Razer is leveraging its loyal fan base to introduce new fintech products for both gamers and non-gamers alike

MIN LIANG TAN   Razer
Min Liang Tan, CEO and cofounder of Razer

Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer has come a long way since CEO and cofounder Min-Liang Tan had the idea to design a computer mouse specific for gamers back in 2005. According to the firm’s latest financial results, 2020 was a record year, with Razer for the first time achieving over US$1 billion in revenue, in the process also registering its first ever annual profit.

Razer’s success naturally lies in its hardware business, where it enjoys a hugely loyal fanbase for its controllers, headsets, keyboard, and laptops. But there is another business segment that is growing fast and which is pointing to a new – and potentially highly profitable – revenue stream for the gaming industry: fintech

In 2017, Razer stepped for the first time into the fintech sector with the launch of in-game payment service Razer Gold, which now has 26 million registered users. This was followed in 2018 by Razer Fintech, a digital payment network targeting both B2B and B2C end users across Southeast Asia.

Revenue from the financial services arm grew over 66% in 2020 to US$128.4 million. Speaking at an earnings briefing in March, CEO Min said the financial services growth was “truly phenomenal”, adding that it had been driven by surges in Razer Gold usage in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the demand for Razer Fintech B2B services due to the accelerated digitization of many businesses in the region.

Digital payments in Southeast Asia

When it comes to fintech, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, outpacing the US, the UK, and even China. Razer is one of a number of companies with no previous financial sector experience that are now making significant steps into the sector. From ride hailing apps to e-commerce platforms and even airlines, more companies in the region are now also offering fintech services such as digital payments, loans, and even virtual banking.

“The usage of fintech, especially e-wallets, is a growing trend in Asia, especially in East and Southeast Asia,” Darang Candra, director of Southeast Asia at Niko Partners said. “None of Razer’s fellow unicorns in the region, such as Sea Group, Grab, and Gojek, started as fintech companies, but they later created their own fintech services – SeaMoney, GrabPay, and GoPay, respectively. This helped in pushing brand loyalty to their respective services. Razer seems to be in line with this trend.”

For companies such as Razer, moving into the fintech space is simply a case of responding to customer needs. This is especially true when it comes to providing digital payment services in a region that has some of the world’s lowest levels of financial inclusion.

KPMG estimates that as many as 73% of Southeast Asia’s population does not have access to a bank account. What they do have, though, is access to the internet. According to the e-Conomy 2020 report, co-produced by Google, Temasek, and Nain & Company, over 70% of people in Southeast Asia are now online, including an additional 40 million who came online in 2020 alone. The report also said the estimated gross transaction value (GTV) of digital payments in Southeast is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2025, up from US$620 billion in 2020.

“In the past few years, we witnessed strong growth in gamers in Southeast Asia,” Limeng Lee, chief strategy officer at Razer and CEO at Razer Fintech, said. “However, we also noticed that while gaming activity was on the rise, monetization by our gaming partners did not see similar growth. We identified as a gating issue the ability for the young gamers to make digital payments for their gaming and entertainment needs, especially in countries where a large proportion of the population was still unbanked.”

One example of how Razer has moved quickly to fill the financial inclusion gap can be seen in the launch of the Razer Visa card, a virtual prepaid service that doesn’t require users to have access to a bank account. Instead, card owners can top up or cash out at a network of offline touchpoints.

As well as regular card benefits such as cash-back rewards, the Razer Visa also allows users to access an in-app gamified rewards system. Razer and Visa completed the first trial of the card late last year in Singapore and expect to roll out in other countries during 2021.

“Razer’s main business model is still focused on selling hardware products and based on what we see from the cooperation with Visa through their Razer Card, it seems that they want to specialize in providing rewards, cash backs, and even gamified-based bonuses for using Razer’s fintech services to buy hardware products,” Candra said. “This would be similar to how Sea, Grab, and Gojek’s fintech products are all connected to their respective ‘traditional’ businesses.”

Focus is firmly on the youth market

While Razer’s fintech ambitions are not exclusively targeting gamers, they are nonetheless focused heavily on Gen Zs and millennials – a demographic where the Razer brand is already well established.

