5 min read

IFGS: AliPay's Li Wang, Invest HK and More

Dhanum Nursigadoo

We went to the IFGS to meet some of the biggest and newest names in Fintech. We’re bringing you some fantastic insights from our first five interviewees on the fintech landscape for 2018.

Ross Gallagher and Simon Taylor spoke to:

Benedetta Arese Lucini, Co-founder, Oval Money
Charles d’Haussy, Head of Fintech, InvestHK
Thomas Eyre, CEO and Co-founder LOQBOX
Li Wang, Head of EMEA, Alipay
James Mackonochie, COO and Co-founder, Pia

Listen to all the interviews in full on Fintech Insider here or stream them below.



Benedetta Arese Lucini, Co-founder, Oval Money

This is your third time at IFGS, what's that journey been like? It's our third Innovate Finance, the first year we came we just had an idea and nothing on paper. 1st April last year we launched our app, so in a couple of weeks we're going to have our anniversary. That's quite a progression, from just having an idea to launching an app to your first anniversary! What is Oval Money? It's a platform that allows everyone to become more confidant about their finances. We allow people through the app to learn how they spend and how to spend better and to do microsavings. Every time they spend they can put a few cents away and this gets put away into a savings wallet in our app and then what we're launching in the near future is to allow our users to invest this money into a variety of different financial products that we've selected from the market that we think are good for them. What separates you out from your competitors like Moneybox and Acorns? They've selected to be the money manager themselves whereas we search for money managers from the market that are already there. We do the searching. We're a platform like Booking.com. When someone signs up are they opening an account with you or is it using PSD2 open banking? They do both, they use their banking details with open banking and they're opening up a savings account on our app. They open a wallet on our app but they use open banking to see their transactions. What markets are you in? UK and Italy, our app works everywhere in Europe but we haven't scaled it to be everywhere yet. That's what we're aiming to achieve over the next year. Our model allows us to scale across Europe quickly.

Charles d’Haussy, Head of Fintech, InvestHK

What's been going on with InvestHK recently? We're a team situated between HongKong, London, and San Francisco. We engage with the most strategic technologies and entrepreneurs to contribute to the strategy in Asia and help them to start their business in Hong Kong. It's an exciting time for the Hong Kong financial ecosystem. It's an ecosystem led by the private sector and supported by the government so it brings a lot of different technologies; cybersecurity for finance, blockchain, wealthtech and regtech and big topics for us as well as insurtech. Can you tell us about the ecosystem today and what it's going to look like moving forward? If you look at the history of fintech, HK is a big financial centre, and in 2014 we saw the first fintech accelerator rising organically in HK. That was a signal for the government to keep an eye on the trends in this type of finance. We've been supporting the ecosystem in this way since the first accelerator. Today we have 5 fintech accelerators in HK, including the first regtech accelerator. It's an organic ecosystem with a blend of international and mainland Chinese players. HK has been a patchwork in finance for many years. The fintech ecosystem works the same way. Where are you seeing some of the best practice globally to support those sort of sandbox initiatives? We're inspired by the UK work in fintech. The government regulators have been doing a great job in opening the boundaries and pushing regulation. HK has a strong historic link with the UK so we work very closely with the UK government. We worked actively in the past month with the UK's DIT to organise the Invest Hong Kong UK fintech awards. There is no geographical competition between us, both the UK and HK governments wants their companies to expand. Fintech is challenging for the regulators in some ways, there are so many topics coming so rapidly. You need to work with partners who are making progress on, for example, regulation tech or crypto and sharing notes to make sure you keep the rhythm. Tech is faster than humans and the same is true for government and regulators. We're humble and happy to collaborate with the UK and other governments to make sure we stay at the top of the game. What's coming up in the near future that's got InvestHK excited? We're very excited about 2018 on different topics. The big one is blockchain trade finance infrastructure that we're deploying between 7 banks in HK and the HKMA. Trade finance is a big part of the economy and it's full of friction, there's a lot of paperwork and a lot of compliance issues. We're moving into production by Q3 this year and by early 2019 we're going to connect our blockchain finance infrastructure together with Singapore's and there are many more to come in that space. We're also launching a new unified QR payment system. HK is very active in terms of mobile phone wallets but historically there's a silo of brands using QR. The government decided to make sure the competition is open to all new players. So we're going to release in the coming months a unified QR code system for HK. We also have the HK fintech week. We're going to organise the first cross-border fintech event in the world. We're going to start in HK and end in Shenzhen mixing the Chinese fintech with the HK fintech ecosystem. We expect 5K people, it's an exciting event that we're actively preparing for.

