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Life At A Fintech Startup: 5 Interns Share Their Lessons Learned

At Funding Societies this summer, we welcomed a diverse group of interns from various universities in Singapore. To conclude their internship journey at Funding Societies, we had organized a HTHT session consisting of Kelvin Teo, co-founder & CEO and the summer interns of 2017:

  • Sherman Lim, BSc (Economics) and 2nd major in Strategic Management, Singapore Management University (SMU)
  • Clarissa Poedjiono, BSc (Information Systems), SMU
  • Eugene Ng, BBM (Finance), SMU
  • Victor Tan, BSc (Economics & Finance), Singapore Institute of Management – University of London (SIM-UOL)
  • Martin Indrawata, BA (Political Science), National University of Singapore (NUS)

Why intern at a FinTech Startup?

Victor: Like many of my peers, I work at a large company during summer break. However, after reading about Singapore’s startup culture and how the economy is primed for a startup ecosystem, I was certain that I wanted to work for a startup. As a finance student and someone who would use Fintech such as cashless transactions, virtual wallets and crowdfunding, I knew I wanted to learn all about what goes on behind the scenes in a FinTech startup.

Clarissa: As a major in Information Systems, I wanted to join a tech firm. After reading about the FinTech disruption in the banking sector, I realised that perhaps the best learning ground for me would be to join a tech start-up.

Sherman: Having interned at a traditional corporate set-up before, I thought it will be interesting to find out what it will be like to intern at a startup. Of course, I have heard many stories and read case studies in classes that working in a startup will be really hectic and challenging. I also thought this will be a good chance to explore what I wanted to pursue as a career. As to why FinTech, this is the latest trend in the financial sector and is sure to disrupt the business models of traditional financial institutions. I figured, why not join a FinTech startup to learn more about it.

Read More: My Greatest Takeaways From The 12-week Internship At Funding Societies

What was the job seeking and interview process like?

Clarissa: I found out about FS through SMU’s career portal. I found the background of the company and the job description attractive. I went through 2 rounds of Skype interview and 1 assignment submission.

Martin: I met Ishan (Head of Data Science) during a talk at NUS and he shared about the opportunity. The interview process was great as I got to learn more about the team dynamics and leadership of the company (as positively reflected by Xin Ying and Vikas, Head of Business Development and Marketing respectively). What I was heartened about was that my interviewers asked me on things non-related to the job, which I feel was a positive valuation of me as a potential contributor to the company.

Eugene: I got to learn about Funding Societies through a friend of mine who was going to work at Oliver Wyman, who was in turn told how one of the seniors at Oliver Wyman had left the company to join Funding Societies, a startup. The 2 co-founders are also from Harvard and consulting background. It goes to show the caliber of people who run the company, they hail from some of the best institutions around.

Oddest question during interview?

Sherman: Right at the start of the interview – “Do you have any questions for me?”

Victor: “How would your family describe you?”

Martin: “Why do you think Trump won the elections?”

Eugene: “Don’t you want to spend your holidays travelling instead?” (I did, but I definitely didn’t wanna travel for 4 months straight)

What were your most memorable moments during your internship?

Sherman: Definitely the karaoke session during the company retreat! I had a really enjoyable time with the entire company (including our Malaysian colleagues) unwinding and playing hard after an extended period of crazy and intense work. It was also funny seeing our bosses (Not Kelvin) doing the Macarena & Gangnam Style dance.

Victor: I recall all the nights the team spent together watching Game of Thrones which the company airs weekly. It’s really cool that the team stays back after work for dinner and watch TV together. Fun fact: The company even has a Slack channel dedicated to the discussion of our favorite TV show.

Eugene: The most memorable moments for me were all the small chats and hangouts with the colleagues in the office. They went pretty deep into personal viewpoints and philosophies, and I got a really good feel of the diversity in the office from these chats.

What have you learnt that you can apply in school or life?