Razer famously attracts a cult-like following. Tattoos of the company’s three-headed snake logo are especially popular. One Razer devotee even went as far as having his leg tattooed with Min’s face in return for a free Razer gaming smartphone. It is unimaginable that any of Razer’s competitors, such as Switzerland-based Logitech, could inspire similar brand devotion.

Looking to the future, this brand awareness and customer loyalty, combined with a huge customer base in the region, could be a key differentiator for Razer’s fintech plans in what is becoming a crowded and competitive market.

Says Razer’s Lee: “We are constantly in discussions with partners on potential collaboration who either want access to our 50,000-plus online merchants where we can help upsell their services or want association with the Razer brand to gain access to our 125 million-plus user base. These partnerships will be a win-win for both parties.”

At the end of last year, Razer unsuccessfully bid for one of Singapore’s two virtual banking licenses under the brand name Razer Youth Bank. While a setback for the company – local fintech rivals Grab and Sea were part of the winning consortiums – the bid nonetheless showed both the scope of Razer’s ambition, as well as its clear market position as a youth-focused fintech.

“Moving forward, Razer Fintech intends to aggressively scale up our core B2B business which has been driving the growth of our business in the past couple of years,” Lee said. “We will invest in further geographical expansion in the SEA region and other high growth emerging markets such as Latin America and the Middle East.”

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2 top energy execs share why the oil-price rebound won’t derail clean-energy investment

oil derrick

Oil prices have rebounded significantly since last year’s pandemic-driven plunge.

You might think that would be bad for clean energy. But contrary to expectations, energy executives say that it’s actually good news for clean-energy investments.

Oil giants like Shell have turned a close eye to clean energy and created new targets to reduce the ‘intensity’ of emissions over the next three decades.

Other corporations like Facebook are joining in by buying huge amounts of solar and wind power. Smaller startups have in the meantime made progress on breakthrough technologies like batteries that last for days – a key component to transitioning to cleaner energy.

The new administration has also signaled that clean energy is a key priority. President Joe Biden set forth an ambitious climate-change agenda, and investment in clean-tech is booming. Energy executives told Insider they’re watching closely and hope to see alignment of regulatory authorities and support to offshore wind industries among other moves from the new president.

Insider’s Benji Jones gathered four top executives in the energy industry for a live roundtable earlier this month to talk about how Big Oil can make good on its promises, how to generate returns for shareholders while pivoting into cleaner energy products, and which breakthrough technologies are needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Panelists also discussed how rising oil prices may actually benefit investments into clean energy, as contrary as that may sound. West Texas Intermediate crude trades for about $61 a barrel, around pre-pandemic levels. Crude tumbled last year as COVID-19 put a stop to travel and manufacturing, driving down demand for oil.

The panelists included: Urvi Parekh, Facebook’s head of renewable energy; Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s cofounder and CEO; Shell’s EVP for renewables and energy solutions, Elisabeth Brinton; and Francois Austin partner at Oliver Wyman in the UK and head of the group’s energy practice.

Brinton told Jones that Shell – known for being a major oil and gas company – is investing in energy storage well as many other cleaner technologies.

“We’re involved in offshore wind, onshore wind, onshore solar, storage, hydrogen. So green hydrogen for industrial and transport uses,” Brinton said. “We have the largest LNG business in the world, and so we have a lot of experience moving ships and transport.”

Shell is “technology agnostic,” according to Brinton, who added that the company is really focused on use cases and how it can help various sectors reduce their carbon footprints.

Oliver Wyman’s Austin told Insider that the oil-price recovery isn’t putting the investment case for clean energy at risk. On the contrary, Austin said, the rising prices will actually “enable the Shells of this world to finance this transition” to clean energy.

“I think society has shifted. I think COVID has been a wake-up call,” he said. “Momentum is there.”

Austin said that oil and gas are going to continue to be part of the energy mix as far out as 2040 or 2050. The transition to clean energy is expected to take a long time as new technologies develop over time.

Brinton agreed, adding that she believes the near-term price of oil actually helps speed up the transition by funding it.

