Minterest: Top 25 fintech companies in 2017 in Asia Pacific

The global financial industry is undergoing digital transformation with FinTech startups creating a paradigm shift in the financial sector through digital innovation. This innovation is addressing various hassles that have prevailed in the industry for long – one of which is the inability of organisations to access the services of traditional finance providers. Singapore-based Minterest, a peer-to-business financial technology platform, facilitates financial inclusion of these entities by enhancing and enabling access to financial services. The company paves the way for more transparent and efficient operations for these unbanked and underserved businesses. Minterest is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and holds a Capital Markets Service license to deal in securities. Wei Choong Loo, Co-founder, states, “At Minterest, we take our reputation in the market very seriously. The integrity and experience of our entire team is key to the success of our business.”

Minterest aims to deliver a financial ecosystem that empowers both investors and borrowers to achieve their long-term financial goals. The financial technology platform is founded by a team of former bankers with profound experience in corporate and structured finance to provide simple, cost-effective, and customised solutions for businesses. “We have known each other and worked together for about 13 years and bring our collective fund raising, financial and corporate governance experience to create value for our investors, borrowers and other stakeholders,” says Ronnie Chia, Co-founder and COO, Minterest.

We have a dashboard for our investors and borrowers where they can monitor the status of the loan request 24/7, in real time

One key differentiating factor of Minterest is its speed of executive. It recently raised SGD2 million for a borrower within four days, and within a three-week time frame from its first meeting with the borrower to deal closure. The firms facilitates the borrowers’ journey where it first conducts a basic financial analysis for them. It further analyses the businesses, their cashflow needs and offers them a suitable financing solution. The firm utilizes its own proprietary credit scoring methodology to automatically and swiftly assess and rate each loan request, utilising a combination of quantitative data sourced from third party independent providers (such as Dun and Bradstreet, Singapore Credit Bureau), financials (historical and forward looking), as well as qualitative data including information about the borrowers’ promoters and management team.

Each loan is then priced according to the credit score generated. Once the loan details such as the loan amount, interest rates, and security mechanisms are agreed with the borrower, the loan request is listed on to the platform. “We have a dashboard for our investors and borrowers where they can monitor the status of the loan request 24/7, in real time”, says Charis Liau, Co-founder and CEO, Minterest. Furthermore, investors can screen through the loans using Minterest’s platform and invest directly into the loans after evaluating the information online.

To provide a seamless user experience, the matching of investors to borrowers is done completely online on the platform. Once a loan is funded, a loan repayment profile is generated and each investor would be notified automatically of his repayment schedule. All investments made by the investor can also be easily accessible on the platform and each investor has an e-wallet that reflects each deposit, withdrawal or investment made.  To safeguard investors’ funds, the funds are independently held by an international licensed trust services company regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The Minterest platform is fully scalable allowing multiple deals to be listed and is also able to accommodate large number of  investors on its platform. The firm intends to work on a broader spectrum of innovative technologies to further enhance the automation process using big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to further enhance its credit scoring methodology. Being an acclaimed peer-to-business lending platform in Singapore, Minterest plans to expand its borrowing base to include non-corporate sector and also expand geographically into other APAC countries.

 

This article was contributed by Apac CIO Outlook

Minterest: Top 5 platform lending players in Singapore

South East Asia (SEA) is finally embracing financial technology and marketplace lending is at the heart of this boom. The breadth and depth of solutions across FinTech Lending in the region is quite impressive and clearly signifies that a digital revolution is underway in the South East Asian lending industry.

Top and Emerging Fintech Sectors in South East Asia by Country

Singapore in particular has become a hub for the nascent fintech lending industry. It is the runaway leader in the region and holds 52% of the market share (both by number of deals and money invested). It is followed by Philippines which accounts for 14%, Thailand 13% and Indonesia 12%.

fintech asia deal share

However, with so many different governments involved, SEA poses an overregulation risk. Already, P2P lenders here have to criss-cross through various layers of regulations that their competitors in other regions don’t have to face.

Singapore Fintech Market: Overview

Singapore has always been known as the technology capital of Asia; MNCs and financial institutions have considered it a natural choice as HQ for their Asian operations. Though Singapore has deep roots in technology and innovation but ironically it got on the Fintech bandwagon rather late. But with the support of regulators, Singapore has established itself as the “Fintech Hub” of South East Asia. Singapore fintech market crossed $83 million in deals during the second quarter of 2017. In 2016, investment in Singapore based fintech companies dropped by staggering 65 percent (US$605 million to US$214 million), as per KPMG International study- Pulse of Fintech. But interestingly the number of deals decreased by only two to 28 during the same period. The main reason for the fall was complicated authorization process for fintechs, but Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is working aggressively to streamline the authorization process, in order to attract more fintechs to Singapore.

