Standard Chartered Bank Taiwan Ltd (渣打台灣銀行) yesterday entered into a partnership with peer-to-peer lending operator Robo Web Technology Co (瑞保網路科技) to expand its retail banking clientele from high-net-worth individuals to the general public.
The alliance enables borrowers to open accounts and apply for loans without visiting brick-and-mortar branches and came as competition from non-traditional players gains force.
“We aim to reach out to the general public through the strategic cooperation, a departure from the past focus on high-net-worth individuals,” Standard Chartered retail banking head Kate Lin (林素真) told a news conference.
Standard Chartered would continue to pursue affluent clients, but also aims to take advantage of the fast-growing digital banking business, which was valued at US$64 billion in 2015 and could hit US$1 trillion in 2025, Lin said.
Robo Web develops and operates the nation’s largest online peer-to-peer lending platform, LnB (信用市集), which has amassed 37,000 clients and processed loan requests totaling NT$5.1 billion (US$170.61 million) since its launch in March 2016.
The fintech company thrives on commission charges for matching lenders and borrowers at lower borrowing costs than traditional lenders, Robo Web founder and CEO Joanna Yang (楊瑞芬) said.
It has developed a set of criteria to grade the credit profile of borrowers, who are mostly aged between 20 and 50, Yang said, adding that lenders — referred to as investors on the platform — are usually a few years older.
The purpose of LnB is simple: allow people with funding needs to find lenders with ease and convenience over the Internet, which is the basic and core function of a bank, she said.
Standard Chartered has set interest rates at 0.88 percent for the first two months and between 2.99 percent and 16.99 percent from the third month, Lin said, adding that it would charge an extra NT$2,988 in one-off account maintenance fees.
“The offer demonstrates the bank’s seriousness about growing its retail banking business in Taiwan, which ranks third in profitability worldwide only after Hong Kong and Singapore,” Lin said.
Standard Chartered would consider extending low interest rates depending on customer feedback, she said.
In practice, LnB would pass details of interested borrowers to Standard Chartered, which could settle loan requests within 24 hours, she added.
The lending platform says it can approve loan applications within at least three-and-a-half minutes.
Standard Chartered is to spend US$2 million to establish its third iWealth center in Taoyuan by the end of this year to meet the growing demand for digital services, Lin said.
Its iWealth centers target affluent Taiwanese with net worths of at least NT$3 million who can sip expensive tea, read magazines and use iPads at the facilities for financial consultations.
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