“That’s a really important point because a lot of people think, ‘Well, that’s bad. It’s going to slow things down,” she said. “Actually, it’s very helpful.”

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SIGN UP HERE FOR OUR TUESDAY EVENT: A conversation with Insider’s markets gurus on the GameStop and Reddit-trader phenomenon

Gamestop.
Gamestop.

Stock markets around the world are reeling from Reddit traders’ volatile trading over the past week. How the speculative activity continues could determine whether the trend pops with little lasting impact or sparks a new discussion over economic equality.

What began as an effort to profit from a short squeeze has since exploded into a national debate on market access. Retail traders coordinating on Reddit forums like r/wallstreetbets lifted GameStop, AMC, and other highly shorted stocks, hoping to profit as funds covered their short positions.

The group ultimately beat Wall Street at its own game. Their trades drove billions of dollars in losses across short-selling hedge funds and left Wall Street’s old guard reeling.

Actions taken Thursday by several brokerages further stoked the day-trader movement. Robinhood, Interactive Brokers, and others restricted trading of the volatile stocks, arguing the moves protected them and their clients from outsize risk. Congress is now set to hold hearings on the matter as members allege the trading platforms stifled the individual investor for the benefit of the Wall Street establishment.  

Join us Tuesday, February 2, 2021 at 1:00 p.m ET as deputy editor Joe Ciolli and markets and economy reporter Ben Winck discuss the GameStop phenomenon, Wall Street Bets’ influence, and how the Reddit-fueled trade might end.

You can sign up here.

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Brexit trade deal talks deadline extended after ‘constructive’ call between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen

Boris Johnson Ursula von der Leyen
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.

  • Brexit trade talks will be extended following a call between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
  • Both sides had insisted that the deadline for a breakthrough in talks was Sunday, with Johnson insisting a no-deal Brexit was “very likely.”
  • The extension comes as UK shops have been told to stockpile food and other essential items ahead of a possible no-deal outcome.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Brexit trade deal talks will continue into next week following a call between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday.

Ursula von der Leyen said talks with Johnson had been “constructive and useful” and so talks could continue.

“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” she said in a statement to reporters in Brussels.

In a joint statement, both leaders added that “our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”

Britain is still due to leave the European Single Market without a replacement trade deal in place on December 31 unless there is a further breakthrough in talks.

Both sides had previously insisted that Sunday was the deadline for that breakthrough. On Friday, Johnson said it was “very, very likely” that Britain would fail to strike a trade deal before January.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also insisted to the BBC on Sunday that there was a “very high bar” for talks to be extended.

However, negotiations will now continue on Monday following intensive negotiations this weekend.

The announcement that talks will continue comes as Johnson’s government urges shops to begin stockpiling.

The UK could experience shortages of vegetables and other goods it sources heavily from Europe for months to come, the Sunday Times reported, with prices for consumers likely to soar due to newly-imposed EU tariffs.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted that reports of shortages in supermarkets would not come to pass, however.

“We’re not going to see shelves running bare or any of the scaremongering stories we’ve heard,” Raab told Times Radio. 

British ports and freight companies are already reporting long delays and tailbacks on either side of the English Channel due to companies stockpiling supplies ahead of Britain’s exit from the Brexit transition period.

UK shops are already experiencing shortages and delays due to congestion at ports caused by Brexit stockpiling.

Representatives from the UK toy industry told Business Insider this week that many popular children’s toys will be unavailable to consumers this Christmas because of the delays.

The British Retail Consortium’s Andrew Opie told Insider that at some ports, “we have seen a huge surge in demand for space which has created delays and hundreds of thousands of pounds in congestion charges for unloading goods.”

“Retailers now face higher costs than ever before, with some seeing 25% week-on-week rises for shipping.

“While these rates continue to rise, and the disruption at ports and in shipping continues, retailers face significant challenges with the import of some items ahead of Christmas.”

Any disruption is due to hit the UK economy hard after a year of economic pain triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson’s government is preparing to spend billions on propping up UK industries in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

Farming, fishing, and car manufacturers are expected to be especially badly hit by Britain’s sudden exit from the European single market.

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