Regulatory Ecosystem

“Over the longer term, MAS hopes to see more fintechs using Singapore as a base to pilot and then deploy solutions to other countries within South-east Asia, such as Indonesia and Thailand,” said Mr Chia Tek Yew, the head of financial services advisory at KPMG Singapore.

Monetary Authority of Singapore; the regulatory body has backed the fintech industry right from the get go and that is the reason why Singapore has become the leader in South East Asia. Some of those favorable regulations are mentioned below:

  • Last year, under the “FSTI” scheme, MAS committed S$225 million (US$164.2 million) over the next five years to foster the innovation ecosystem in Singapore.
  • It also developed the road map that showed the central bank’s move toward an open Application Programming Interface (API) architecture.
  • In association with National Research Foundation, it announced the establishment of a dedicated FinTech office to facilitate the use of technology and innovation in the financial sectors (FinTech office to review, align and enhance FinTech-related funding schemes across government agencies).
  • It also released a consultation paper on proposed guidelines for a ‘regulatory sandbox’ that will enable financial institutions (FIs) as well as non-financial players to experiment with financial technology (FinTech) solutions.
  • Struck partnership with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to help FinTech companies from their respective countries scale into each other’s markets and help reduce regulatory uncertainty and time to market and it is trying to strike such more partnerships with other countries as well.
  • MAS have also announced it will be opening a fintech innovation hub “the looking glass” to promote innovation.
  • It also released a consultation paper on proposed changes to the payments regulatory framework and establishment of a National Payments Council, whose key initiatives are to promote interoperability and adoption of common standards.

This highlights that though the regulator was slow from the blocks, but has aggressively covered ground to create a supportive environment for the fintech lending community.

Leading players in the Singapore Market

Capital Match (https://www.capital-match.com/)-is an online peer-to-peer lending marketplace for SMEs based in Singapore and Southeast Asia. It provides SMEs with affordable working capital from professional investors through its online platform. It was founded in 2014 by Arnaud Bailly, Kevin Lim, and Pawel Kuznicki. Since inception, it has facilitated over S$60 million in cumulative origination. It has raised S$1,000,000 from three investors; Innosight Ventures being the lead investor. It offers business and SME loans and invoice financing facilities of S$50,000- S$200,000 with loan duration ranging from 3-12 months.

Minterest (https://www.minterest.sg)- Minterest is a peer-to-business financial technology platform founded by a team of former bankers with more than 120 years of collective experience in corporate and structured finance. It was founded in 2016 by Charis Liau, Ronnie Chia, and Wei Choong Loo. It offers various flexible funding options with interest rate as low as 1% and loan terms ranges from 3-12 months.

SmartFunding (https://smartfunding.sg/)- is a platform that provides trustworthy alternative financing solutions that are 100% focused on small and medium businesses. It was founded in 2016 and raised S$700,000 as seed funding. It offers invoice financing to SMEs.

FinAccel (https://finaccel.co/)- FinAccel is a financial technology company creating products for the retail credit sector for Southeast Asia. With an all-star team of investors, founders and employees, FinAccel is currently focused on disruption in the unsecured lending space. It was founded in 2015 by Akshay Garg, Alie Tan, and Umang Rustagi. It raised S$1,100,000 from various rounds of funding. Kredivo is the flagship product developed by the company; it gives ecommerce shoppers instant credit financing based on real-time decisioning. Jungle Ventures led the funding round in the company.

InvoiceInterchange (http://invoiceinterchange.com/)- is a peer-to-peer invoice-trading marketplace that provides working capital solutions to fund growth for small- to medium-sized enterprises. It offers both selective invoice discounting and the whole turnover invoice discounting to SMEs. It was founded in 2015 by Brian Teng and Nalinee Chinowuthichai. Investor fee is typically between 0.8% – 1.5% (per 30-days) of the advanced amount. Transaction fee is typically between 1.0%-1.5% of invoice amount.

