss of income insurance, per-ride schemes, personal accident policies and motor insurance.

Grab said the partnership will involve using data technology from Grab’s platform – telematics, machine learning and predictive analytics – to offer insurance solutions personalised to the specific needs of different private-hire vehicle drivers in Southeast Asia.