Grab moves into retail wealth management with acquisition of robo-advisory

GRAB has made its move into the retail wealth management space with its acquisition of Bento Invest, a Singapore-based robo-advisory startup for an undisclosed sum.

This will allow Grab to offer retail wealth management and investment solutions to its ecosystem of users, drivers and merchants via its app.

Following the acquisition, Bento will be rebranded as GrabInvest, with products expected to be launched on the Grab app in the first half of the year in Singapore. They will eventually be rolled out to other markets in South-east Asia.

GrabInvest aims to offer cash management and portfolio-based financial solutions and will operate under a retail wealth management capital markets services licence by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. It intends to adopt a low-cost model with full disclosures on fees, using a platform that users are familiar with.

GrabInvest will be the fifth vertical under Grab's financial services arm, Grab Financial Group, and will be led by Bento's founder and CEO Chandrima Das.

Other verticals under Grab Financial Group include payments (GrabPay), rewards (GrabRewards), lending (GrabFinance) and insurance (GrabInsure).

Reuben Lai, senior managing director of Grab Financial Group, noted that there is a lack of access to affordable wealth management products and retirement planning solutions for most people.

"The launch of GrabInvest brings us a step closer to democratising access to affordable financial solutions that will help them achieve the financial stability they need well into their retirement years," he said.

Ms Das, who will also be Grab Financial Group's new head of wealth management, pointed out that their common vision is to make investments accessible for customers "irrespective of their wallet size".

Bento's proprietary digital wealth platform includes client onboarding, and portfolio construction and rebalancing supported by robust risk management capabilities. Its team of 12, including Ms Das, will join GrabInvest.

Ms Das has over two decades of leadership experience in banks and asset managers across Asia and the UK. She was formerly managing director at Bank of Singapore and prior to that, CEO of ING Investment Management.

Grab had told The Business Times in November that it is moving to tap the trillion-dollar wealth market across South-east Asia by offering low-cost investment products.

Grab is also one of the contenders for the two digital full bank licences up for grabs in Singapore. It is partnering Singtel, with Grab to hold a 60 per cent stake in the proposed consortium while the telco giant will own the remaining 40 per cent. A digital full bank licence would allow successful applicants to take deposits from and provide banking services to retail and non-retail customer segments.