How banks can use Fintechs to turn Open API into an advantage

Early in November gini attended Hong Kong Fintech Week 2019. With thousands of representatives from innovative companies all over the region, the hottest topic was the evolution of financial services through collaboration. Traditional financial institutions are partnering with fintech startups to do the things they cannot do well on their own. Why? This market is extremely dynamic - with emerging new challengers like the virtual banks, and tech companies entering the space - all involved have their sights set on getting a piece of the pie. Evolving is a necessary defensive measure to maintain relevance for traditional institutions


gini enterprise: a fintech startup success story

As one of the pioneers of the Hong Kong FinTech industry, our CEO, Ray Wyand shared gini’s story of developing from a top personal financial management app in Asia, to a data-driven solution provider for banks and lenders in Asia.

In the interview with Hoi Tak Leung, from the Asia Pacific Counsel of Ashurst, we take gini enterprise as an example to show how banks can leverage fintechs to turn open APIs and closed APIs into a competitive advantage.

During the same event, we were also able to gather hundreds of responses to uncover some compelling data. Click here to download Research Report: Open Banking 2020.


Interview: How can banks leverage fintechs to improve the way they use data?

gini is one of the prime Hong Kong Fintech startup success stories. Tell us a little bit more about gini and the journey for the past few years.

We’ve been doing this for about 3 years. We started this company as a financial data company, helping consumers originally understand data. Turn data into insights, insights into action that help to manage their financial lives.
What we’ve been doing is, we extend the technology we’ve seen and acquired to other use cases, to companies. But the mission is the same. It’s to understand our client entity, and help them start benefiting people.

Started out as B2C and still got a B2C service happening, besides developing that service, do you see your B2B technology opens a semi-equivalent, or simply an additional market?

It’s an additional market.

We were molding great technology, solving problems. We’re going out there, looking at the data, saying, ‘Wow, this is complicated. Someone goes to IKEA can show up as Dairy Farm!’ And there’s millions of you saying the same. So we solve these problems for ourselves, for our users, all across Asia.

What happened then was that people started coming to us, like, ‘You know what, you solved your problems for you. I’ve got the same problem.’ The difference is that their problem is in a much bigger scale.

We’re like one of those speed boats trying to go out in zig and zag; they’re these big battleships.

They’re seeing the way that we’ve been going, and they’re saying, ‘How could we learn? How can we work together? From all the problems that you solved, we can save some pain from ourselves’.

So I look at it as a natural evolution. We’re still on the same path, still solving the same problem, but we are just solving them for more people, bringing the scale around

You started as a B2C organization. All of a sudden these much bigger organizations come to you as a FinTech startup. A lot of people talk about, ‘FinTech should collaborate more with banks; banks should collaborate more with FinTech’. You are doing this. What are some lessons that you think some larger organizations should take away if they want to partner with FinTech startups?

It’s a couple of things. Firstly, finding the right partner is difficult. I accept that. These companies have spent 20 years building from the ground. And billions of dollars. So most FinTech startups when they go out to big companies, what they say is ‘I want to leverage your brand’, ‘I want access to your brand’, ‘I want access to your customers’. That’s a very tough conversation, right?

I think what we’re trying to do is say, how can we do this in a way where we can scout out the landscape for you. We can use our advantages. Our goal is not building a battleship. Our goal is to do what we do well, build technology, test it with real people, understand that and learn from that. We can then take that learning and say to the bigger companies, ‘Here, you don’t have to go through the pain of this.’ And at that point the partnership becomes quite symbotic.

I think the challenge is always when there’s an overlap, some form of clash. You are someone who both want to be a disruptor, but also want to collaborate. And that is the tricky thing. What larger organizations see is the threat of FinTech startups. They just want the big virtual banks, all of their trial technologies. And here we are. We’re a FinTech that helps you defend against other FinTechs.

You are a third party service provider, in a position where you receive data. Clearly, it is a disruptive thing for many of the legacy banks that we know. What’s your view on data and an open API framework?

It’s interesting. Everyone assumes we want the data for ourselves. And actually, it’s almost the reverse. What we want to do is to say, ‘okay, we only have some. What we want to do is build the algorithm to learn it,’ and then go to banks and say, ‘How do you turn open APIs into a competitive advantage for you, if you accept that this was going to happen.’

We all know, inevitably, it will happen. How do we help companies?

This development is going to disrupt everything, like it can be between something that comes out and takes all of them. What we want to do is to say, ‘what you want to produce after the technology you see, so that you can be better off by being in control and collaborating at the same time,’ And that’s what you can see in every industry.

A great example that has to do with this is Payme. HSBC saw the wallets. They saw the payment services coming, and they said, ‘do we want to be left behind, or do we want to win the space?’ And they launch their own product in the market.

Clearly a lot of banks these days are very aware that FinTech and other developments in the world are going to disrupt their business models. How receptive are banks and other large financial institutions to changes and disruptions?

These are big, slow-moving, powerful institutions. You don’t build a bank for 200 years and change your business strategy every 6 months. So it takes a lot to get them to move.

What we’ve found is, they need a lot of convincing. And what they want to do is to see companies like us to take some ideas away, prove a concept, show them how it can work and make their life a bit easier.

Right now, next year is to produce that. Build a virtual bank. Build the open APIs. This is the time, where really, the acceleration starts.

And for Hong Kong, I want to see that next year, Hong Kong will come out and really grab us by the boots. That’s where we can step out. Because if your company, your market is succeeding; if you’re in the leading market from the get-go, then when you go to another market. It’s very easy. If you’re 3 years behind, by the time you go off cross border, the other competitor companies are bigger.

So it’s really make or break. I think everyone’s on the same boat. You see the virtual banks, you see e-payments. Everyone’s going to put everything out on the table. And we’ll see. It’s going to be exciting.
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