Crypto.com Launches MCO VISA Card for US Citizens

Crypto.com, Hong Kong-based Blockchain startup, has announced new MCO VISA pre-paid card for the US Citizens. The U.S. card launch in partnership with Metropolitan Commercial Bank has been set to July 14, 2019. The new US card also comes with new design. Crypto.com has also added in Frost Rose Gold card in their portfolio of pre-paid cards.

The MCO Visa Card is a prepaid card that features high-end metal cards with no annual or monthly fees, up to 5% back on all spending, unlimited airport lounge access and subscription rebates for popular streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify based on the number of MCO staked. The new design prominently features the Crypto.com brand icon, the Ethereum Lion.

2019 is the year for cryptocurrency. Facebook announced their own currency – Libra. Shortly after Facebook’s announcement, Bitcoin has rallied and crossed the USD 10,000 mark. Ever since Crypto.com’s announcement on their entry to US market, their MCO coin has jumped more than 20% within a day.

Reservations for the MCO Visa Card are made using the Crypto.com App which includes a three-minute customer onboarding process including ID verification. Using the App, customers are able to manage their card usage, move funds between crypto and fiat, and freeze or unfreeze their card with a single tap. The App also allows users to securely buy, sell, store, send, and track cryptocurrencies.

All MCO Visa Card transactions are denominated in fiat currency. All cryptocurrency exchanges to fiat currency take place before users may load their MCO Visa Card for use on the Visa network.

Bonus – If any of you guys want to earn some additional income other than the return from your cryptocurrency investment, you could use my referral code [8iym0srez5] upon sign-up ( alternatively, you could just click on this link https://platinum.crypto.com/r/8iym0srez5 ). Upon successful sign-up, you could also start earning commission from the users that you have successfully referred. For details, please read https://help.crypto.com/articles/2472277-platinum-referral-rewards-program

Why YouTrip Mastercard is a hype?

In the hope of maintaining Singapore as the regional financial hub, the government has been encouraging Singapore banks to adopt technology in improving business operations. Ever since Singapore Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong highlighted that banks should adopt blockchain technology in bank settlements in 2015, fintech  start-ups from all around the world flew into Singapore. In 2018, YouTrip, an e-wallet start-up, left its home ground – Hong Kong – one of the world’s largest financial hubs to launch their venture in Singapore.

YouTrip positioned itself as a multicurrency e-wallet for travellers. It has developed technical infrastructure for multicurrency exchanges with a network of FX providers. The uniqueness of its technology is to offer FX exchanges to individual at a competitive rate that banks cannot provide. However, that itself is not going to give YouTrip an edge against the traditional money changers as their rates are almost the same. Furthermore, storing money digitally in the e-wallet is useless if travellers can’t use that to make payment in stores.

As such, YouTrip partners Mastercard (stock quote:MA) . Intuitively, this makes the YouTrip card more “useable” as users could make their payment if the respective merchants accept Mastercard. The strategy works. Months after their launch, number of users has surpassed 50,000. That caught investors’ attention. In May 2019, YouTrip raised USD 25.5M in Pre-Series A funding which is quite impressive for a Singapore-based company that is barely a year old.

YouTrip is a Bank Disruptor?  

The recent capital injection is useful in helping YouTrip to improve their technology infrastructure which is the backbone for all financial institutions. In fact, this is the challenge that YouTrip must overcome. Normal people deposit money digitally in their saving accounts with the belief that the bank’s technology could safeguard their savings. Let’s extend the idea further. When we top up money in YouTrip e-wallet, can we expect from them the same security level that bank is offering? If you have read my earlier blog post, YouTrip is trying to assure the public that they have the same level of technology that bank has in terms of risk management and anti-money laundering capability. However, building up the infrastructure equates to building faith among users which takes time. By and large, YouTrip, as a company, is still too young for the public to put their trust (saving) with them.

To succeed in the fintech space, a fintech start-up has to offer the same level of services (or even better) that the bank is offering. As a matter of fact, that’s the value that fintech start-up is offering to the market. YouTrip has identified that digitalizing the existing business model of money changer is the way to enter the market which undeniably, they have succeeded and even convince major payment solution company like Mastercard and locally, Ezlink to participate in their growth stories.

