Regional ride-hailing unicorn Grab recently announced that it has acquired Bento Invest (Bento), a robo-advisory startup based in Singapore that provides business-to-business and business-to-consumer digital wealth management solutions. Financial details regarding the acquisition were, however, not provided.
The acquisition of Bento by Grab will enable the ride-hailing giant to expand its range of financial and investment services for its ecosystem of drivers, users and merchants through its app, and gain a firm foothold in the retail wealth management space. Post-acquisition, it is understood that Bento will operate under a new brand as GrabInvest, which is to be part of the Grab Financial Group.
Grab Financial Group, which is the financial services arm of the unicorn company, is currently comprised of GrabInsure for insurance, GrabPay for payments, GrabFinance for lending and GrabRewards for rewards. GrabInvest will be the fifth vertical in this arrangement of financial services and will play a crucial role as Grab seeks to become a leading player in Southeast Asia’s fintech space.
The new core vertical for Grab Financial Group will start launching products for the Singapore market via the Grab app by the middle of 2020, with the other Southeast Asian markets to follow. As part of the deal, Chandrima Das, who is the chief executive officer and founder of Bento, will become the new head of wealth management at Grab Financial Group. Before its acquisition by Grab, Bento is one of the top six business-to-business and business-to-customer robo advisors globally, according to CB Insights.
GrabInvest is an effort by Grab to widen and improve the accessibility and affordability of financial products to more users that were otherwise restricted to just conventional institutional investors or the very wealthy. As a retail wealth management solutions provider, the unicorn company has reassured users that GrabInvest will be fully transparent and will disclose all fees without any hidden charges, fees or elements. It will also fully adhere to the Monetary Authority of Singapore Capital Markets Services license’s regulatory and legal standards.
According to Reuben Lai, Grab Financial Group’s senior managing director, it is becoming ever more vital for the people of Southeast Asia to equip themselves with the right financial knowledge and tools in order to face an economic environment that is constantly changing, for better or worse, due to high volatility and unpredictable forces, as well as to protect both themselves and their loved ones. Even though retirement planning and wealth management solutions are out of reach for the majority of people in Southeast Asia, it is very crucial for them to build sustainable wealth for both themselves and future generations.
Grab has been active in the fintech space lately. The latest move by the unicorn company comes just after it had formed a strategic partnership with Singapore Telecommunications Limited (Singtel), one of the big four telcos operating in Singapore, to establish a consortium in a bid to apply for a full digital banking license from Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Additionally, the superapp company had recently introduced Southeast Asia’s first numberless payment card via a partnership with MasterCard, and it had also been chosen by the Malaysian government late last year as an official e-wallet partner for the e-Tunai Rakyat Initiative, which is an initiative launched by the government in an effort to promote the adoption of e-wallets in the country. The latest acquisition of robo-advisory Bento by the unicorn superapp Grab and its rebranding to GrabInvest is one more step towards making crucial financial and wealth management solutions and products more accessible and affordable to the people of Southeast Asia.