Clarissa: As an Information Systems student, I’ve always strived to improve my technical skills and this internship has given me insights on how IT projects  solve real business problems. I got to run a flagship project with Sherman and was given freedom to explore the possibilities of executing the project. I was inspired by the leadership skills of the leaders in FS who were gifted yet very kind and helpful.

Victor: I think my biggest takeaway is the need to start broadening my scope and venture into skills beyond my own field. Especially in a startup, you have to make sure that you have multidisciplinary skills as you might be called upon to do a task that would require a skill set that is different from what you learn in school. For instance, I’ve witnessed how some basic coding skills can really help to accomplish certain tasks more efficiently as well. In a company sharing session, I remember Kelvin sharing about the need to learn as much as possible but also ensuring that you have a unique specialization to set yourself apart from others.

Eugene: Technically I’m already a graduate, so I’d say adaptability. The dynamism and pace in the workplace far exceeds that of school life, especially so in a startup like Funding Societies. It’s great to get used to being able to operate and thrive in such a charged up environment.

Has this internship met your expectations?

Sherman: Honestly this internship has exceeded my expectations. We were given full autonomy to initiate and drive projects in the company with the full support of our mentors and the teams. I even commenced my investment journey here by investing into loans on the platform. I have seen how detailed the SME assessment is and that gives me the confidence to earn handsome returns.

Clarissa: It has exceeded my expectations in every way. I’m thankful for the people I got to work with and the skills that I got from this internship.

Victor: Definitely. I didn’t expect to learn from so many brilliant individuals. (The team consists of alumni from various local universities and from different disciplines, including NUS, SMU and SIM as well as alumni from Ivy-league universities including Harvard, Stanford and LSE. I had the opportunity to learn vastly different skill sets from the best and the brightest people.

Martin: Exceeded expectations. The amount of smart and driven people crowded into a 15m by 10m room (old office at Raffles Place), plus my wonderful mentor (Xin Ying) made my 7 weeks there an amazing one.

Kelvin: Yes, FS would be a full step slower, if not for our interns. It’s amazing what one can achieve, if you put a little faith in them. All our interns in the previous batch has joined us full-time. We’d be delighted to have our star interns onboard too before or after their graduation, including Eugene even if he’s joined the ‘dark side’.

Read More: This New App Can Help You Kick Start Your Investment Journey

Weirdest thing you’ve done in FS?

Sherman: Doing the Macarena & Gangnam Style dance with the bosses. It was weird but still fun.

Victor: I literally designed the toilet signs. The Game of Thrones fans in office (probably half the office) was upset that we couldn’t name the meeting room after the locations in Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, so as consolation we named the toilets Hodor for ladies and Mordor for men.

Martin: I used Kelvin’s nerf gun (Sorry Kelvin) and had a nerf battle with some of the team members after work!

Advice for future interns?

Sherman: Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can during your internship. Always be ready to learn and accept challenges even if you think you do not have the skills required. The FS team is always ready to guide and support you along the way.

Martin: Come in with an open mind. Be prepared to accelerate your learning, because the learning curve will be steep. Talk to everyone, especially someone from a function you don’t know much about. Ask, ask, ask; but also ask the right questions – questions you cannot find the answers for in Google. If your reaction to topics like UI/UX or Software Engineering is “eeeh, so difficult”, then FS is not the place.

Eugene: Don’t be choosy about what you do, there’s no place for picking and choosing in a startup. Nobody can silo themselves off as just “Business Development” or “Tech”, everybody has to synergize with each other in order for the company to thrive. If this means doing something outside of your own job scope or your initial expectations, just embrace it! It’s another chance to learn.

Kelvin: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the others in speech, in conduct, in values, in faith and in conscience.”

This article was first posted on the blog of Funding Societies (Singapore). Click here for the original article.

Funding Societies is a DollarsAndSense Brand Connect partner. If you are interested to know them better, you can find out more on what they do on our DollarsAndSense Brand Connect Page.

