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AwardsBest Bank Awards

Vietnam's best digital bank 2020: Timo/Viet Capital

Timo/Viet Capital

The digital banking space is becoming extraordinarily crowded these days. Eight months ago, investing big in technology and disruption was one of a myriad budget items to raise at staff meetings. It is now mission critical as Covid-19 makes physical branches and corporate offices no-go zones.

Even against this backdrop, Timo is an obvious standout in digital finance. With reviews on Tripadvisor and a hipster internet café vibe, Vietnam’s first digital banking platform can feel more like a WeWork location than a conventional financial services outfit. But this so-called ‘neobank’ isn’t taking its success for granted.

Timo is really a hybrid of the ‘hangout’ brick-and-mortar concept popular with the startup/gig-economy crowd. Along with its popular and user-friendly app, it’s all about offering modern banking services to the public in innovative ways unique to a developing nation with sub-$3,000 per-capita income.

Now, of course, disruption is coming from all sides as Covid-19 creates a new dynamic for digital banking. A study from payments company NAPAS, published in May, found that electronic payments in Vietnam jumped 76% in the first quarter of 2020, year on year. The total value of transactions rose 124% in the same period, one in which digital financial transactions soared.

Competition is surging. Although Timo wins best digital bank honours once again, global names like Citibank are making their own strides in the local Vietnam market. As Covid-19 keeps millions at home, Citi’s mobile-first strategy is making notable gains in client engagement.

Even so, Timo’s ‘Spend account feature, one in a constant state of evolution, enables users to seamlessly track accounts, transfer money, pay bills, top up credit to any mobile phone number, and access ATMs nationwide – all fee-free. Timo members can send money to other Timo members using just their email address.

And then there’s the e-commerce section of the Timo app where users can do anything from purchasing airline tickets and mutual funds to buying insurance. As Timo likes to say, watch this space.

Disruption is coming from within, too. During our awards period, Timo was partnered with VPBank. Come September, it will join forces with Viet Capital Bank instead. The real leap forward, though, is when Timo scores its own banking licence. It’s hard to imagine that disruption is far off.