Executive Interview
Gary Lam
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   Executive Interviews   
An Interview with
Gary Lam
asia ceo community limited
CEO
Publish Date: 
16 October 2019
Hong Kong
Location:

Tell us about your background, and how you came to found your company?

Fintech innovation is no longer dominated by scrappy startups—big tech companies are getting involved. Take Facebook Inc.’s plan to launch a digital currency called Libra in 2020. The social network’s gigantic reach—more than 2.4 billion active monthly users—could draw a much wider audience to Libra than has used previous cryptocurrencies. For instance, global remittances by migrants reached a record $689 billion last year, according to the World Bank. If Libra tapped into even a portion of that, the potential would be huge. So far, policymakers in the U.S. and other major economies are resisting the tech giant’s plan, which could undermine their monetary authority. In August, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney suggested that central bankers could create a digital currency themselves.

What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values? Why?

Who’s Funding the Revolution?

Startups in almost every sector have benefited from a surge in venture capital investment. Fintech is no exception. North America holds the top spot in terms of dollars spent. Some VC firms are making multiple bets on fintech. San Francisco-based 500 Startups staked 43 such companies in the 12 months ended June 30. Some manage funds that specialize in particular areas, such as Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto-focused a16z.

Can you explain briefly how your service(s)/product(s) works?

Where the Biggest Fintechs Live

North America, with the most venture capital, is also home to many of the hottest fintechs. Payments startup Stripe Inc.’s $35 billion valuation exceeds that of more than half of the S&P 500’s members. Cryptocurrency platform Coinbase, free trading app Robinhood Financial, digital bank Social Finance, and credit score platform Credit Karma are each valued at $4 billion or more.

How has the industry been changing in recent years?

In the second quarter, India—home of mobile payments startup Paytm—surpassed China in the number of deals. But China still boasts the most valuable fintech. Lu.com, the wealth management platform backed by Ping An Insurance (Group) Co., was most recently valued at $39 billion.

In Europe and Latin America, 2018 and the first half of 2019 have been good to the digital banks raising new capital. OakNorth, Monzo, and Revolut in the U.K., N26 in Germany, and Nubank in Brazil are among the most valuable fintechs in those regions.

What makes you different from what’s currently available in the market?

As of August, U.S. banks had already made 24 fintech investments in 2019. The most active were Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase. Each has looked at deals with startups in a variety of areas, including consumer-facing personal finance applications and data analytics and aggregation capabilities that are deep in the back office. Payments and the capital markets business have driven a lot of the investment by these banks.

What does the future hold for your company?

Rival banks don’t often invest in the same companies, but in the fintech space it’s not unheard of. Digital Asset Holdings LLC, a blockchain startup, is backed by all three, for instance, while Plaid Inc., which connects bank customers’ data to third-party finance apps, is backed by Goldman and Citigroup. Last year, Goldman acquired Clarity Money, a personal finance website in which Citigroup had previously invested.

Fintech Investment Activity by U.S. Banks Rises
Quarter in which selected banks made one or more fintech investments, by category

Contact

Gary Lam

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