The Silicon Review
Established in March 2016 and led by Charis Liau and Ronnie Chia, Minterest is a leading online marketplace funding platform connecting investors with borrowers, and is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. As former bankers with deep experience in corporate and structured finance, Minterest was started with a bold ambition to build a new financial eco-system in Singapore.
The company started its journey by assisting a small business making waves in the coffee scene in Singapore. The business needed some financing assistance to expand into other countries in the region and Minterest stepped forward for the fundraising. Being the first deal on the platform, it was unclear how the fund raise would perform but when the campaign got underway, there was a lot of interest from its investors. The offering was snapped up in no time and the team at Minterest drew strength and encouragement from that experience to work even harder to deliver on its mission and vision.
Today, Minterest’s loans are snapped up so quickly in Singapore that 97% of the company’s loans are fully participate within a day; in fact, many were fully completed in less than 60 seconds. “We see a very strong demand and supply of liquidity in Singapore to participate in private business loans,” says Charis Liau, CEO of Minterest Private Limited.
In-Conversation with the Leaders of Minterest, Ms. Charis Liau, and Mr. Ronnie Chia:
Q. There is nothing more important for a successful small business than a well-defined mission and vision statements. Can you explain your M&V statements in brief?
At Minterest, we believe in bringing financial inclusion to the unbanked and underserved needs of businesses. Businesses have constantly been constrained by various requirements of conventional finance providers and as experienced former bankers, we believe we can turbocharge their businesses to bring their future to the present. We also believe in enabling investors with financial knowledge and access to quality investments, offering them a path to financial empowerment.
As a leading marketplace funding platform, Minterest uses a broad spectrum of innovative technologies and our team’s financial expertise to overcome existing real-world financial shortcomings.
Q. A small business/company may or may not function as expected. It takes everything to stand out and compete in the business world. Was it the same for Minterest?
Being a new start-up, it is not easy, especially when it comes to the area where you are dealing with people’s money. Financial Services is a trust-based industry and to acquire investors, we needed to work hard to demonstrate that the offerings we list on our platform are well-structured and risk-mitigated.
Having a team of experienced former bankers with a combined 155 years of banking and financial experience, we developed our own proprietary credit scoring algorithm drawing on over 200 data points of each borrower. Investors now look at the rating of each loan that is listed and would immediately be able to have a quick overview of the underlying risk profile of the particular loan offering. Borrowers, on the other hand, initially had no idea that we exist. However, through education, creating greater awareness and working with the various government regulatory bodies, we are engaging borrowers who are now viewing us as a true, faster and more viable alternate source of financing for their businesses.
Q. Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
Talking about the culture of feedback, we are constantly looking to improve our ways of doing business and how we can be more efficient and effective. We have an open channel with our investors through the use of the Telegram app. This allows us to be close to our investing community and know their requirements and pain points. This communication channel has allowed us to adapt our business practices to better improve the user experience.
Q. Any company, big or small, must have the sense of authenticity and originality to succeed. Is your company a ‘leader’ or a ‘follower’?
We see ourselves as a leader given our deep financial expertise in the lending space. Our secret sauce is in fact the workflow that we have developed in-house. This relates to how we process loan applications in the most efficient and effective manner - 80% of the loan assessment process is automated – allowing us to achieve scale. In addition, we were the first marketplace funding platform in Singapore to procure an insurance wrap on a loan to mitigate the non-payment of the loan by the borrower. Such insurance facilities are typically reserved only for the banks.
At Minterest, we firmly believe in staying true to our values, creating a strong financial eco-system thereby enhancing the value for our borrowers, investors and stakeholders.
Crafting the Future Roadmap
ASEAN is the world’s 3rd largest market after China and India with a population of over 640 million. With the massive emergence of the middle class, the rise of consumerism and 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. Therefore, a huge market opportunity exists for platform lenders to serve the needs of the unbanked population and Minterest believes that it can and will play a key part in this movement to address their needs.
Minterest aims to bring its mission and vision to the South East Asian region, empowering both investors and borrower who are underserved and unserved by the traditional financial institutions. Looking into the future, in a couple of years from now, the company is expected to be operating in a few other countries – Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines,and Vietnam.
Making A Difference
Charis Liau, CEO and Co-Founder: Charis has more than 16 years of banking and financial experience in Asian markets. During her banking career, she specialized in structured finance, asset finance solutions, and corporate lending and relationship management for corporates in Asia.
Charis holds a Fintech Certificate in Future Commerce from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy (First Class Honours) from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter holder from the CFA Institute.
Ronnie Chia, COO and Co-Founder: With 26 years of corporate and structured finance experience, Ronnie is a finance and banking veteran having worked in merchant banking, corporate and structured finance. He started and led numerous business units at an international bank.
Ronnie graduated from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree majoring in Accountancy and Business Administration.