Conclusion

Singapore has emerged as an undisputed leader in the SEA region but considering it has always been the gateway to Asia, it will certainly want to have a bigger share of the fintech lending pie. The MAS has laid out a well-thought out road map to attract startups and investments. With a massive demand-supply mismatch in credit, Singapore is poised to witness a marketplace-lending boom.

 

This article was contributed by Heena Dhir of Lending Times

Challenging the world of finance – What changes will digitalisation bring? What’s in for Fintechs?

“We need banking, but we don’t need banks” this was famously quoted by Microsoft’s Co-Founder, Bill Gates.

Interestingly, 20 years after that statement was made, digitization and fintech are now the major disruptive forces for traditional financial institution. This was a key discussion at the German-Singaporean Financial Forum on the future of banking. Our CEO, Charis Liau was one of the speakers on that forum as she shared her opinions and perspective having transited from a traditional financial institution to the fintech industry.

 

Click here to find out more: https://bit.ly/2IZEBlC

Our CEO was selected as a leading female tech founder in Singapore

With close to 400 FinTech and InsurTech startups in Singapore, the country has become a brew pot for innovation. Spearheading this wave of innovation are some very inspirational women. In this article from Let’s Talk Payments, our very own CEO and co-founder Charis Liau was selected as one of Singapore’s female leaders who are leading promising tech startups or are helping in promoting the ecosystem. This list was curated by Let’s Talk Payments, Varun Mittal, and inputs from the local ecosystem.

Below is the full list.

Adelina Peltea

Company: Argomi

Focus Area: Capital Markets/Investments Platform

Designation/Role at Company: COO

About ArgomiArgomi is a brand of AMaaS. It offers an integrated investment management platform for institutional asset and fund managers. It provides asset management solutions like listing, searching and aggregating positions by different categories like book/trader/asset class or fund, automatically calculating positions in the market and notification about upcoming investment activities. It also enables clients to record and reconcile their trades by automating various processes like monitoring for exceptions, audit trails and backups. It offers a multi-asset platform comprising of equities, FX and futures, across countries like Japan, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Hong Kong, etc.

Adrianna Tan

Company: Wobe

Focus Area: Payments/Remittance

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About WobeWobe is a mobile application that enables people to start a small business with the help of their Android smartphone. Users can start their own business by selling prepaid phone credit and other digital products like electricity and water vouchers on a later stage. Wobe enables millions of unbanked Southeast Asians to perform micro-payments with the help of an e-wallet on their smartphones. The users are able to generate income by processing person-person bills and utilities through this application.

Ai Meun Lim

Company: Percipient

Focus Area: Big Data & Analytics

Designation/Role at Company: Chief Product Officer

About Percipient: Percipient is a data technology and analytics company which enables organizations to drive scalable, efficient and cost-effective growth in data by using its Big Data technology and advanced analytics platform. Its flagship product, UniConnect, is built to hyper-accelerate connectivity between data sources that currently don’t talk to each other or cost too much to integrate. Percipients other solutions include SparkPlus, ScalETF, and Unified APIs.

Alice Chen

Company: InvestaCrowd

Focus Area: Online Funding

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & General Counsel

About InvestaCrowd: InvestaCrowd is a real estate crowdfunding platform that brings exclusive investment opportunities to its members. It is a members-only platform for commodities debt and equity investments in private real estate projects. It breaks down share price per investor which enables the investors to co-invest alongside reputable institutional grade real estate developers.

Anna Gong

Company: Perx Technologies

Focus Area: AI

Designation/Role at Company: CEO & Board Member

About Perx: Perx Technologies is a mobile customer engagement solutions provider that enables businesses to acquire, engage and reward their customers, intelligently and contextually via real-time, actionable insights. Perx offers a mobile loyalty app that makes it an easy and convenient way for its users to earn rewards through points, chops or stamps from different merchants across Singapore. Perx also enables users to discover and locate the best rewards around them ranging from everyday purchases, overseas adventures or beauty therapy.

Anna Vanessa Haotanto

Company: The New Savvy

Focus Area: Personal Finance Management

Designation/Role at Company: CEO at The New Savvy

About The New Savvy: The New Savvy is an online financial guide and career tips platform for women based out of Singapore. The portal publishes content for women related to their finances and careers.

Ayesha Khanna

Company: Addo.AI

Focus Area: AI

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CEO

About Addo.AIAddo.ai is an intelligence advisory and incubator platform that enables governments, corporations, and startups to build data-driven platforms by analyzing a massive amount of data and provide data-driven services and products to the users. With the help of these AI-driven solutions, companies are able to reach new markets and optimize their operations. The various services offered by Addo.ai are statistical analyzing, deep learning, code engineering, machine learning, user predictions, and cloud-based architecture.

