Hong Kong’s livi bank launches game-changing app for SMEs
Going fully digital on opening accounts and approving quick loans to SMEs raises ‘livi Business’ disbursements to over HK$70m (US$8.9m) as of end-April.
Small and medium enterprises are often touted as amongst the most underserved segments by traditional financial institutions. And the case is no different in Hong Kong, which is why virtual-only bank livi’s newest product offering, the “livi Business” app, is a game changer for local small business owners.
The app offers a fully automated account-opening process that can reportedly be finished in just 20 minutes, with the possibility of having their new accounts opened in as little as 24 hours.
“In Hong Kong, we recognized [that] the pain point of the SMEs over here is opening a bank account. Getting loans often takes weeks, if not months,” Gary Lam, chief technology officer at livi Bank Ltd., told Asian Banking & Finance. This is why livi Bank came about designing and launching livi Business.
“SMEs in Hong Kong have been significantly underserved by traditional lenders. We are determined to help to make a difference with our less human intervention, digital enablement, and strength in our technology,” Lam added.
This sector of enterprises are also promised to secure a loan in as fast as 24 hours by livi. Through its livi Business Installment Loan, SMEs are offered unsecured loans of up to HK$8m (US$1.02m), at an interest of as low as 0.28% per month, equivalent to an Annualized Percentage Rate (APR) of 6.52%, with installments of between six to 60 months.
Apparently, it’s been a hit. By the end of April 2023, the total approved loan amount from livi Business had reached HK$70m (US$8.9m) in loans disbursed, Lam said.
Livi has observed a lot of demand for remote account opening as well as cash flow needs amongst local SMEs.
Lam further noted that Hong Kong SME customers shared frustrations over the fact that they don’t have more control over the loan application process, and sought more transparency on the progress of their application.
“Account opening and loan applications require a lot of manual intervention, lots of documentation and submission from the SMEs,” Lam said.
Taking note of these, livi Business makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) and e-Know Your Customer in order to help SMEs apply for a bank account and secure loans without having to visit a physical bank branch.
Lam explained that livi Business’ uses data and technology in order to better provide the right customer service that will meet SMEs cash flow needs. The importance of improving their data is something that livi Bank is more than aware of.
“We [are] looking into some official data providers for company register information such that we can use more electronic ways, use API to enable the data flow — instead of asking our customer to data punching manually as save a lot of time for them,” Lam said, commenting on the service’s automated and fully digital account opening and application process.
“There’s no time limitation for our customers; they can open an account in business hours or after hours or even midnight,” Lam said.
Apart from business loans, livi Bank has also introduced an invoice financing service through the network of one of its shareholders, Jardine Matheson. The service is offered to the network’s construction and engineering space.
“The strong momentum of livi Business accounts opening and business installment loans are just the beginning. We will continue to capitalize our advanced technology shareholder networks to provide high quality competitive offers to address different needs from our SME customers,” Lam pledged.