This week, Dani and Ned chat with Rich Turin about Super apps. Super apps are a popular buzzword in Southeast Asia used to represent all-in-one applications that consolidate the functions of different individual apps. Some popular ones include Grab, Alipay, and WeChat.
When Rich talks to others about Fintech in China, he has to overcome three misconceptions. Firstly, people assume that China is a country far removed from the West, and whatever happens there is of no relevance to them. However, the reality is that China is tremendously capitalistic, which drives competition and innovation, putting them a decade ahead of the West. Secondly, people assume that companies in China become successful through government aid. Contrary to this, tech giants in China are born out of their capitalistic market and have innovated and fought their way to the top of the industry. Lastly, there is a belief that China replicates the West. While this may have been true in the past, the argument no longer holds any weight.
Rich shares that the working culture at Fintech companies in China is similar to how investment banking was like in the West. The romance of investment banking in the 90s was premised on how one could earn a lot of money if they worked hard. The same is happening at Fintech companies in China, drawing in many young people who are willing to sacrifice to make money.
Super apps are a popular platform for app developers to deposit new apps because of the convenience factor. When writing a program intended for a Super app, the developer can rely on the Super app’s security, user information, and digital backbone to produce the program. Since the structures are already in place, new apps can be launched relatively quickly on Super apps. Furthermore, since Super apps are so ubiquitous and are a one-stop shop, asset managers who create a separate wealth management app inconvenience users and end up failing. Super apps also serve an additional function of an advertising platform. Many asset managers in China have some presence on WeChat or Alipay because that is where everyone is.
Uniquely, Super apps also allow users to manage their wealth. Most people in the West use a dedicated wealth management app to manage their finances. Because these are standalone apps, they make the user come to them. However, since the finance management applications are embedded in the Super apps, wealth management is more convenient. They also enable access to the financial market for those with as little as 1 RMB in their account, allowing almost anyone to start investing.
Finally, Super apps are successful because they make finance an afterthought. Many asset managers want to be the focus of a person’s life to sell more products. However, people do not want to constantly be thinking about finances, causing them to gravitate to Super apps. Finance manager programs on Super apps are part of an ecosystem and are not central to the user’s life. Super apps align with human behaviour by making finances secondary and enabling users to live freely without stressing over finances.