Tips and insights into entering Asia from Airwallex’s Lucy Liu

Australian fintech startup Airwallex is a name we are familiar with within our startup community, and they are making a name in Asia as well.

They just announced their partnership with Standard Chartered Bank right after Money 20/20 Asia in Singapore.

This partnership is only months apart from their partnership with Square Peg Capital for series A+ funding to their USD$ 6 million total investment.

Airwallex’s combined Series A and A+ funding rounds make the total investment one of the largest Series A rounds by an Australian technology startup, which has fuelled the release of Airwallex’s suite of APIs which allow businesses to process international payments at scale.

Airwallex Asia

Via Facebook.

On top of that, Airwallex integrated with WeChat Pay, which is one of the largest payment platforms in China, showing that they are certainly strong with their expansion.

One of the co-founders, COO Lucy Liu, spoke at Money 20/10 Asia about the company’s rapid expansion into Asia, particularly China which is traditionally a difficult market for Australian businesses to make inroads within. 

Speaking of the partnership with Standard Chartered Bank, Lucy said it would offer clients extensive local knowledge, dedication to tech-based solutions and a physical presence in South East Asia as well.

With the Asia marketer under their belt, we caught up with Lucy to get more insight into entering Asia and tips for startups who want to.

Why did Airwallex choose China to expand their business to? 

For us, we see the complexities of China as an opportunity. Rapid innovation and the ability to adapt is key to success, and these are skills that we absolutely have. Airwallex has already integrated with WeChat Pay, giving our clients access to one of the largest payment platforms in China, and with our recent partnership with Standard Chartered, expansion into China not only makes sense but is an integral step for the business.

As an FX and international payments provider, there is a clear opportunity for us in the SEA region, where non-cash payments are expected to reach $276bn in 2020 – a threefold increase from 2015. 

Why is China a difficult country to expand to for Australia’s companies? 

Countries in Asia operate very differently to much of the rest of the world. There are significant differences in culture, the language, and importantly in the way people think and do business. This can cause problems in sourcing partners, clients, and regulators. Examining the region, there are country by country nuances that add an additional layer of complexity.

In China, for example, there is no concept of a 9 to 5 working day which exists in Australia. Customers in China expect you to be there to support them when they need it – and in the way that they need it. Companies need to be able to respond to that, and that’s not always easy. 

What about other Asia countries like Malaysia or Singapore since Singapore has been attracting a lot of foreign investors/startups. Has Airwallex considered other Asia countries?

Absolutely. Our mission to create a global payment network is exactly that – global. We already facilitate payments in and out of much of the Asian corridor, and we are continuing to expand our presence across the region. The feedback we received at Money20/20 Asia demonstrates how open the market is to our proposition, and showed a high level of support for our vision to re-imagine global payments.

The event was incredibly beneficial for the business from both commercial and brand awareness perspectives. 

What are some tips for companies looking to expand into China?

Learn the culture – China values shared goals and friendship very highly when doing business; building rapport is imperative to successful and co-operative business relationships. We believe it’s also important to invest in a local office. A local presence will facilitate a much more comprehensive understanding of the market, and immediately communicates your commitment to customers in that region.

It’s important that you avoid being overwhelmed by the differences in business culture and expectations. Finding commonalities with your clients and the region will enable you to successfully build relationships and grow your business across multiple complex markets. You need to know what problem you are solving for your customers – and if you realise your product is not what the market needs, you need to be able to adapt accordingly. 


Take it from a startup that penetrated Asia’s market to give us a detailed and helpful insight.

So if global is where you want to go, bookmark this article.

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Tips and insights into entering Asia from Airwallex’s Lucy Liu
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