Chandrima Das

Company: Bento

Focus Area: Investments Platform

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CEO

About Bento: Bento is an algorithm-powered robotic investment advisor that provides sophisticated investment tools and customized portfolios. Bento’s investment platform aggregates clients’ holdings data across multiple banks and offers discretionary portfolio management & advisory services at competitive rates.

Charis Liau

Company: Minterest

Focus Area: Lending

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CEO

About Minterest: Minterest is a peer-to-peer lending platform that offers a value proposition for both borrowers and investors. It provides tailor-made financing solutions to the borrowers as per their business requirements. It also provides advice to investors by identifying the suitable Singapore companies for investment.

Cindy Nguyen

Company: Regit

Focus Area: RegTech, Big Data & Analytics

Designation/Role at Company: CEO & Founder at Regit

About RegitRegit is a compliant, formless-forever customer platform that simplifies how business and customers exchange information in one click.

Elena Lonenko

Company: Turnkey Lender

Focus Area: Lending

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & Business Development

About Turnkey Lender: Turnkey Lender is an online lending software with credit application processing & loan management for payday lenders, microfinance, and online lending businesses. It helps lenders with a credit scoring systems. It is an all-in-one platform and uses automation to filter out unnecessary or risky propositions.

Gina Heng

Company: Miss Kaya

Focus Area: Personal Finance Management

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CEO

About Miss Kaya: Miss Kaya is a digital financial services provider for women in Asia focused on financial budgeting and portfolio management. It aims to provide women with the resources and information on ways to best grow their incomes, enabling them to be financially responsible and in control of their budget, allowing them to mold their future plans without any monetary hindrance.

Ginnie Chin

Company: Culum Capital

Focus Area: Business Lending

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & MD

About Culum Capital: Culum Capital enables businesses to grow by providing them with funding options. The different funding solutions offered by them are receivables purchase or invoice financing for small companies and supply chain finance or supplier finance for large companies. The investment platform also enables accredited investors to invest in short-term invoices with an expected return up to 25% per annum.

Goh Yiping

Company: Element

Focus Area: AI, Security – Fraud & Authentication

Designation/Role at Company: President

About Element Inc.: Element develops and distributes an AI-based mobile software solution to enable digital identity for health services and financial inclusion. It utilizes mobile deep learning technology to build high-performing mobile platforms for digital identification.

Jennifer Leger

Company: Quber

Focus Area: Personal Financial Management

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder

About Quber: Quber helps FIs increase customer lifetime value and acquire new customers by leveraging AI & big data within an engaging mobile platform.

Joyce Woo

Company: Jachin Capital

Focus Area: Wealth Management/Investments Platform

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About Jachin Capital: iAdvisor, a brand of Jachin Capital, is a digital investing platform that provides personalized dynamic portfolios to the accredited investors. These portfolios are carefully administered as per the client’s requirements. It offers 28 curated stock portfolios with themes ranging from robotics to cybersecurity to driverless cars. The portfolios are developed by referring to the stocks listed in five different countries.

Ketki Sen

Company: Spinta

Focus Area: Startup Accelerator

Designation/Role at Company: CoFounder & Director at Spinta Global Accelerator

About Spinta Global Accelerator: Spinta Accelerator helps aspiring entrepreneurs to enhance their business ideas and transform them into successful businesses. It employs a three-step Katalyst process that includes an array of services in order to develop the minimal viable product or solution.

Khai Lin

Company: Fundnel

Focus Area: Online Funding

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CFO

About Fundnel: Fundnel is a private investment platform that offers unlisted securities in growth and pre-IPO stage companies across industries to a qualified network of investors, comprising of both professional – corporate venture, private equity, venture capital funds, family offices, angel investor networks – and individually accredited investors actively looking to diversify their current portfolio. Fundnel screens all investment opportunities to ensure businesses meet the minimum requirements defined by the Fundnel Factor – a proprietary data-driven due-diligence process analyzing over 130 quantitative data points per company – before reaching its investor network.

