Money go up, the Thai fintech startup behind TrueMoney, an e-wallet service, announced today that it has raised a $ 150 million Series C round valued at $ 1.5 billion.

The Series C round was led by Charoen Pokphand group, a major shareholder in Ascend Money, with the participation of Bow Wave Capital Management and returning supporters Ant group.

Ascend Money will use the proceeds to grow its e-wallet application – TrueMoney Wallet – and expand its digital financial services, which range from digital lending and digital investments to cross-border money transfers in Southeast Asia.

Founded in 2013, the company also plans to expand its global operations in six countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, electronic payments through TrueMoney Wallet have grown exponentially due to social distancing measures and growing public awareness of contactless transactions across the region, Tanyapong Thamavaranukupt, co-president of Ascend Money, told TechCrunch. Its users in Thailand have grown from 17 million in early 2021 to 20 million now, while its online payment application case transactions have increased by over 75%, Thamavaranukupt said.

“The growth in e-payment suggests that consumer spending habits are changing as Southeast Asia moves towards a digital economy and a cashless society,” said Thamavaranukupt.

“The disruptive effects of the pandemic have accelerated the growth of the digital economy across Southeast Asia,” said Itai Lemberger, Founder and CEO of Bow Wave Capital Management.

The total payment volume in the six countries of Southeast Asia in 2020 was 14 billion US dollars, which corresponds to a growth of 84% between 2019 and 2020. About 70% came from Thailand while 30% came from the international market, said Co-President Thamavaranukupt. According to its own research, Ascend Money has around 70% of the market share in Thailand, Thamavaranukupt said.

Ascend Money informs TechCrunch that it has accumulated a total of 50 million users through TrueMoney and offline channels to date, including approximately 88,000 TrueMoney agent networks, which is its core strength for regional expansion.

The e-wallet service also serves as a payment channel for B2B, from big brands to local SME owners to street market entrepreneurs. The TrueMoney Wallet platform offers a digital loan service along with the payment service to customers including small business owners who do not have traditional credit ratings to access the digital loans, Thamavaranukupt said.

“Aside from e-wallet, we are an agent-based payment and transfer service provider. We also launched TrueMoney Wallet for agents last year [networks] and have migrated our offline agent to the online platform, which would help improve and digitize their operations, ”said Thamavaranukupt.

True Money agents are local business owners who have registered with Ascend Money to generate additional income by providing services such as bill payment, phone top-up, and domestic and cross-border remittance services as their agents, he explained.

“We offer TrueMoney Wallet and the TrueMoney Agent service in several other countries outside of Thailand. Most users do not have a bank account and the low-bank population has limited access to basic financial services, ”Thamavaranukupt said.

“Ascend Money offers a financial platform with opportunities for the financially marginalized as well as SMEs in the region. The company’s success is also testament to Thailand’s ability and strong ecosystem to help domestic fintech companies and startups expand overseas, ”said Ascend Money Founder and Chairman of the Board, Suphachai Chearavanont.

Last year, Ascend Money also opened a service for expatriates such as Myanmar and Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand that they can use to register with TrueMoney Wallet and send money to their families back home, Thamavaranukupt said.

Ascend Money is considering an IPO after hitting $ 1.5 billion valuation, co-president Monsinee Nakapanant told TechCrunch, without giving a specific timeline.