June 2, 2020
“FinTech Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis” is a new video series created by MEDICI Studio and FinStep Asia. In this Q&A session, David Rosa, CEO at Co-founder & CEO at Neat, answers a few questions about how they are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as an organization.
This video Q&A was moderated by Syed Musheer Ahmed – Managing Director of FinStep Asia, and Amit Goel – Founder of MEDICI. MEDICI’s new video series aims to showcase FinTech leaders in times of crisis and how they and their teams navigate these uncertain times.
Snippets from the discussion
Amit Goel: We have observed that it seems to be difficult to incorporate and open bank accounts for SMEs & small businesses and do a bunch of these things that you mentioned. Specifically, opening a bank account in places like Hong Kong, how hard is it? How much of that problem are you solving? Do you do digital onboarding?
David Rosa: Yes, one of our biggest value propositions, or our customers tell us, is that we have a quick and easy onboarding process. It's all online; it happens in 15 minutes and can be done from around the world at any time of day or night. This doesn't mean that it's not rigorous.
We've managed to strike a very good balance between the risk and the reward, and that is the reason for doing this type of business. You're not only incorporating; that is frankly, the easier part of the business. Offering an alternative to a bank account is very hard, especially for newly incorporated companies and young businesses. That again boils down to risk and reward.
Amit Goel: The general assumption in the market is that digital products should do much better in these times. We also know that you just raised about 11 million dollars. You are expanding – you opened an office in the UK. I wanted to understand some of the considerations. For example, I know that in the back-end, you switched from one bank to another. You're also thinking of switching the cardnet. What do you think about these things? How do you feel about growth? Do you expand geographically? Do you expand through a particular product line?
David: We've developed a set of core values by which we indeed run the company. The top core value for us is to put the customer at the center of anything we do. We need to be driven by what the customers demand and their pain points.
It's the pain points that we really love, and then we find solutions on the back of that. I think it's something very easily overlooked as an entrepreneur, and we have stuck to those very basic building blocks. We follow customers and their demands.
Syed Musheer Ahmed: You are helping companies in China. Now, even for companies based in Hong Kong, it's not simple to enter China or open bank accounts in China. Could you shed some light on your product in China?
David Rosa: The product is a global product. It's not yet a localized product in China. The reality is that a lot of trade that's happening in and out of China is conducted out of Hong Kong because Hong Kong is a convenient financial center to be based out of, aside from SEPA. So, it's cheap to have an account that allows you to receive and pay money in Hong Kong and perform domestic transfers. This is a huge advantage when it comes to conducting business with China at this time.
Syed Musheer Ahmed: As you mentioned, we've seen COVID’s impact in Hong Kong since late January, and we're now three months down the line. How have you and your team been managing work-from-home policies, compliance, etc., considering you have an international team? What has been the process of handing project deadlines, product launches, announcements, and changing of your branding from neat.com to neat.hk to neatcommerce.com?
David Rosa: After working through SARS, when COVID-19 started to take off, I shared my experiences working through SARS with the rest of the team. Most of my team probably were at school during the SARS outbreak, which was about 17 years ago.
You need to be focused on something. Typically, work helps because otherwise, it can be extremely distracting. It's a negative spiral, especially if you're working from home. It is extremely important to keep sane and train to be focused. Having learned it the hard way through SARS, it helped me steer the team through the COVID-19 environment.
Second, our team members. We allowed the entire team to work from home. We also kept the office open but made it a very controlled environment. This enables people to choose between working from home and coming to the office to be more focused. This has been very helpful to continue delivering on our product roadmap.
Syed Musheer Ahmed: How have you personally been dealing with this as a leader? Are you closer to your team? Are you paying more attention to their other needs? There have been multiple things happening at the same time for you. How are you and the management team dealing with that?
David Rosa: I'm definitely much closer when it comes to a weekly basis – not only with my direct reports but also with people who report to my direct reports. I have lunch with them. I have coffee with them. It's very important to be very close to people because there are dynamics that are not always obvious. People are not always sharing. In general, the biggest challenge perhaps is to deal with different regions and different policies.
The ultimate advantage is that we are still a small company. We're 62 people. The majority of us are here in Hong Kong. It's still a period where we are nimble enough.
Our funding round has been a major milestone for us. It's been all positive. We feel extremely fortunate that we are in a segment of the economy that is enabled by an environment like this. We want to make sure that we deliver that positivity to ultimately our customers.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. To watch the full discussion, follow the link to the recorder webinar here.