They have great partners and now, it is for them to shape the market behaviour.  

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Friends have been asking me about @youtripsg MasterCard. My reply is always the same it is a good for travel. You get better exchange rate and for some major currencies, you could even buy and keep them in the E-wallet and that’s good for traveller who like to plan their trip ahead to capture the best possible rates. Travellers should give this a try. Now you could even get an additional $10 if you sign up and do your first top up via my referral link http://bit.do/youtrip-weewu P.s. it is also a #ezlink card if that matters to you. #instatravel #travelphotography #travelgram #instalifestyle #mastercard #youtrip #instafinance #discountcodes #discount #referralcode #reward #instareward #singapore #fintech #startup #ewallet

A post shared by Neo Wee Wu 梁威武 (@weewu) on

E-wallet business – More Than Just a Debit Card

E-wallet, as the name suggested, should work like a WALLET. It should be able to keep fiat currencies, credit cards and reward cards etc.  YouTrip positioned themselves as a wallet for travellers only provides the entry to the market but personally, I don’t think it is going to be sustainable. Singaporeans love travels but their time are mostly spent in Singapore. Although YouTrip card holders could use their cards to pay for public transports, there are other players rolling up similar services that gives better discounts. In short, the YouTrip card has not much use in Singapore given so many other options available.

There must be strong enough reasons for users to continue keeping YouTrip card in their wallet

Where are the merchants?

Banks refuses to lower rates as it hurts profitability. Offering low fees is a good penetration strategy but that is not going to be the barrier for new entrants. YouTrip needs to bring in more partners into their ecosystem. For a start, they should just be focusing on bringing more values to travellers. For instance, a reward system in the form of discount for travel insurance or hotel booking for heavy YouTrip users (frequent travellers) that will encourage card usage.

Basically, virtual money is only useful in 2 ways – One, I can use that to buy into services or products at greater discount. Two, I can grow it so that I could use that in the future. In principle, any fintech company that can achieve both can basically be called a bank. ANT Financial is one classic example. However, most fintech start-ups are only able to deliver services or products at greater discount than credit cards companies (which is exactly what YouTrip is trying to do!). However, keeping up with this in a longer term costs money and it may not be sustainable. YouTrip has to “engineer” a new form users’ reliance to your services to keep themselves afloat in the competitive fintech business. In my opinion, better forex rate?Nah!

Grab, a South-East Asian fintech and transport services company, has established a strong network of merchants in the region. Grab Pay, e-wallet services by Grab, can be used to pay for any goods in their marketplace and delivered to users’ doorsteps. Outside Singapore, you could even use Grab to pay off your transportation in other South East Asia countries. Grab is also following footsteps of ANT Financial. They are hiring consultant and it is rumoured that they are preparing to be a virtual bank in the event that Singapore is issuing virtual bank license like what Hong Kong did

Getting merchants into ecosystem is crucial in developing use cases and I am sure there are a lot more to be explored. Grab’s way of linking transportation and merchant seems to be working in South East Asia market. YouTrip is not Grab. They have to offer use cases that are different from what their counterparts are offering. They could study what their closest competitor, Singtel Dash is doing. For a start, why not just tap on existing e-commerce players? That might be faster for YouTrip.

In short, YouTrip has a good start but it is still a hype that I am doubtful it could sustain as a travel card. As of now, I am keeping my YouTrip card in my drawer.

Singapore-based Multi-Currency E-Wallet Platform Raised USD 25.5M In Pre-Series A

  • YouTrip is Singapore’s first multi-currency mobile wallet with a prepaid Mastercard® that offers zero transaction fees across 150+ currencies at wholesale exchange rates
  • US$25.5m raised from major Asian family offices and venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners, the largest pre-Series A fintech funding round in Southeast Asia
  • Over 200,000 downloads and 1 million transactions processed 10 months since launch
  • Funding will drive development of YouTrip’s technical payment infrastructure, launch of new product features and its regional expansion plans in Southeast Asia 

SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 16 May 2019 – YouTrip, Singapore’s first multi-currency mobile wallet with a prepaid Mastercard ®, has successfully raised US$25.5m in a pre-Series A fundraised. Participating investors include major Asian family offices and venture capital firm Insignia Ventures Partners, founded by ex-Sequoia Partner Yinglan Tan. This marks the largest pre-Series A funding round for a fintech startup operating in Southeast Asia.

