Technology Awards 2019 – Fintech Changemaker Of The Year

2019 Winners


Fintech Changemaker Of The Year

Medhy Souidi

Medhy Souidi
head of fintech and Startup Xchange, DBS Bank

What path have you taken to be where you are today, in DBS and on the board of the FTAHK?
I’m very fortunate to have had a long history with the tech community, so I’m truly honoured to be named Tech Changemaker of the Year. Since 2016, I have created and organised over 50 events and have helped startups in the community on several occasions in a variety of areas, including consultancy, marketing, and product development. I am also a proud member of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong, as co-lead of the blockchain committee and a board member since July 2019.

I experienced many disappointments during my first experience in blockchain startups. Unfortunately, the management team made some poor decisions which eventually resulted in bankruptcy for the company despite all the hard work the team put in. Nevertheless, I didn’t let that stop me. I eventually joined Privé Technologies, a fintech startup specialised in wealth management, and the DBS Innovation team, which has since proved to be great decisions.

What is the key to fostering productive partnerships between fintechs and banks/wealth managers? What are DBS’s learnings and insights?
Although banks have sometimes viewed fintechs as competitors and questioned their role in a highly regulated environment, they are now broadly recognised by financial institutions as valuable partners for the future.

The advantages of partnerships between financial institutions and fintechs go both ways. For big banks, access to emerging technology and innovative new ways of working could help boost their competitive edge and swiftly meet changing consumer needs. Meanwhile, for fintechs, partnering with large financial institutions can support their growth ambitions, opening up access to a larger capital and a pool of potential customers that could far outstrip what they could build alone. With these benefits in mind, some fintechs may want to explore how they can establish a relationship with a banking partner.

As banks and fintechs continue to innovate, the potential benefits that partnerships can bring will only become more attractive. For fintechs that are keen to collaborate, carefully developing a sound partnership strategy — one that focuses on mutual goals — will give them the best chance of success.

What are the most important trends driving the WM-focused fintech industry in Asia, at present?
Nothing is more exciting than AI development, especially in both the wealth management industry and the fintech spaces. However, we do face some challenges when integrating AI into businesses. The complexity of the ever-evolving field of technology makes technological awareness crucial; beyond looking to new technologies, we must also keep in mind the benefits of solving a problem through existing solutions in the market. For larger organisations, both the lack of standardisation and risk management can be potential hurdles when implementing AI solutions.

As AI solutions often involve the adoption of a new operating model, it is not only critical but challenging to embrace this change and convince internal stakeholders. External collaboration can also make it hard to fully realise the potential of new initiatives and it is incredibly important to get both the public and corporate partners on board in collaborating with the bank. The nature of the regulatory environment may also pose challenges to the implementation of AI solutions and may make it difficult to not only develop these solutions but also maximise their potential.

What advice do you have for fintech startups who harbour ambitions to work with banks/WMs on a B2B basis and how do you work with them?
Think about your business challenges today — customers need more personalised services and employees demand more efficient internal processes. But are you ready and willing to make the change? According to the “State of Innovation” report by CB Insights, high-performing companies are more likely to be first movers. In fact, 35% of high-performing respondents were first movers and twice as likely to be risk-seeking.

Companies must innovate and tap into emerging technologies to stay ahead of the curve. As DBS becomes the ‘Digital Bank of Singapore’, we too need to leverage digital technology to extend our reach, enhance our efficiencies and create solutions for a better tomorrow. This mindset has been critical for us to become the best bank in the world. And that, in a nutshell, was the basis for conceiving the DBS Startup Xchange.

So we embarked on a unique journey to match DBS’ business teams and our clients to startups with cutting-edge technology solutions. It’s a win-win proposition — we solve problems faced by the bank and our clients, while providing valuable business to the fintech start-ups.

Instead of behaving like external innovation consultants, we embed ourselves in the business unit. We work together to solve the unit’s challenges and present the value that start-ups bring to the table. Being in the same boat encourages better appreciation and incorporation of more technologies such as natural language processing, AI, and peer-to-peer finance platforms, among many other solutions that startups provide.

Imagine being stuck with a problem to solve, and not knowing where to start scouring for the right vendor that has the perfect solution. After jumping through hoops to find a suitable solution, you’re hit with a long lead time to facilitate procurement requirements. Prior to the launch of Startup Xchange, this was the usual process that our colleagues had to go through.

Startup Xchange now offers a more collaborative and nimble approach, making it easier and more efficient for our colleagues and clients to look for suitable start-ups, co-create and find solutions to their pain points.

By focusing on four main pillars of technology, Startup Xchange has facilitated the development of many innovative business solutions — such as Jim, Southeast Asia’s first virtual recruiter for wealth planning managers:

What more could the HK gov’t do to facilitate growth of the city’s fintech industry?
Provide specific support for our finTech community.

The current COVID-19 challenges particularly impact the startup and SME members of our fintech ecosystem; they are the most vulnerable in times like these. The fintech ecosystem welcomed some of the specific measures that were announced in the latest Hong Kong budget and announcements including rent and other fee waivers by Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. However, we need to go a step further and provide other immediate relief efforts to help our ecosystem during these challenging times.

To facilitate growth of the city’s fintech industry, some of the most popular existing funding programs that are available in Hong Kong should have specific and temporary actions. Specific temporary waivers and approval acceleration requests will help the Hong Kong ecosystem, especially with regards to short term cash flow needs.

Some of these specific temporary actions could help to provide financial support to our local fintechs to cover salaries and hiring, which will guarantee the creation of new talent, but will also preserve part of the existing fintech talent pool that has been built up over the past years. A second suggestion would be to extend the application process and reduce the minimum fund size requirement to the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITVF) in order to broaden participation and allow more funds to participate and invest in local fintech startups. Another suggestion would be to stimulate angel investments in early-stage startups by leveraging on existing government investments in Cyberport and HKSTP alumni and incubates.

For reference, here are some of the most popular existing funding programs that are available in Hong Kong: