The story of Asia today is one of change.
Asia's digitally savvy population and high proportion of millennials are challenging cash's reign as the dominant medium of exchange as people increasingly replace their wallets with smartphones. This shift has been catalyzed by access to technological innovation like real-time payments using mobile devices, high smartphone penetration, the entrance of new innovative market players outside of traditional banking, the rise of e-commerce, and favorable government policy and regulation.
Digital solutions provide un- and underbanked people and businesses access to financial services they previously lacked, thereby fostering financial inclusion. A whopping 1.7 billion people worldwide do not have an account with any financial institution or mobile money provider (Source: World Bank “The Global Findex Database 2017”). The majority of these people are in Asia, with India, China and Indonesia as the three largest unbanked countries. The relatively low cost and ease of cashless technologies like mobile payments/banking should enable greater financial inclusion in Asia, thus accelerating the region's transition toward less-cash economies.
Still, the vast majority of transactions in Asia are in cash. This suggests further growth potential but also indicates certain obstacles to adoption.