6 Different Types Of Alternative Investments You Should Consider

Whether you’re just looking, or starting out in investing, it will be helpful to understand the major instruments with which people tend to invest. This video gives an overview of 6 main investment options, as well as their qualities and characteristics. 

Read More: Starter’s Guide: 6 Different Types of Investments For You To Consider

Read Also: This App Can Help You Kick Start Your Investment Journey

Find out more about alternative investing at Funding Societies here.

Funding Societies is a DollarsAndSense Brand Connect partner. If you are interested to know them better, you can find out more on what they do on our DollarsAndSense Brand Connect Page.

 

The future of peer-to-peer lending in Asia

This article was first published by GTnews

The financial services industry has taken huge strides in the last 20-odd years, with path-breaking innovations in the financial system such as the advent of automated teller machines (ATMs), credit cards, online banking, mobile banking and sophisticated loan and deposit products. The speed of innovation has been unprecedented.

One new offering that has developed more recently is peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, also known as marketplace lending or crowdfunding. The concept seeks to leverage on the existing gaps in the lending system and serve the underbanked borrower segment while at the same time providing excellent returns to the lenders, who are usually retail investors with excess cash.

Since P2P lending is primarily an online proposition, the inherent costs and overheads are low. P2B (peer-to-business) lending seeks to use this concept to fund businesses which don’t have access to bank funding. Personal loans and loans to small businesses are the two most common lending products within the P2P framework.

The roots of P2P lending lie in the UK and US and go back to 2005-06, with lenders such as Zopa (the first P2P lender), Prosper, Lending Club and Ondeck being the pioneers. Thereafter came other big players like Funding Circle (UK) and Society One (Australia). Over the years, however, Asia has overtaken the US, primarily led by China. In 2015, P2P lenders globally originated loans worth US$64bn, with China contributing more than half of the total. Major lenders in Asia include:

China – Lufax, Dianrong, Yirendai
India – Faircent, Lenden Club, i2ifunding
Southeast Asia – Funding Societies, Modalku
Hong Kong – WeLab
Japan – Maneo

Unlike in the US and UK as well as some other developed markets, where P2P is predominantly an online model, a majority of the P2P lenders in Asia have a mix of online and offline models. Lack of data availability, low internet penetration, manual processes and regulatory challenges in emerging Asian economies are some of the challenges that inhibit growth of completely automated online models.

In the last few years, a new set of completely online P2P lenders has emerged. They use behavioural data from social media, acquire data through partnerships, and also use innovative technology-based credit scoring methods for giving out faster and lower-cost loans to underserved segments. One such example is Paipaidai in China which uses the online trading history of the borrower to underwrite loans.

Another recent phenomenon is the advent of cross-border P2P lending. Crowdcredit funds borrowers in emerging markets including Europe and Latin America through retail investors based in Japan.

The P2P segment has also attracted a significant amount of venture capital (VC) activity in recent times, as well as other funding, with some of the most notable funding for P2P lending companies in the Asian context including:

Lufax: Raised about US$19bn in their Series B round

Dianrong: Raised about US$1bn in their Series C round

WeLab: Raised U$160m in their Series B round

Funding Societies: Raised about US$7m in their Series A round

The key growth drivers for P2P lending in Asia include:

  • Rapidly-developing and high-growth Asian economies with large but credit-worthy underbanked populations
  • Huge funding gaps where banks are not able to lend due to structural inefficiencies
  • The availability of a large pool of retail investors with excess cash
  • Increasing internet and mobile phone penetration that complements the online product proposition and reach
  • Fintech-led fast online processes that help reduce costs and overheads while aiding customer adoption
  • Support from regulators and government bodies towards inclusive financial growth
  • According to Statista, P2P lending globally is expected to cross US$1 trillion in loan origination by 2050. Asia, given its unique positioning, should account for a significant portion of that total.