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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.”

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.

 

How Technology Can Revolutionise The Way We Invest

The older generations love gold and properties as their mode of investment and method to hedge against inflation. With the advancement of the Internet and technology, the new generation of investors are now more well-equipped with information and new investment opportunities. This is especially so in recent decades, when the huge leap in technology opens up a whole lot of new sub sectors in the digital industry which can potentially revolutionise the way we invest.

Let us look into 5 growing digital sub sectors and how it can create new investment opportunities.

1. Crowdfunding

According to Investopedia, Crowdfunding refers to the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture. Typically, crowdfunding is either reward-based or equity-based.

For reward-based crowdfunding, entrepreneurs or inventors will pitch their product idea to investors, in exchange for a free or discounted finished product. An example of such crowdfunding website would be Kickstarter, the world largest reward based crowdfunder where over US$2 billion has been pledged by more than 10 million people since they launched in 2009. Oculus Rift began as a Kickstarter project 3 years ago, and eventually raised US$2 billion. Pledgers of the project were promised to get the upcoming Oculus Rift for free (how we wish we knew this project back then!) However, this type of crowdfunding is not considered as an investment.

As for equity-based crowdfunding, investors can chip in for the projects in exchange for the equity of the firm. The more prominent equity-based crowdfunding platforms are Seedr and CrowdFunder. Locally, Fundnel also offers various funding methods for businesses and investors depending on their suitability.

Based on 2014 statistics, Asia is recording exponential growth in crowdfunding market, contributing 21% to the global funding volume. Globally, an estimated US$87,000 is raised every hour.

2. Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Lending 

P2P lending refers to a debt financing method which enables individuals to borrow or lend, without the traditional brick and mortar financial intermediaries. Investors can lend money to the businesses in exchange for periodic interest payment and the principal amount upon maturity. It is also known as social lending. Without the traditional financial intermediaries such as banks and finance companies, P2P lending narrows the interest spread between lenders and the borrowers which is beneficial to both parties.

P2P lending is usually deemed as risker as investors are lending their money to businesses that banks might have rejected their loans. However, there are many reasons why banks can reject a loan. And one of the main reason is that these SMEs do not have enough history of track records in earning ability or cash flows.

P2P lending platforms can help to assure the investors by doing first-round screening of the SMEs before posting them online. Financial information are also provided for the investors to do due diligence.

MoolahSenseFunding Societies and Capital Match are some of the P2P lending platforms in Singapore.

3. Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a digital currency (also known as crypto-currency) created in 2009 with the promise of lower transaction fee than traditional online payment methods. It is the most accepted digital currency and some businesses accept Bitcoin as a mode of payment for goods or services. Besides acting as a mode of payment, Bitcoin is also seen as a type investment for many people. However, price of Bitcoin can be very volatile. The highest recorded price was US$1,151 per Bitcoin in 2013 while the lowest was US$205 in 2015. As at 15 Feb 2015, price of 1 Bitcoin is at US$404.

To find out moreBitcoins Investopedia 

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4. Direct Purchase Insurance (DPI)

DPI enable consumers to buy basic life insurance policies directly from the insurance companies online, without having to go through financial advisors and hence, bypass commission charges. This initiative implemented by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to allow Singaporeans to have access to basic protection without any financial advice. Consumers can compare financial products offered by different insurance companies using online platforms like CompareFirst and take their time to decide which policy best suits them.

This initiative, together with vast availability of information online, people can make more informed choice and hence reduces the conflict of interest for insurance agents. The current commission based system might prevent some of the agents from recommend the soundest advice for their clients.

Read Also: Will Buying Life Insurance Online Be The Next Big Thing?

5. Ecommerce

Everyone loves Ecommerce. Yes, everyone, even the Durian sellers.

People love to buy things online for many reasons. It can be due to convenience, price competitiveness, price comparison or variety. The trend of buying things online is set to grow further and hence, listed ecommerce companies presents an unprecedented investment opportunities for the investors. The ecommerce sector is undergoing explosive growth, attracting US$112 billion worth of investments globally in 2014.

With increased connectivity and the advancement of technology, it spurs a new wave of innovation and the birth of new subsectors. This also presents more investment options hence moving investors away from the more traditional investment methods. It is worth looking more in-depth in digital sector than ever before.

To find out more about the digital sector, visit sgx.com/digitalsector

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