An Interview with
Co-Founder & Commercial Director
Zetl is Asia-Pacific's first financing company for asset-light businesses and also one of the few embedded lending FinTechs in the region.
Providing non-dilutive financing to startups & SMEs for growth, payroll & working capital
25 July 2023
Tell us about your background, and how you came to found your company?
I was born in Hong Kong, and spent time living in Malaysia, the UK and Shanghai, before settling back in HK. Most of my career had been within the HR/staffing space, before launching my first venture (Silverstrand Executive Search) in 2012, followed by another (Cleverly Search) in 2017.
It was while scaling those businesses that I saw a gap in the market to provide financing to asset-light businesses, who are typically too small or don't have enough physical assets, to secure bank finance.
Using my contacts from headhunting, I approached Shan Han, who had worked for a number of hedge funds and banks, bringing a strong understanding of finance and product. He is now our CEO.
We then got introduced to our third co-founder Matt Roberts, via a Japanese VC in Singapore, quickly identifying that his experience in structured finance & private credit would complement our skillsets.
With that the founding team of Zetl was born!
What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
All 3 are important, but our mission is literally written on our website, so I'll go with that as we are "On a mission to finance the next generation of businesses in APAC".
Can you explain briefly how your service(s)/product(s) works?
Everything can be done within our web app, https://www.zetl.com/, with the onboarding process typically taking around 10-12 minutes, with integrations to cloud accounting software such as Xero & Quickbooks, plus an open banking API aggegator called Finverse, that significantly reduce the time required.
We offer a number of products including Invoice Financing, Credit Lines, Term Loans, the Wage Layer (an embedded payroll financing product) plus Revenue Based Financing.
The whole process is conducted online, primarily through our app, with the underwriting process a combination of our machine learning credit scoring model and a fundamental overlay from the team.
Proposals are completed via e-signatures and then funds are dispursed digitally.
How has the industry been changing in recent years?
The biggest developments in our space have been the adoption of Machine Learning/AI to the credit scoring and underwriting processes to speed up approval times. In addition, we now also have OCR (optical character recognition) tools that can review bank statement data. Lastly, the growth of embedded lending, of which we are one the few firms in Asia using this strategy. This allows us to use our technology, underwriting capabilities, plus debt capital, to enable our partners to provide financing to their customers & merchants.
We've now got a number of pilots in place across Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia & the Philippines with payments processors, POS (point of sale) systems and payroll management software companies.
What makes you different from what’s currently available in the market?
I think being a truly tech-enabled business is one clear differential. Zetl went live in 2019, so we needed to be clever in using relatively limited resources, to compete with larger alternative lenders and/or banks.
We were also a fully distributed team before Covid hit, which meant we weren't particularly impacted by the WFH adjustments, as all our processes were set up for remote working.
Then being one of Asias' few embedded lending fintechs is also another clear difference. There aren't many API-enabled lenders in the market.
What does the future hold for your company?
We've got plenty to keep us busy with the embedded lending pilots, but in addition to that, we have further expansion across the region planned, to complement our activities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia & the Philippines. We''ll be incorporating in Japan later this year, followed afterwards by Vietnam & Thailand, while there are a couple of active pilots in place with partners in Australia & New Zealand.
Through our embedded lending partners you'll hopefully be seeing a lot more of Zetl soon!