Digerati50: Bridging the financial literacy gap

  • Developed tools that recommend best product, make it easier to find something customers needs
  • Just at the tip of the iceberg in helping bridge gap in financial literacy in Southeast Asia

Digerati50: Bridging the financial literacy gap

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2016-2017 (Vol 2), a special print publication released in February 2016. The digital version of that publication can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia’s convergence champion.

For information on customised reprints email [email protected]

 

THE startup scene is replete with stories of founders doing anything it takes to get funding, and getting very little sleep in the process. When asked if this were true, Lee Ching Wei, cofounder of iMoney Sdn Bhd, says he honestly can’t remember.

“Did I go door-to-door knocking every day to meet investors? Perhaps I did, but I can’t remember!” says Ching Wei, more popularly known as just ‘Ching,’ who was also an inaugural Digital News Asia (DNA) Digerati50.

It’s a moot point now, as cash isn’t particularly a problem for the three-year-old financial comparison startup, which was founded in 2012 before ‘fintech’ or financial services technology became a sexy startup term.

After several rounds of funding, iMoney finally scored big when ASX-listed iSelect Ltd forked out US$4 million for a 20.1% stake. Since then, the 30-year-old Ching has been busy working on the operational side of things.

[Editor’s Note: In Oct 2017, iSelect increased its stake in iMoney to a majority:  iSelect acquires controlling stake in iMoney]

“Much of 2015 was spent working in stealth in a bid to achieve synergies between iSelect and iMoney, which include sharing best practices, processes and technology.

“We’ve really been busy streamlining our operations and optimising our customer experience so that they have a consistent feel in all the markets we’re in. “Today, we are much more efficient, and we’re investing our profits back into further growth in our key vertical product segments, which are credit cards, personal loans, and broadband comparisons,” he says.

On what impact iMoney has made in the market, Ching believes that consumers are now more educated and will compare financial products before buying them. “Buying a product isn’t about getting a free gift anymore,” he explains. “People want a financial product that will fit their lifestyles and spending habits, and iMoney has helped them do so.”

As for the banks, they are looking at iMoney to help them with customer insights and behaviour, according to Ching. “Since our launch, we’ve also seen a dramatic pickup in how active financial institutions are becoming when it comes to letting their customers apply for products online. So what I can say is, we’re changing how people look for products in this area. “We’ve developed tools that recommend the best product and we’re making it less confusing and easier for customers to find something that meets their needs,” he says.

iMoney made several new appointments recently: Mitul Lakhani as chief financial officer; Amanda Woo as its chief marketing officer; and Chris Antonius as managing director of its Indonesian property www.aturduit.com.

Asked if he felt ‘intimidated’ being younger and less experienced than some of the people he has brought in, Ching answers with an unequivocal ‘no.’

“It’s not about ego. I know my strengths and where I can excel. And the people I hire are smarter than me – my job is to support them to do their job and staying out of their way.”

At the end of the day, Ching is reaping the gains of the dream he had when he first came home and found that he had a hard time applying for financial products, “I couldn’t imagine how millions of Malaysians and hundreds of millions of Asians were coping before the existence of a financial comparison website like ours,” he says.

“iMoney is just touching the tip of the iceberg, and we still have a lot of work to do to help bridge that gap in financial literacy in the region.”

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