Thomas Eyre, CEO and Co-founder LOQBOX

Who is Loqbox? We're a financial inclusion fintech, we're all about helping those who don't have a credit history build a credit history. If you're young, new to the country, returning expat, just haven't borrowed a lot, there's a massive barrier to you being able to access the sort of things we all take for granted. It shouldn't be like that so we created LB so that people could use managing a monthly saving payment as a way to build their credit history. What does that look like? Are they signing up for an app? Well it's not an app. It's a webapp but the core product is a digital cash redeeming savings voucher. We create an asset, we ask how much do you want to save over a year, we'll create a voucher for that much. You can redeem that with us at any time you like. We can then finance the purchase of that asset for you. If you were saving £100 but had no credit history at all that would do no benefit for you. Instead we can finance the purchase interest-free. We then collect £100 off you each month that we report to Experian Equifax and Callcredit. You're not from the fintech bubble, how did you get started? We started back in 2014/15 with an idea to fix financial inclusion. I had worked overseas in Kazakhstan and China, my cofounder was ex-KPMG so he worked Russia and the CIS region. We were looking at the system over here, he struggled to get credit over here when he came back. I'd seen it with my sister who moved to London but couldn't get finance on a sofa. It's just wrong. We took an existing platform that we had and said can we make it about savings. Financial education and capability is done terribly over here, we don't bother educating people. We built that all in to a singular product that will take someone who's outside of the financial system and bring them in. Initially we said we'd have to do that in the city. After a year of being here we're split between Bristol, where we're from, and London. It's great that tech means you can operate well outside of a city and still have a great business. Where can people find out more about you? The best place is our website, www.loqbox.co.uk

Li Wang, Head of EMEA, Alipay

Can you give us a little bit of background for Alipay? Alipay started as a payment company in China but now it's a superlifestyle app in China and we're bringing it's services and products to a global market as well. We have more than 600 million active users on our platform. Each of them use us 7 times a day. What's going on in terms of expansion on a global scale? We have an ambitious global growth path. My region is covering EMEA markets. For the next year we're going to cover 20 countries. For any country where you see significant Chinese traffic in terms of consumers we'll cover them and we just launched in Dubai. What have been some of the challenges you've seen as Alipay moved beyond China and Asia into other markets? It's not easy to move into any market. On the demand side there is a lot of education we need to do about Alibaba and AliFinancial. On the supply/infrastructure side, for example in the Europe market, the smartphone penetration can be quite low compared to the East Asian market. We need to think about creative solutions to get around that problem. All of these are technical problems, give us time and we'll get past it and we'll conquer them. What can we expect to see over 2018 in Europe from Alipay? We have already worked with quite a few major merchants in Europe especially with luxury brands. What we're going to do this year is go beyond the luxury brands. We want to get other services in Europe to be available to Chinese consumers. For example, public transportation, taxis, convenience stores, for all of this Chinese consumers will need a service and we'll be able to contribute to the local economy as well. You're building an ecosystem that fit into your consumers lives, not just a payments system, can you tell us a bit more about the other offerings that are built into that? For that you need to think about what Alipay has offering in the Chinese market. What Alipay has successfully done in China is make a consumer able to live with only their mobile phone, charger and nothing else. They don't need their wallet or ID and they can live in China's tier 1 cities for a week with complete self-sufficiency no matter what he wants. Anything can be accommodated on this platform. In Europe we're starting to offer this now, we entered this market two years ago and now we're starting to offer taxi service and food delivery, but it may take some time to offer a full-service portfolio that compares to what we offer in China.

James Mackonochie, COO and Co-founder, Pia

Pia is a smart investments platform, can you tell us a bit more about the background? Pia stands for your Personal Investment Assistant and what we do is we exist to help investors understand about investing and we do that via innovative education. We're trying to be really interactive about how we deliver that education. The investor then is offered a wide choice of investment products from lots of different providers, ranging from a direct investment platform to robo-advisors if you're looking for something more alternative. We engage the customer through a machine learning companion called Pia which learns from your interactions from the site. It asks you questions but also responds to any questions you might have about investing to then be able to refine and focus in on the areas you want to learn about as an investor to give you the confidence to go and make your first investment or make your next investment. The core element is the education piece, but you're also delivering a bespoke service to users with the AI element, is that fair to say? Absolutely, the key for us is to provide a service that's relevant to the individual and feels tailored to their needs. There's no point providing someone with a load of content and information on a form of investment that's nowhere near relevant for what they're after. Pia learns from both the knowledge and insight that investors show by engaging with Pia as an AI companion but also by how they use the site and refines the content and educational material that's being displayed to them as a user. Investing has traditionally had a layer of complexity and intimidation around it, how are you challenging that? We want to break investment down and make it easy to understand. We want consumers to understand that it's relevant to them and important for them to invest as well and doing that in an unbiased independent way rather than an investor provider perspective. It's also about being able to be as up to date as possible, using machine learning to focus in on the relevant content that people are talking about in the space at any point in time. We're in a great place for investors right now because there's so much choice and a lot of investor product is aimed at people who may be new to investing which is fantastic. We need to navigate through that choice and Pia exists to help people on that journey and giving them confidence to make that first investment. What's next for Pia? We're pre-launch so we're in the cycle of building up the product. We're speaking to lots of focus groups and taking onboard their feedback. We want to bring as many people as we can both new and experienced investors on to this journey as we can to build a product that suits them. Listen back to the episode in full here. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to Fintech Insider now! Come talk to us @11FSTeam or @FintechInsiders on Twitter or hello@11fs.com if you want to send us an email.

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