Mastercard: Malaysia Leads South East Asia in E-Wallet Adoption (No, Not Really)

Mastercard: Malaysia Leads South East Asia in E-Wallet Adoption (No, Not Really)

by June 25, 2020

By now you’ve probably seen the headlines plastered across multiple media outlets stating that Malaysia is leading South East Asia in e-wallet adoption with 40% of Malaysians surveyed responding that they are using e-wallets. This is followed by Philippines at 36%, Thailand 27% and Singapore at 26%.

As an avid supporter and observer of the fintech space in Malaysia, it was difficult to resist the urge to pat the collective back of the Malaysian fintech industry but i was skeptical of the numbers especially with Singapore’s number being suspiciously low.

While Malaysia has made great strides in e-wallet adoption thanks in part to the RM 1.2 Billion that the Malaysian government is expected to spend this year promoting e-wallets, it’s simply too premature to claim leadership in South East Asia.

I’ve reached out the Mastercard team to better understand the sample size and the demography of the survey participants. The survey was done online with over 10,000 consumers across these markets — Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. It was conducted over the period of March 2020 to April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for majority of the countries surveyed.

In Malaysia, 17% of the participants surveyed were over the age of 45 as compared to Singapore where 47% of the participants surveyed are over the age of 45 — which is nearly half of the sample size. Those who are above the age of 45 are obviously less likely to use e-wallets compared to those who are below the age of 45, this likely skew the data in Malaysia’s favour.

Anyone who has done these surveys can tell you that these studies are often more indicative than they are definitive, the same study carried out with the same parameters by the same people can often yield wildly different results depending on the sample size and demography. A similar study that was done by Visa paints a very different picture, it stated that Singapore leads the way with 56%, followed by Thailand at 45% and Malaysia at 44%.

But Mastercard was correct to point that COVID-19 has sped up the adoption of digital solutions like cashless payments for both consumers and businesses alike. Commenting on the shift of behaviours Safdar Khan, Division President, South East Asia Emerging Markets, Mastercard said
Safdar Khan

“COVID-19 has impacted everyone and every country in some way or another. Many consumers and businesses have been quick to adapt to the digital world and cashless payments in order to stay safe and maintain a sense of normalcy in these extraordinary and uncertain times. Even as organizations and markets prepare for recovery, consumer concerns over their safety and well-being will be at the forefront of any strategy—and this is evident in the way that consumers in Southeast Asia are now shopping and transacting

They have also reiterated their commitment to the region, Safdar added in his statement

“In these challenging times, Mastercard is committed to using the power of data to enable businesses of all sizes to adapt and evolve alongside consumers’ changing needs, preferences and behaviors through ecommerce tools, increasing contactless payment limits, and spearheading the shift to contactless across the region. By putting consumer sentiment and concerns at the core of all decisions, businesses and governments will be able to move with greater confidence from this current situation, and mitigate the adverse impact of future crises,”

We’ve also hopped on a quick call with BFM radio to discuss these findings, you can listen the recording here