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Indonesian digital lender aims to tap into $314 bln gig economy

JAKARTA, May 19 (Reuters) - After three decades spent lending primarily to the agricultural sector, Indonesia’s BRI Agro plans to fully transform into a digital bank next year amid efforts to tap into the country’s $314 billion gig economy, its new chief executive told Reuters.

The bank, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s biggest lender by assets, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, is revamping its products and migrating online to cater to a new breed of client ranging from freelancers to social media influencers.

Home to a youthful and increasingly digital-savvy population of more than 270 million people, analysts expect Indonesia to become a battleground for digital banking.

“There will be many products labeled digital, but not many will win,” BRI Agro’s chief executive Kaspar Situmorang said in an interview.

As part of its rebranding, BRI Agro plans to rename the bank to move away from its association with agriculture, said Kaspar, adding the change would be unveiled in September.

BRI Agro along with its parent are the only banks to currently have licences to offer full online banking services from opening an account to digital loan verification, he said.

But competition is heating up. Gojek’s Bank Jago, Akulaku’s Bank Neo Commerce and Sea Group’s SeaBank Indonesia have already launched, while Indonesia’s Bank Central Asia plans to launch its digital arm this year.

BRI Agro had an advantage due to the vast network of its state-owned parent and given potential link ups with fintech companies such as Investree, LinkAja, Modalku or Bukalapak through BRI’s venture capital unit, Kaspar said.

“This is how we build the ecosystem because digital banks without ecosystems will never work,” he said, noting that successful digital banks globally were backed by players such as Alibaba, Tencent and Kakao. The bank would also consider taking on a new strategic partner this year, said Kaspar, without elaborating. Since mid-January, BRI Agro had stopped offering large corporate loans and was focusing on consumer loans, as well as micro- and middle-size loans, he said.

BRI Agro hoped to attract around three million clients working in Indonesia’s gig economy within three years, he said, citing data showing the number of people working part time or as freelancers could rise by about 60% to 74.81 million by 2025. (Reporting by Tabita Diela; Editing by Fransiska Nangoy and Ed Davies)

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