Michelle Katics

Company: BankersLab®

Focus Area: Training-Tech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder, Non- Executive Director &Innovation Advisor

About BankersLab®BankersLab has developed SaaS ‘virtual world’ training simulations for bankers and FinTech lenders. Its flagship product, PortfolioQuest, is a single player Saas simulation product where participants compete against each other to manage the most profitable portfolios. BankersLab delivers innovative and strategic learning to the bankers and financial professionals. It offers training to the participants on both secured and unsecured retail products and covers all parts of credit life cycle like product design, account management, portfolio monitoring, etc.

Nalinee Chinowuthichai

Company: InvoiceInterchange

Focus Area: Business Lending

Designation/Role at Company: COO

About InvoiceInterchange: InvoiceInterchange is an invoice-trading marketplace, providing working capital solutions to fund business growth. InvoiceInterchange offers a fast & flexible way to finance businesses and allows companies to grow, pay bills or overcome seasonal cash flow fluctuations by freeing up cash locked up in invoices due 30, 60, or even 90 days.

Nicki Ramsay

Company: CardUp

Focus Area: Payments

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About CardUp: CardUp’s customers (consumers and small businesses) choose to use their favorite credit card where they couldn’t before, specifically for big ticket items such as paying rent, taxes, suppliers or payroll. By shifting payments that were previously made by check, cash or bank transfer to card, they unlock up to 60 days instant credit, improve cashflow, and earn rewards, miles and cashback on all their big payments

Nyha Shree

Company: Jumper.ai

Focus Area: AI

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder

About Jumper.ai: jumper.ai has built AI-powered omnichannel commerce platform that enables buy, sell and collect payments on social media platforms. Sellers generate actionable #hashtags and/or super-powered short links using jumper’s tech which converts their post into a direct point-of-sale. Buyers can show intent by commenting on the post with the #producthashtag and confirm via their AI channel (FB Messenger/SMS currently). For posts with super-powered short links, users click the link and purchase using their web-bot in < 1 minute; and if they’ve previously purchased using jumper.ai, their preferred AI channel will kick in (messenger/SMS).

Rekha Hari

Company: SoCash

Focus Area: BankingTech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder, Director & Head of Program Management

About SoCash: SoCash develops an application to withdraw and deposit cash. The company allows users to place an order, select a merchant or a neighborhood shop, and get cash. It also allows neighborhood shop owners to earn extra cash and bring more customers to their shop. The startup uses your bank’s mobile app to let users transfer an amount to the merchant’s bank account. Users can then pick up the cash at that outlet.

Rosaline Chow Koo 

Company: CXA Group

Focus Area: InsurTech

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO of CXA Group

About CXA Group: Connexions Asia is an insurance and wellness marketplace that helps companies transform their current healthcare spends into personalized benefits and wellness programs. The company administers, tracks, and analyzes data from health screenings, lifestyle risks, and hospitals & clinics to improve workforce health, reduce claims costs and absenteeism.

Sarah Tin

Company: Bamboo

Focus Area: B2B FinTech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder & CEO

About Bamboo: Bamboo enables small businesses in Asia to manage their company’s expenses with the help of a digital expense management platform. They provide a web-based or handheld app that has an integrated online payments and expense system for managing business expenses.

Dr. Shonali Krishnaswamy

Company: AIDA Technologies

Focus Area: AI

Designation/Role at Company: CTO

About AIDA Technologies: AIDA Technologies focuses on AI-based predictive analytics and intelligent systems. Through its AI-driven analytics, AIDA provides solutions that solve the key challenge of augmenting human experts the ability to make decisions based on large amounts of heterogeneous information.

Silvana Carpanelli-Hayes

Company: Waave

Focus Area: Payments

Designation/Role at Company: Founder at WAAVE

About WAAVE: WAAVE is a social mobile wallet that enables the fastest way to order and pay for drinks, food, store items and tickets in Singapore.

Val (Valenzia) Ji-hsuan Yap

Company: Policy Pal

Focus Area: InsurTech

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About PolicyPal: PolicyPal is a digital insurance manager which aims to make the process of buying and managing insurance simple. The portal allows consumers to manage their insurance policies online.

Yuhan Hu

Company: Singapore Receivables Exchange (SGRecX)

Focus Area: Business Lending

Designation/Role at Company: General Counsel & Co-founder

About Singapore Receivables Exchange (SGRecX): Singapore Receivables Exchange is an online platform that provides account receivables financing to SMEs. The SMEs can simply upload their invoices and get the money in as quick as three days and even at a faster rate for repeating customers. Once approved on SGRecx, the business will receive a unique account number and a physical PO address in the company’s name. Since the SGRecx account is in the company’s name, the customers of the company can directly pay to SGRex either by electronic transfer to the bank account or by physical checks sent to the post office.

