Advancing Financial Inclusion – Adrian Chng

Adrian Chng is the Chairman and CEO of the Fintonia Group, regional venture capital and alternative assets fund management firm with an investment focus on financial technology. Adrian believes passionately about advancing financial inclusion for the underserved consumers and businesses in emerging markets across Southeast Asia.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Fintonia Group, a leading FinTech Venture Capital (VC) and alternative assets fund management firm that I founded in 2015. Prior to this, I served as the CEO of jobsDB.com, a leading regional job portal with over 1,000 employees across 7 operating markets in the region including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. A major milestone was leading the A$1billion merger between JobsDB and JobStreet.com.

 

What is your business venture about?

Fintonia Group is a regional venture capital and alternative assets fund management firm with an investment focus on financial technology, particularly companies that advance financial inclusion for underserved consumers and businesses in emerging markets across Southeast Asia. With a strong portfolio of financial technology and data analytics companies, Fintonia Group is a regional leader in inclusive finance venture building.

Fintonia Group is focused on delivering business and operational value creation to its portfolio companies given its strong management expertise. The senior management team of Fintonia Group as well as its Senior Advisors are industry leaders with substantial experience leading internet and technology businesses across Asia. Notably, the members of Fintonia Group’s advisory board include the Chairman of Alliance Financial Group; the President & CEO of the Philippine Stock Exchange; the Chairman of AIG Malaysia and Former MD IBM Malaysia; and industry heavyweights sitting on the boards of Alibaba Group and Great Eastern Life as well as former senior leaders of a number of large financial services companies in Asia.

 

What is your mission at the outset?

We want to build a holistic ecosystem for financial technology that advances financial inclusion for underserved consumers and businesses in emerging markets across Southeast Asia.

Ultimately, success for us would be to have helped to develop and grow 10 large and commercially successful companies that have created jobs for 5,000 people and worth US$500m+ each.

 

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

I was previously an investment banker and have substantial experience in putting deals together for investors and as principal. I also have significant experience running large successful companies and saw that having both investing and operating experience is an important advantage when making venture capital and private equity type investments. There are obviously a lot of opportunities in the venture capital space, especially for FinTech in this region but not many who have the financial services domain knowledge and connectivity to the ecosystem required to be successful. Financial inclusion is a cause that I’m passionate about and we see investments in inclusive finance as the white spaces of FinTech that no other VC is actively focused on nor capable of creating the holistic ecosystem that we have built in the region. My partners and I saw that this is a very attractive growth opportunity and decided to focus on FinTech as a result.

 

What is unique about your business?

1. We are venture capitalists and venture builders at the same time, bringing our investment expertise as well as management experience of running successful business operations to our portfolio companies. We are deploying our own capital to fund these startups so we are very much invested in the success of the companies. We are not passive investors and prefer a hands-on approach to supporting our investee companies.

2. Half of our portfolio companies are venture built — we had developed the business plan, assembled the right entreprenuerial management team and built the business from scratch. As a result, these startups have immediately gained significant commercial traction with large financial services client institutions from the outset. Very few VCs or entrepreneurs have the capability and experience to do this.

3. The wealth of experience in corporate and business leadership of our executive management team and senior advisors has given us access to a strong network of international business affiliations, partnerships and alliances operating in Asia across multiple countries.

 

Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?

Our portfolio companies have some of the biggest names in financial services as well as a number of more ambitious boutique financial services firms as clients. The wealth of international business experience and connections of our executive management team and Senior Advisors has given access to an exclusive pipeline of business development opportunities for our portfolio companies from the outset.

 

Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?

Ultimately clients stay with our portfolio companies as they deliver significantly substantial value to them. The value they create typically utilizes some significant technology capabilities but also combines a number of key commercial success factors such as pricing and business model innovations.

Our investors are ultimately drawn to our ability to work with leading commercially viable FinTech companies and the returns we generate on their investments.

 

What have been the biggest obstacles? 

Creating anything new and different is always a challenge. Finding like-minded people with a keen business acumen as clients, partners, investors or employees for our portfolio companies is hard to come by. People who are willing to take risks to make bold decisions are always rare but these are the people we are actively seeking out and hope to partner with.

 

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

• Be bold and take action – you can always find a reason not to do something but you will surprise yourself with your success when you take that leap of faith
• Have a group of mentors who can provide a great sounding board

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

We have a unique opportunity in time to utilize technology and commercial nous to significantly improve the quality and access to financial services for Asian consumers and SMEs. We look forward to forming partnerships with people who want to be part of this journey.

 

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

My parents have been a big influence on my life and now I hope to set a similar example for my daughter.

 

What’s next for you and for Fintonia Group?

We have invested in 5 portfolio companies in the last 12 months and expect to add another 1-2 in the coming months. We are on our journey to help develop and grow 10 large and commercially successful companies each worth US$500m and in the process create jobs for 5,000 people. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to join this journey as an entrepreneur, team member, investor or potential client, we would love to hear from you!

Chia Hock Lai

Chia Hock Lai

Chia Hock Lai is passionate about how technology is disrupting the way financial services are being delivered to consumers and businesses, and in the process making the financial system more efficient and inclusive.

Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).

He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
Chia Hock Lai
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