YouTrip co-founders, Arthur Mak and Caecilia Chu

Launched in August 2018, YouTrip is a multi-currency mobile wallet s pecially designed with travellers in mind, allow ing users to pay in over 150 currencies with no hidden fees and at wholesale exchange rates . The mobile app also allows for the exchange and storage of 10 selected currencies in advance through the in-app exchange feature. The YouTrip mobile application works with a linked pre-paid Mastercard ® — issued by EZ-Link — and can be used to make payments at more than 30 million Mastercard accepting merchants worldwide.

Fuelled by growing purchasing power and more affordable travel options , Southeast Asia’s population of over 650 million people represents one of the largest and fastest growing outbound travellers market globally – it is expected to total US$80 billion in outbound travel expenditure by 2020, up from US$67 billion in 2018 or a 10% CAGR. Singapore is the biggest contributor to this region, with Singaporeans being one of the most frequent travellers and biggest travel spenders globally.

Caecilia Chu, co- f ounder and CEO of YouTrip said, “As a frequent traveller, I was surprised with how much banks mark up on overseas transactions – this was among the many reasons why I started YouTrip with Arthur Mak, who is also Chairman of YouTrip . As the regional travel industry continues to post robust growth, YouTrip recognises the pain points of travellers and equally, the immense opportunity to better serve their financial needs. We are dedicated to creating the best mobile financial services for travellers by simplifying overseas spending and creating a fuss-free travel experience.”

Pachara Lawjindakul, Principal at Insignia Ventures Partners added, “The fintech space in Southeast Asia is developing at a relentless pace to meet evolving consumer expectations and the travel industry represents an immense untapped market at the intersection of this growth. YouTrip is led by an experienced team of founders and executive team who are perfectly positioned to capitalise on this opportunity. The success of the initial launch in Singapore provides a great foundation to develop a strong roadmap for growing the multi-currency and cross-border payments ecosystem in Southeast Asia.”

Bank-issued credit and debit cards typically carry an overseas transaction fee that can be as high as 3.5%. O verseas purchases made with credit cards also usually entail a Dynamic Currency Conversion markup, sometimes going as high as 5% or more. YouTrip does not charge any overseas transaction fees nor markup on foreign exchange conversion .  

With the injection of funds, YouTrip is looking to invest heavily in technology innovation to further develop its technical payment infrastructure and roll out new product features. Having established a foothold in Singapore, it has also set its sights on further expansion in Southeast Asia and developing localised solutions for the region’s growing class of travellers.

Since its launch in August 2018, the YouTrip mobile application has achieved over 20 0,000 downloads, processed over 1 million transactions, and has grown its team to 70 people in Singapore and Hong Kong. Users may sign up for a YouTrip account by downloading its app from the App Store or Google Play. No minimum account balance is required and registration is free. Any credit or debit card c an be used to top up the e-wallet, which has a maximum stored value of S$3,000. All registered users receive a physical prepaid Mastercard, free of charge.

Almost 50% of Singaporean Prefer Contactless Payment

Singapore, 30 April 2019 – Close to 50 per cent of Singaporeans prefer paying with contactless payments (card and mobile) instead of cash, traditional card payments and QR payments according to the 500 Singaporeans aged 18-60 years old surveyed by Visa. Almost all Singaporeans are aware of contactless payments for cards (98%), with a large majority of them (83%) using contactless card payments more frequently than they did two years ago.

Convenience is the top benefit for the popular use of contactless payments in Singapore. Close to 90 per cent of Singaporeans (86%) feel that contactless payments are more convenient and close to 50 per cent prefer contactless payments because it is hassle-free.

“We have seen tremendous success in contactless payments usage in Singapore. Today, Singapore is one of the top countries in the world for contactless payments penetration. With more new acceptance channels opening up including transit and hawker centres, we believe that the growth of contactless payments usage will accelerate. Singaporeans are extremely familiar with this mode of payment based on our data and research and it is the top-of-mind payment choice for them given the convenience, speed and security benefits of this payment experience,” said Kunal Chatterjee, Visa Country Manager for Singapore and Brunei. 