While the above list showcases some of the female entrepreneurs in the FinTech and InsurTech space there are other notable entrepreneurs in Singapore that we would like to highlight:

Cherry Khoo

Company: AOI

Focus Area: Health/MedTech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-Founder, Director-CEO at AOI

About AOI: AOI (Advanced Ophthalmic Innovations) conducts research to develop long-term and effective solutions in order to prevent glaucoma patients from losing eyesight. The company’s flagship product Paul Glaucoma Implant is a drainage device that will prevent further progression of glaucoma in the eyes.

Caroline Bowler

Company: Bowlah

Focus Area: FinTech PR

Designation/Role at Company: Founder

About Bowlah: Bowlah is a specialist financial technology public relations agency.

Eileen Chan

Company: Content.co

Focus Area: MarTech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder

About Content.co: Content.co is an end-to-end marketing platform that enables brands to create and deploy content marketing programs. The platform enables the clients to discover new ideas, handle payments and review results. Content.co offers a wide range of solutions like creating content, engaging target audience by distributing contents, developing content strategy for brands & customers, and editorial management of content.

Mouna Aouri

Company: Woomentum

Focus Area: Women-focused advisory and mentorship

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About Woomentum: Woomentum is an online community platform for entrepreneurs and business leaders to connect with experts, mentors, and investors. Woomentum focuses on gender diverse teams and promoting women to participate in the engine of growth and innovation.

Sumedha Khoche

Company: Social Weaver

Focus Area: Parent-Tech

Designation/Role at Company: Founder & CEO

About Social Weaver: Social Weaver caters to parents and parents-to-be by providing a list of Singapore’s service providers and resources for kids, with ratings and reviews. Users can discover, compare and book services on the website and service providers can list their businesses in social weaver.

Yi Wen Chan

Company: Content.co

Focus Area: MarTech

Designation/Role at Company: Co-founder

About Content.co: Content.co is an end-to-end marketing platform that enables brands to create and deploy content marketing programs. The platform enables the clients to discover new ideas, handle payments and review results. Content.co offers a wide range of solutions like creating content, engaging target audience by distributing content, developing content strategy for brands & customers, and editorial management of content.

 

This article was contributed by Medici

SME Financing Made Different – Charis Liau

Charis Liau is our very own Co-founder and CEO. Minterest is a peer-to-business lending platform that connects SME borrowers with investors around the region. Besides helping SMEs to on their financing needs and investors on their investment needs, Charis enjoys Korean drams and online shopping.

Charis shared with Fintechnopreneur about herself and her hopes for Minterest.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m Charis Liau, co-founder and CEO of Minterest. I spent the last 15 years of my professional life in the banking and finance sector. Having worked with corporates, small and large, I noticed that there are underwhelming resources dedicated to helping small enterprises fuel their business growth through proper analysis and structuring of their financing needs. After taking time out to have my younger child, I decided to do something about it. Apart from that, I enjoy Korean dramas and online shopping!

What is your business venture about?

Minterest is a peer-to-business lending platform that connects SME borrowers with investors around the region. Our business is about assisting borrowers to raise capital efficiently to turbocharge their businesses while offering investors the opportunity to invest in quality loans to enhance their investment portfolio.

At Minterest, we offer both loans and convertible loans on our platform. We are about bringing big company fund raising experience to SMEs where they can access our structuring and credit analysis expertise and experience. We understand that no two business are alike and that is why we look at each business on its own merits. Our bespoke process aims to deliver well-structured, risk-mitigated financing solutions to clients and in turn, offer investment opportunities to investors that have been rigorously analysed.

Minterest holds a Capital Markets Services licence issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to deal with securities under the Securities and Futures Act.

What is your mission at the outset?

Our mission is to empower investors and businesses and deliver on their financial goals via customized solutions and FinTech. At Minterest, we believe in bringing financial inclusion to the unbanked and underserved businesses. From where I was previously, businesses have constantly been constrained by various requirements of conventional finance providers. My team and I would like to change that so that we can help businesses bring their future to the present. We also want to enable investors with the necessary financial knowledge and access to quality investments in Singapore enterprises allowing them to play a part, no matter how small, in making a difference to the growth trajectory of these businesses.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

This is an interesting question. There wasn’t a “big bang” thought or I waking up believing that I need to do this business. Nothing like that. I think it is just ideas and thoughts rolling into one another on how I can use my experience to make a difference to the small guys out there that struggle to finance their businesses or visions, no matter how good they are. What was amazing for me (and still amazes me today) was that I was able to join forces with people I have worked closely with previously who share the same vision, mission and purpose as I do.

