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MEDICI Q&A with Deniz Güven, CEO at Mox Bank

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“FinTech Leadership During the COVID-19 Crisis” is a new video series brought to you by MEDICI Studio and FinStep Asia. In this video, Deniz Güven, CEO at Mox bank, answers a few questions about how they are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as an organization. We cover Mox’s business, the launch of its new product in Hong Kong, and Deniz’s advice for other founders.

This Q&A session was held on April 18, 2020, and was hosted and moderated by Syed Musheer Ahmed, Managing Director at FinStep Asia, and Amit Goel, Founder of MEDICI. This video series aims to showcase FinTech leaders and how they and their teams are navigating these uncertain times.

Snippets From the Discussion

Amit Goel: Can you give us a background and a little bit of an explanation for what Mox does. I understand it is Mox by Standard Chartered. How does it operate? What products and services does it offer?

Deniz Güven Mox is one of the first virtual banks in Hong Kong, and we are backed by Standard Chartered, PCCW Group, Hong Kong Telecom, and Trip.com. We started the journey of building a virtual bank 18 months ago; today, Mox has more than 160 people. We obtained our license in 2019 and built our technology from scratch. Now, we focus on building something different, and there are a couple of areas I want to focus on.

Firstly, we are focusing on customer problems and pain points. That's why we started with a huge ethnographic research project to identify the major problems customers face in Hong Kong. We identified more than 87 different pain points, and now, we are building services to solve some of these problems. Mox is going to be a service-led bank instead of a product-led bank. We are building services with our partners to solve these pain points.

Secondly, the ecosystem – as a bank, the ecosystem is important for us. Our JV partners are leaders in telco in Hong Kong, and they have more than 4 million customers. They send over 4 million invoices every month in Hong Kong. This is a great potential for us. And, Trip.com are our travel partners globally. They have more than 210 million users. We partnered with them because of two main reasons:

  1. To build end-to-end digital services together instead of bringing another credit card with a different color to Hong Kong.
  2. To create distribution channels through our JV Partners as this is the most important piece for challenger banks or virtual banks.

Amit Goel: How you acquire the customers at a lower cost and very efficiently is an important part. Here’s a follow-up question from what you said about building from scratch: does that mean that you are building your banking solutions, your own payment modules, and other similar things in-house? Or are you using other solutions and FinTech solutions as well?

Deniz Güven: We've worked with several FinTech and partners. We are building everything in Hong Kong for Hong Kong. Even our developers and engineers are from here.

Mox is a full, cloud-native bank. So, everything is on the cloud. The core banking system is important for traditional banks, but given our model, we need a connected system on the cloud. Our core systems are running on a smart contract model connected with APIs. Instead of creating many layers between the front-end and the core banking system, we have only one layer compared to the eight to nine different layers found in the traditional methods. Having too many layers creates silos in the banking system, and these silos mean different groups, different technologies, and different dependencies.

Syed Musheer Ahmed: You have just announced a numberless card. And in this time of crisis, how do you view the product launch? The objective is to showcase to other FinTech founders, and how they can also still launch new products or look to launch new products, especially since Mox has a license but hasn't officially come online yet for the retail market. So, it would be good to understand the thinking behind the announcement of your product launch and how you've been building towards it.

Deniz Güven: We are indeed facing challenging times, and we are monitoring everything. As everything is becoming more digital and virtual, this is a big opportunity for banks like us.

Yes, we did announce our numberless card recently. There's huge excitement in the market. We've received more than 50–60 calls every day from interested people. And, we are receiving emails and comments on social media as well. These numberless cards don't require a card number, a security number, or an expiry date because the Mox app acts as the remote controller. The card will be connected with your Mox app, and through your Mox app, you will be connected with a lot of different digital services; you will be able to do all the transactions digitally.

Syed Musheer Ahmed: In this time of crisis, what is your advice to other FinTech founders, especially young founders that are dealing with difficulties on various levels?

Deniz Güven: I believe they must focus on their teams first because everything starts with the team. I believe the most important asset of Mox is our people. But as an agile bank, as a fully cloud-native bank, we can do everything remotely. Secondly, they need to understand their customers.

Amit Goel: That's an incredibly positive thing to end this conversation with. Another thing I want to remind people of is that some great companies came out of the last crisis in 2008. They include WhatsApp, Venmo, Slack, and Square. So, as somebody rightly said, right, “Do not waste a good crisis.”

For the full discussion, watch the video here.