Findings from the research also indicated that 60 per cent of Singapore consumers are interested in using self-check-out kiosks rather than engaging with a cashier. In addition, more than half (54 per cent) choose contactless cards as their preferred payment method at self-service payment kiosks.  Only nine per cent of Singaporeans choose to use cash.

In terms of futuristic payment methods, six in 10 Singaporeans are interested in performing transactions using AI chatbots (59%) and close to 90 per cent of them are comfortable with ordering and purchasing goods or services through chatbots. Singaporeans are most comfortable with making bookings (89%), purchasing goods or services (89 per cent) and making bill payments (80%) with this technology.


Above is part of the research finding of Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study – Singapore 2018.



A Singapore-based Insurtech Wants To Eliminate Phone Screen Protector

Soon, you do not need to have a screen protector for your phone. If you break your screen, just get it replaced for free. Axinan, a Singapore-based insurtech firm is partnering with FWD Singapore to sell insurance that protects smartphone users from damage of phone screen. Today Axinan announces the launch of igloo, catering on-demand digital insurance solutions to the everyday lifestyle needs of today’s millennials. As one of its first offerings, igloo will be introducing customisable Phone Screen Protection (PSP) plans where consumers will be able to buy policies and make claims digitally and seamlessly on the igloo mobile app.

With PSP, customers will be able to get their phone screens replaced upon physical damage to the screens. Axinan has partnered with several phone repair service companies to provide repair services islandwide. Consumers will be able to get their PSP plan on-demand and through subscription (ranging from daily, monthly and yearly) – prices are determined by the model of their devices.

Announcing the launch of igloo, Wei Zhu, Founder and CEO, Axinan said, “Axinan is an insurtech firm with a focus on developing insurance products for millennials and hence has built products catering to their lifestyle centred around gadgets, travel, e-commerce – domains not covered by traditional insurers. With igloo, we aim to provide a comprehensive suite of coverage that will be made readily available with the everyday needs of millennials in Southeast Asia in mind.”

Elaborating on this partnership with FWD Singapore, Wei Zhu added, “We are extremely excited to have FWD Singapore as our insurance partner. This streamlines a concerted passion for both parties in providing affordable lifestyle insurance to the ever-changing consumer market using technology as a key enabler.

Abhishek Bhatia, CEO, FWD Singapore, added, “As a brand that has continuously leveraged on technology to create real value and convenience in the insurance industry, FWD is delighted to work with Axinan on the Phone Screen Protection plans. We believe digital innovation will play a key role in fulfilling consumer demands today, and this partnership is a demonstration of how by focusing on what customers need, companies can provide real value-added digital services.

“FWD is happy to collaborate with like-minded partners like Axinan to contribute to a vibrant marketplace, which can only be beneficial for the entire digital insurance ecosystem,” he concluded.


According to a global study released by SquareTrade in November 2018, more than 50 million smartphones screens are broken every year. Smartphone owners accidentally broke more than 50 million phone screens last year (that’s nearly two every second), and replacing those screens cost them US$3.4 billion. The study found that 66% of smartphone owners damaged their phones in the past year, with cracked screens leading the way as the most common type of damage (29%). Scratched screens (27%) and non-working batteries (22%) took second and third place respectively, with touchscreen issues and chipped corners/sides tied at 16% each.

How YouTrip Helps Singapore Police Force to Uncover Credit Card Fraud?

Recent years, market has developed and people are keeping their money online with the help of e-wallet. E-wallet could link with our credit card and that makes online transaction cheaper and faster. The technology brings us convenient but it also opens door for fraud.

On 13 February 2019, the Singapore Police Force charged 4 individuals with syndicated credit card fraud. These individuals were charged for stealing bank credit or debit card information via external means, and using these stolen cards to top up their YouTrip accounts. Another 15 are currently also under investigation.

These suspects were initially flagged out by YouTrip’s Fraud Monitoring System, which continuously analyses transaction patterns and detects early signals of suspicious activities. We immediately handed over the case to the police to expedite investigations, which include a total of 18 suspects with more than 85 fraudulent credit card top up transactions.

