Making Banking Inclusive – Roy Lai

As the CEO of InfoCorp Technologies, a FinTech company that provides solutions to solve last mile problems in payment and logistics industries, Roy Lai is passionate about financial inclusion and believes in enabling the unbanked to gain wider access to financial services in the digital world.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I am the CEO of InfoCorp Technologies and a senior research fellow at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), formerly known as SIM University. Prior to starting InfoCorp, I was the technical project director with BCS Information Systems and helped to implement FAST retail payment system for Singapore. And before that, I was running the global fixed income research technology team for Royal Bank of Scotland. I founded InfoCorp in 2015 and we partnered with Vocalink to help implement Thailand’s PromptPay payment network. InfoCorp was also involved in developing bitcoin arbitrage trading platforms at that time. Because of that, it became a natural transformation for us to focus into developing inclusive banking technologies through the use of blockchains.

 

What is your business venture about?

We specialise in using blockchain technologies to solve the last-mile problem with the aim of financial inclusion.

 

What is your mission at the outset?

Financial inclusion is a very broad subject and cannot be covered all at once, so we have to begin by focusing on the strategic pieces. When two billion adults worldwide still depend on cash for survival and hardly have access to banking services, an efficient non-cash payment system is fundamental to gaining access to financial services. So our focus is to explore better ways to solve the cash payment problems at the last mile, where physical transactions meet the digital information highway such as mobile proximity or cash-on-delivery payments.

 

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

On the national-level, retail payment infrastructures in developed countries are very centralised and well-oiled. They have evolved for decades and were facilitated by a tremendous amount of investments before reaching their current stage of sophistication and integration. The amount of investments needed for the upkeep of such complicated systems and their upgrades are showing no signs of slowing down. It is nothing less than an arms race. So it occurred to me that developing countries will have an impracticably long way to go in order to reach the level of infrastructure sophistication in developed countries. The situation in developing countries is more complicated. On one hand, a large-scale state-of-the-art payments backbone cannot be built overnight and will come with high capital outlay. On the other hand, developing countries cannot afford to wait because they are experiencing rapid online and mobile digitalization growth. As such, they will stand to lose more in terms of opportunity cost if the country’s economy cannot capitalise on this growth.

 

On the grassroots level, blockchain technologies allow for a different approach. It is a practicable alternative for solving payment problems in developing countries for two main reasons. Firstly, it does not require large upfront capital expenditure when combined with cloud technologies. Secondly, it can scale faster because it caters well to ecosystems which may be at different stages of technology readiness. I see this as an opportunity for developing countries to make leaps in innovations without having any baggage, or paying the same price as the developed ones did. This is where we can make a difference. We help them adopt FinTech innovations to meet their needs with speed and reliability.

 

What is unique about your business?

We offer a white label mobile wallet solution called CrossPay which is truly designed for financial inclusion. To solve the cash payment problem, one major area to look at is the Cash-On-Delivery (COD) mode of payment. COD forms a large part of payment transactions in developing countries. However, it unnecessarily exposes the carrying party to the risk of loss or theft. Furthermore, merchants are not in favour of COD because their working capital flow can be circumscribed by the inaccessible cash in the possession of delivery companies. Companies are also charged a cash handling fee. That is why delivery companies can grow at a faster pace than credit card companies in this space.The unique feature of InfoCorp’s CrossPay wallet is the embedment of escrow management combined with geolocation capabilities; a unique feature set that is tailored for the COD market segment. We term this process as electronic cash-on-delivery (eCOD). Therefore, eCOD provides both the merchants and the customers a safer and cheaper means to transaction.

 

Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?

COD constitutes a huge portion of payment and we are solving a real pain point for merchants by removing the vulnerability that comes with delivery companies possessing their cash and imposition of cash handling fees.

 

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

It is important to test an idea early and get feedback fast. Such an early validation of core value propositions saves a lot of pain in the long run, because it sets the boat in a promising direction right from the start.

 

What’s next for you and for InfoCorp?

Offering a mobile payment wallet is just the first step — a means to an end but never an end in itself. We are in collaboration with leading remittance and MFI partners to extend their capabilities, and by extension ours, so that more cash-based transactions can be converted to cashless and the unbanked can gain wider access to financial services in the digital world.

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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