“There are plenty of fishes in the sea” suits best when we talk about the opportunities in the global financial industry. But only a few entrepreneurs have the vision to relish these opportunities and make the best out of them. Charis Liau is one such avid entrepreneur.
Charis is the Co-Founder and CEO of Minterest Pte. Ltd. She considers herself as an accidental entrepreneur as starting a business, let alone in the finance space, was never on the radar when she started her career. However, her experience during her final days in banking made her realize that in order to truly be effective in assisting businesses that form the backbone of a country’s economy, she had to forge a different path.
Charis believes that she has been blessed to have a couple of former banking colleagues who shared in her vision, and together they started Minterest in 2016 with a bold ambition of building a new financial eco-system in Singapore and into the neighboring countries.
A Financial Bridge
Minterest operates an online marketplace funding platform that connects borrowers with investors. Its mission is to empower investors and businesses and deliver on their financial goals through customized solutions and financial technology. The company aims to create a sustainable community in which investors and businesses mutually benefit by collaborating and leveraging innovations in financial technology.
As a leading marketplace funding platform, Minterest utilizes a broad spectrum of innovative technologies and its team’s financial expertise to overcome existing real-world financial shortcomings. Minterest believes in bringing financial inclusion to the unbanked and underserved needs of businesses. As experienced former bankers, Charis and her team utilises its strong financial background in understanding credit, structuring, legal and compliance matters to assist each borrower in their funding journey, turbocharging their business to bring their future to the present.
Entrepreneurial Attributes 101
Charis believes that to be successful, an entrepreneur must possess different attributes as the requirements of running a successful business are multi-faceted:
- One must have the confidence to believe that the business will succeed.
- One must have a relentless focus on the things needed to make the business work.
- One has to have an open-mind and see every event or situation as a business opportunity.
- One must believe that one’s business is better than the competitors
- One must live and breathe the business and must continue to find ways to make the business better in delighting its customers.
Disrupting the Financial Services Industry
Charis started this business because of the belief that she can use her banking and financial experience to assist the hard workers of the economy to meet their financial goals. SMEs contribute to 45% of the economy and employ 69% of the working population in Singapore. Minterest is not just about serving the financing needs of business but also having a positive and social impact. By assisting small businesses to be successful, Minterest is indirectly helping to provide and create employment for the workforce and by extension, improving each person’s personal economy. Charis takes pride in able to procure financing for entrepreneurs where they can turbocharge their businesses, bringing their future to the present. Being able to make a positive difference to them spurs her on in this business.
Leading By Automation
Charis believes, “Competition is good as it pushes us to be better in serving our borrowers and investors.” Her team constantly reviews their processes and how they can deliver well-structured, risk-mitigated investment solutions to their investors. The workflow that processes loan applications is developed in-house – this means that 80% of its credit assessment process is automated allowing it to deliver results of loan applications quickly and bring scale to its own business.
The organization also has a proprietary credit scoring algorithm, “MintGrade”, developed in-house. The MintGrade collects over 200 data points per loan and assigns a rating to each loan offering, giving investors a quick overview of the underlying risk profile of the loan investment when the investors embark on their decision making process.
Minterest is also breaking new grounds by introducing psychographic tests which will add a new dimension to its credit assessment. “The psychographic tests enables us to determine the “willingness” of the borrower and/or the promoters in repaying a debt,” adds Charis.
The biggest challenge for Charis was to make Minterest known in the market. And what made it difficult was finding and hiring talent with the right attitude who shares the vision and mission of the business. However, with persistence and a sheer grit, Charis and her team has overcome such initial challenges. She states, “Running a business is never smooth sailing and there will always be challenges but overcoming them makes the business stronger everyday as we seek to deliver on our mission.”
A Strategic Expansion
Charis has plans to expand the Minterest business into the neighboring ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines in the next couple of years. ASEAN is the world’s 3rd largest market after China and India with a population of over 640 million. According to her, with the emergence of the middle class and the massive rise of consumerism and a digitally active population, the internet economy is expected to grow to USD200 billion by 2025, with more than 480 million internet users by 2020. However, 73% (438 million) of the ASEAN population are unbanked. A huge market opportunity exists for platform lenders to serve the needs of the unbanked population and she believes that she plays a key part in this movement to address their needs.
Imparting Words of Wisdom
Charis shares her wisdom received through first hand industry experiences with the emerging entrepreneurs. She asserts, “My advice is to have a crystal clear idea of what you want to do and achieve. Find an area of expertise that you are good at, passionate about and focus on it.”
“The execution process may change as you tweak your business model but it is the vision and mission that will guide you to where you want to go. Rome was not built in a day, so do plan wisely and seek out resources early. And have the perseverance to keep going even when it is tough,” she adds.