Investigating & tracing transaction patterns using Data Analytics

Throughout late December and January, YouTrip’s Fraud Monitoring System, which traces and detects early signals of suspicious transactions, flagged out two key signals:

  • Signal 1: High top up amount followed by immediate purchases or cash withdrawals to deplete the account balance
  • Signal 2: High frequency of failed top up with incorrect credit / debit card credentials

By combining these two key signals and using Data Analytics techniques, YouTrip traced these signals to a specific small group of users who exhibited both behaviors. A special task force made up of Fraud Monitoring specialists and engineers was immediately set up to carry out detailed investigations. Through these investigations, they found out more transaction and usage signals that have high correlation to potentially fraudulent activities, including concentration on common merchant names (e.g. overseas ATM locations), common transaction locations, chargebacks, and citizen’s reports received, etc.

They concluded that there is a high chance that a group of 18 users may have fraudulently obtained information or cards of more than 85 fraudulent credit or debit card top up transactions used to top up YouTrip accounts. The accounts were immediately suspended.

Enhancing security measures

While investigations were underway, YouTrip rolled out a security update last week that requires mandatory OTP verification via SMS (to be sent by your credit card issuing bank), whenever a new credit or debit card is added for the first time on the YouTrip app.

This helps to further eliminate cases of fraudulent use such as to perform top-ups on YouTrip accounts using stolen credit or debit cards, in addition to the existing fraud monitoring systems and customer due diligence processes.


Security Update: mandatory OTP verification via SMS when adding bank credit/debit card on YouTrip App

“Fraud prevention and security will continue to be YouTrip’s core mission to our users. We will continue to work closely with the authorities and community to ensure a secure and seamless payment experience for all YouTrip users,” said Mr Kelvin Lam, Country Manager (Singapore), You Technologies Group.

The case is currently under litigation and YouTrip is working closely with the authorities in the ongoing investigations. YouTrip will be working with the relevant institutions to ensure a proper arrangement for affected individuals in this case.

YouTrip users can rest assured to use YouTrip as per normal, as the suspicious activities have been contained to the current identified suspects. Users can reach out to YouTrip’s  customer support team at customer@you.co, if they detect any suspicious activities in their accounts.

NETS Services Will be Available Outside Singapore For the First Time

Singapore consumers can now use the NETSPay app to make e-payments when they travel overseas; this is made possible through the joint partnership between NETS and global payment network UnionPay.

The enhanced NETSPay app comes with a new wallet feature that enables consumers to top up and pay for purchases at over 7.5 million UnionPay QR code merchants globally via QR codes. They can also make contactless payments using their near-field communication (NFC) enabled smartphones at close to 12 million UnionPay QuickPass contactless acceptance points without the need to use fiat foreign currencies when travelling.

The enhanced NETSPay app also offers a number of new features. In addition to overseas payments, users can send money to or receive money from other NETSPay users via mobile numbers or QR code. In addition, those looking to send gifts to family or friends can send e-angbaos (or electronic red packets) to their loved ones using the app. This is in addition to QR code payments in Singapore, including SG QR.

“This partnership between UnionPay and NETS is significant on several levels. First – the launch of the enhanced NETSPay app affirms our commitment to providing innovative payment products and services that can enable greater convenience and ease of payment for local consumers and businesses. Second – the enabling of NETSPay acceptance at UnionPay QR code merchants and UnionPay QuickPass contactless acceptance points around the world will allow local NETS users to make QR code and contactless payments everywhere they go, including at key destinations such as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand when they travel overseas,” said Wenhui Yang, General Manager for UnionPay International South East Asia.

Commending on the partnership, NETS Group CEO Jeffrey Goh shares, “Working with a leading global partner such as UnionPay is part of our efforts to make NETS services seamless for our Singapore consumers. Now whether you’re shopping in Shanghai or paying for your chicken rice at your favourite hawker stall in Singapore, all you need is NETSPay.”

 

DataRobot invests S$15 million in Singapore; Boost AI in Fintech

US-based artificial intelligence (AI) firm DataRobot announced that it will invest S$15 million into Singapore as part of its expansion plans into the region. The investment will be primarily used to set up its regional business HQ here as well as expand its advanced AI R&D centre.

 

Fifty percent of the initial investment will be spent on hiring. DataRobot hopes to hire 50 employees here by 2019 with 40 per cent of the staff being technical experts and data scientists.

 

DataRobot CEO Jeremy Achin. Source: Instagram User @weewu

Speaking to the Singapore media, Mr Jeremy Achin, CEO of DataRobot has highlighted that Singapore has an excellent work environment; and its easy access to a wide connection of high skilled technical experts from various fields specifically in the area of fintech.

 

DataRobot is also looking to work with fintech startups in Singapore. Fintech startups could also tap on their cloud services – DataRobot Cloud as it is much more affordable than investing in physical hardware.Given the availability of data, these companies could tap on A.I for data analytic and automation. 

 

Zidisha, one of DataRobot users, is a great example of this. They are a non-profit peer lender that helps poor people in Africa to get day loans. Clearly, a charity cannot afford expensive Data Scientists on staff and use DataRobot instead.

 

About DataRobot

DataRobot, an SG:D Accredited company, offers an enterprise automated machine learning platform that empowers users of all skill levels to make better predictions faster. Incorporating a library of hundreds of the most powerful open source machine learning algorithms, the DataRobot platform automates, trains and evaluates predictive models in parallel, delivering more accurate predictions at scale. DataRobot provides the fastest path to data science success for organizations of all sizes.

Singtel’s Dash adds Visa virtual account to mobile wallet

Singtel is launching Singapore’s first virtual Visa account on its all-in-one mobile payments app, Dash. The new and existing Dash customers will automatically receive a Dash Visa Virtual Account that can be used for mobile payments at over 50,000 merchant points across the island.

Dash Visa Virtual Account is a prepaid account. All new and existing Dash customers are eligible for a Dash Visa virtual account on Dash app v4.5. Using compatible NFC-enable mobile device, this virtual account also allows users to pay with VISA payWave and it should work on existing payWave terminal that merchants are currently using.

Spinelli demonstrates the use case on customer making contactless payment with VISA virtual account via Singtel Dash. Source Instagram user @weewu

Furthermore, the 16 digit virtual account works like any other VISA cards that allows customers to pay on local e-commerce sites such as Qoo10, Zalora and HungryGoWhere.

Singtel also announced future plans for Dash to be included in global wallets such as Apple Pay, and enable QR code payments to expand into hawker centres. In addition to Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic, Dash is also working towards adding more educational institutions to its merchant list to widen its reach in the youth segment.

Payment aside. The Singtel Dash also offers remittance services to facilitate users in small local and international money transfer.

As of now, Singtel claims that it has over 500,000 customer base transacting via Singtel Dash.

To celebrate the launch of Dash Visa, customers will be able enjoy the following promotions from 21 July to 20 August 2017:

  • New and re-contracting Singtel postpaid mobile customers will receive S$50 discounts or free accessories when they purchase the following handsets with Dash at any Singtel Shop:
    • Sony Xperia™ XZ Premium, Huawei P10/P10 Plus and HTC U11 (S$50 handset discount)
    • Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ (Free S Clear View Standing Cover)

 

  • All Dash customers will also enjoy these exclusive partner deals (terms and conditions apply):
    • S$1 Short Grain Rice or Instant White Coffee at Sheng Siong
    • S$1 for any 8oz Hot Espresso-Based Beverage (U.P. S$4 to S$5.70) at Spinelli
    • 18% off a minimum S$120 spend, plus S$5 Cashback on Zalora
    • S$1 deals across various items and discount coupons on Qoo10
    • S$10 Cashback with S$180 spend across merchants on Shopback
    • S$5 Cashback with every S$50 top-up on GrabPay

 

 

Top 5 Questions that budding Fintech entrepreneur should ask before embarking on the venture

In the broad sense, the old financial industry needs change and technology is definitely the answer to that. “Fintech” – a popular word that frequently appears in the newspaper. For those who are still working in the banking sector, it is never a surprise to hear some of your peers left the banking sector to start a fintech company.

This sector, not just attract the banking professionals, you might also hear a lot of talented fresh graudates run a fintech startup. Given so much interests in market, should you just jump on the bangwagon?

