How Our Financial Products Company Got Acquired After Only 15 Months

Published: November 19th, 2019
Kwok Zhong Li
Founder, Finty
from Singapore, Singapore
started April 2017
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I am Zhong Li, Co-founder of Finty, Singapore’s first rewards-based financial marketplace that focused on credit cards and personal loans. Our direction is to make financial decisions simple, enjoyable, and rewards-driven. It’s the first financial marketplace in Singapore to offer cash rewards (Finty rewards) based on a revenue-sharing model.

In Jul 2018, Finty was acquired by Australia financial comparison leader, Credit Card Compare (CCC) for a seven-figure sum, 15 months after the company was launched.

Left to right: David Boyd (CCC), Kwok Zhong Li (Finty), Andrew Boyd (CCC)

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Prior to Finty, I was the Vice President of Ebusiness at OCBC Bank. I worked on different financial products and my job was to push their take ups through digital channels. I saw a growing trend in consumer behavior change towards the application of financial products. Similar to eCommerce, people want to do it fast, convenient, any time of the day.

Together with two other close friends, Jeremy and Lucius, we started Finty. We believe there is a need to easily let consumers compare and apply. In summary, simplifying financial decision making. There were a few competitors when we first started, and in order to catch up, we focused on our operating model. We maintained a lean internal structure and enhanced the process through automation. With this, it allowed us to give value back to customers through Finty rewards as a differentiate among other players in the market.

Left to right: Kwok Zhong Li, Jeremy Lim, Lucius Young

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Being mobile-first was a crucial alignment and a starting point for all our discussions. In Singapore, website visits can be 90% from mobile. Single hand navigation and thumb based interaction are what it takes to experience Finty as we drive to simplify the existing complex application processes.

An important aspect of the business to have a partnership with banks and network like American Express. There are some advantages that I was from banking, plus I was working on an online acquisition. I know a few in charge of the scope and the others were open to meet me. Most banks already have an existing model to work with partners like Finty. The tough part is to understand and align their user journey, tracking, and reporting, which took us a while before we can officially start the campaigns.

Finty is funded by our own savings, a team of 3. Lucius is an amazing brand marketer with eyes to user experience and design. Jeremy is a fantastic tech lead that can make anything happen. Our skillsets complement one another, plus we are friends of over two decades. Before the launch, Finty was tested with a sample group of 20, we obtained their feedback, enhanced the design and proposition.

Finty’s initial homepage wireframe design

Describe the process of launching the business.

We launched Finty in April 2017. We saw users coming in right after we went live with the help of Facebook ads. On the same day, there were users converting and signing up credit cards through Finty.

Finty’s early homepage design

In our launch plan, we focused on PR and paid media. We engaged a friend to strategize and execute our PR initiatives like media release, partners sourcing, interview arrangements. We were covered in multiple websites, over 20 media mentions, including mainstream media like Today Online and Zaobao.

Coverage on Today Online

As Finty is bootstrapped, with no external investment, we have to make sure we get the revenue in fast to maintain a healthy cash flow for the business. After 2 weeks of launch, we obtained some data like our conversion rate, performance of different channels and segments, we developed an ROI model with our paid media to calculate our return on every dollar we spent. We kept testing and learning, trying out new creatives, to have a better understanding of the users. In our first month, we have around 200 customer sign-ups and double the number in the following month.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Finty has an ongoing paid media structure that allows the team to learn about the users and our activities that further improve the results. There are three areas that we focused on in terms of our paid media optimizations. They are channels, segments, creatives. I believe anyone who spends some time on the advertising platforms with a focus on the three areas will definitely achieve better returns of their advertising budget overtime. We focused mainly on Facebook and Instagram, Google paid search and display advertising. We also tested other ad networks. I suggest a startup to be familiar with Facebook Ad Manager and Google Ads.

After having more customers, we realized there are many returning ones. Trigger email is definitely one of the reasons. After users interact with Finty, we will send out emails of different messages to encourage them to come back. Customer support is also a positive factor that many customers told us that they enjoyed the experience with Finty and Finty came up top of mind when they need another financial product. We always try to really help customers, reply to them as soon as possible, even drop a joke once in a while to build a long-lasting relationship.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

After the acquisition of Finty, together with the management team of CCC, we are looking for growth outside of Singapore. The direction of the first year with CCC was on the transition of people and technology. This allowed Finty to tap on the resources available in CCC to better serve customers.

We are in the middle of a website revamp and capabilities enhancement. A new look, tighter customer experiences, and a stronger proposition. Potential new markets are also being explored and will be announced in due time.

Now, let’s talk about how CCC and Finty met. We heard CCC has plans for Singapore and contacted the management for a potential partnership. After CCC went into the details of our performance and technology, a partnership plan had moved to acquisition for a more integrated operating model. A few months of chats and discussions, and due diligence process, Finty is part of CCC.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I think for many startups, including Finty, cost management is poor. We are all optimistic, thinking revenue will come very soon. With this thought, we spent in areas that were not cored for the business-like office rental, furniture, renovation, etc.

For growth, we have to move fast. At the start, we tried to do everything ourselves. Many times, we lost our priorities. We should have a better hiring plan outside of Singapore, build a strong team to support in areas like operations and customer service. At the end of the day, a solid operating model and executional excellence are crucial business elements.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For Finty, we use very basic platforms and tools. We use Google Analytics for tracking user behavior on the website and Ahref for search engine optimization purposes.

As we focused on paid media, we got quite a good understanding of Google, Facebook, Instagram advertising platforms. We also built internal reporting and incentive redemption systems.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I use Google a lot, not so much of a book person. But, I do like books relating to people and design like Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation and Value Proposition Design. Maybe they are more visual, with a framework, not too much text, and applicable to my work.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

An important key is to save some money before the journey. At least an amount that keeps you afloat for 6 months to a year. The route ahead is tough, another key is to manage the expectations of your family, especially for those who are married with kids. With a supportive and understanding environment, things will definitely be better. Enjoy the process, no matter what the outcome, just do your best.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Not at the moment for Finty, but feel free to visit Credit Card Compare. Our parent company is always looking for talented individuals to join the team.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!