Small and medium size companies contribute close to 47% of Singapore’s economy and employ 70% of the working population. However, 40% of those SMEs have no access to bank financing. By helping these businesses raise capital to fuel their business growth, I would like to think that we are making a meaningful contribution to our society. And that makes me feel proud and satisfied.

What is unique about your business?

Our key differentiating factor is our experienced and dedicated founding and management team. We are a team of former bankers with more than 100 years of combined experience in corporate and structured finance, as well as financial governance. My team includes people who have led global and regional businesses in large international banks. We approach transactions in an unbiased way, without any pre-conceived ideas of what a loan tenor, interest rate, etc. will look like before we speak to the borrowers. No two borrowers are alike and as such, we approach every deal on its own merits. We understand both sides of the financial equation – the tension between borrowers (low costs) and investors (high returns), so we strive to achieve a balanced risk/reward profile for both sides so that risks taken are properly remunerated.

At Minterest, we want to be a true alternative source of financing for borrowers large and small. Borrower can raise funds via a loan or a bespoke convertible loan through the platform. Our documentation is transacted online, and each investor has his/her own e-wallet which they can view, transact and invest directly into loans that are listed on the platform.

Minterest is built on a foundation of integrity and good governance. Duty of care to our stakeholders is at the centre of what we do. We want to build tomorrow’s financial eco-system, one that serves rather than rules.

Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?

The key to have repeat business is to ensure that you have a good product or service and continue to deliver to your stakeholders at the highest standards. It is a very slippery slope if you don’t. I guess this is true for every business and it is no different for us at Minterest. We want our borrowers to experience the Minterest Difference where we sit down with them to understand their requirements, advising them on financial management and how best they can structure their loans to suit their cash flows. For example, we ended up helping a borrower to look at how their tax matters were managed, how they could be a bit more efficient and assisting them in discussing such matters with their tax agents. Needless to say, the borrower was very appreciative. We like to say that when a borrower comes to us, the need for funding is given. What we need to do is to see how we can assist them in doing a deal that makes sense for them in light of their business situation. We complement this with our understanding of investors’ requirements and appetite to come up with a solution that works for all.

We also spend a great deal of time ensuring a quality user interface and great experience for both investors and borrowers when they sign up, transact and use our platform. At Minterest, we want to build long term relationships that last.

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

It may be a cliché, but I would say that it’s grit! Starting out is not easy, one needs a plentiful amount of perseverance and passion to make the dream come to fruition. It is extremely important to find co-founders who share the same vision, mission and purpose as you. Do not be afraid to evolve, and evolve quickly. We live in a world where innovations are hitting us at a speed of a hundred miles an hour and macro-economic factors do impact the littlest of things we do. We need to be nimble and continuously be prepared for changes. As one of my co-founders said to me the other day – “Are you ready? Are you ready for the caravan of excitement (of starting a new venture)? We may have a bumpy ride, we may fall down but what is important is to pick ourselves up and continue with the journey.”

Do you have any final thoughts?

Singapore, being a major financial centre, is a great place to launch a FinTech startup. I hope that what we are building can serve the SMEs efficiently and truly make a difference to their business and lives, whilst empowering the investors in building a greater diversified portfolio as they invest in quality loans.

Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?

I truly believe that we are on the cusp of a major shift in how banking and financial services are going to be delivered. As technology advances and society’s attitudes changes, the providers of banking services need to change and adapt quickly.

On a more personal note, as my young kids grow up, I’m certain their requirements of banking services will be very different as compared to myself or my parents. I’m excited to be building a financial eco-system that will be able to effectively serve their generation in time to come.

What’s next for you and for Minterest?

We have just launched our platform and have seen keen interest and demand from both borrowers and lenders on our platform. Our first loan was fully participated in just over 3 days! The immediate thing for my team and I is to deliver on a great product and ensuring that we stay true to our mission and vision on why we started this in the first place. Medium term, we will be looking to introduce other capabilities to help our investors better manage their portfolios and be even more focused on how we can better analyse the creditworthiness of borrowers and how we can deliver on our advisory capabilities to them.

 

This article was contributed by Fintechnopreneur

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