Steve Totman, Financial Services Industry Lead, Cloudera

This post,  we interview Steve Totman, Big Data Evangelist and Financial Services Industry Lead, Cloudera. He will share some tips on the financial sector and how technology could aid financial insituitions.

 

  1. How did you land yourself a “Fintech” job in Cloudera?

I came from a financial services and deep data management background. I was really interested in how disruptive Hadoop was in every industry and was also a huge fan of Doug Cutting (Co-founder of Hadoop and Cloudera’s Chief Architect), Mike Olsen (Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Cloudera), Amr Awadallah (Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Cloudera), Tom Reilly (Chief Executive Officer of Cloudera), and most importantly, the Clouderian culture. It was a combination of background and interest, combined with persistence and a little luck – I was sure that the Open Source Apache Hadoop project was going to change the data world and I wanted to be a part of it.

  1. Do you have to be a banker to develop solutions for banks?

No, you don’t. At Cloudera, we believe that data can make what is impossible today, possible tomorrow, across all industries, and what seems like magic can happen when you bring in data scientists and engineers who can use Open Source based Big Data Technology like Hadoop.

Do you need to understand the business use case and requirements to create a solution? Absolutely, but the key is to combine people, process, and technology. For example, three years ago, one of our data scientists was asked by a large bank to try and write a VAR function (Value at Risk) using Spark running on a Cloudera cluster. As a Mathematics major, he didn’t know much about VAR in financial services but the bank’s subject-matter experts explained the concepts and he made a first attempt. After he was done, his attempt actually made it run ten times faster than their existing code and it was running on 100% of their data rather than the subset they had been forced to use, so they were jumping for joy.

 

  1. What is your definition of “A-team”? And where do you find them? 

An ‘A-team’ today translates to a data-first culture. Organizations often think they can find and hire such a team, but the truth is, you have to build the culture internally first, starting from the top. Business leaders and executives must see data as an asset and empower their employees.

One of my favorite quotes is from James Governor at Redmonk – Data Ages Like Wine, Apps Age Like Fish – data is your greatest asset but just like fine wine, it must be cared for, stored, and shared to be truly appreciated. Businesses must develop a team with the right set of skills and evolve business processes and decisions to be data-driven.

Most people have the idea that data scientists are a mythical unicorn, but the best data scientists are not just a single person, they are a tightly integrated team of people who know and understand data science concepts, the data, and the business problem. The most important skill that you can’t train up for is curiosity.

  1. How do you pitch to a bank’s CTO?

The first thing I do is to start a conversation and align on the objectives that make the most sense for the overall business and their customers – understanding what drives their business goals and objectives is key. Within the financial services sector, the common themes are Customer Journey, Financial Crime, Risk, and Product and Service Efficiency. Another topic that CTOs often discuss is digital disruption. Business leaders have realized that customers no longer want to walk into a bank or go on their website to get more information; they want a multi-channel experience. But the problem is, how do banks monitor that experience and understand the customer journey of how people move through different channels and systems?

In today’s consumer-centric world, most financial institutions are now shifting their focus to provide the ultimate customer experience, all with data-driven insights. This is where the technology comes in. One of our customers in the banking sector mentioned that he would like to take customer experience back to the 70’s. In the 70’s, you walk into a local bank they know you, your family, your business, and why you need a loan – today, if you are operating with thousands or even millions of customers, how do you create the same experience? The answer is data.

Many CIOs and CTOs that I meet also seem to be facing one problem – the high costs of managing a data warehouse or data archival. Because of the costs, businesses have had to make compromises about what data is stored and analyzed. Hadoop enables organizations to save tremendously on costs, while providing the flexibility to access data at any point in time.

CTOs from different industries have different problems, but the key is to understand what they really need and set realistic goals accordingly.

  1. Do you see regulators as an obstacle in the industry?

Quite the opposite. In many countries, especially in APAC, regulators are working directly with the companies to jointly come up with a solution and are even using Cloudera’s platform themselves. Our solutions help them to aggregate data from all the companies they monitor and provide a systemic view across organizations. We are even starting to see the regulators themselves contribute to Open Source projects and running datathons or hackathons. There are definitely some exceptions but the general feeling is that regulators today are thinking about the right issues especially around data privacy