This article first appeared in Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 29, 2021 - December 5, 2021
When Kee Hui Jiang, a 33-year-old entrepreneur, was unable to find a mobile application that could automatically consolidate his credit card information and provide him with an overview, he decided to build one himself.
Thus, Finory, a credit card management app, was launched in July 2020 and has garnered over 2,000 users to date. In May this year, 1337 Ventures, a local venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage start-ups invested in the start-up. Finory’s co-founder is MN Hassan.
Kee applied for his first credit card soon after graduating from university. He did not expect the number of cards in his wallet to quickly increase to five in the next few years.
“I heard bad things about credit cards during my time in university. My friends said it could lead me to overspend and go into debt. I applied for my first card mainly to build my credit history. But in those years, I found it very useful to manage my cash flow and personal finances,” he says.
As an e-commerce seller, Kee’s monthly income was uncertain. Credit cards allowed him to purchase essential items without paying cash upfront when he was short on cash. They also provided him with various benefits such as cashback on petrol expenses and bonus points when he bought his favourite electronic devices and gadgets online.
However, they did not come without challenges. Kee found it hard to remember the payment due dates of each card. Missed payments, if they keep occurring, could amount to a hefty sum over time.
“The warning from my university friends is real. You could easily overspend without an overview of your expenses. You could also overspend when there are promotions online,” he says. It was also challenging for Kee to fully utilise the benefits of each credit card when he did not know how much he spent with each of them.
What he did back then was to diligently download the monthly e-statements of each credit card into his laptop and rename those files according to the card issuer, payment due date and amount due. He would check those files from time to time to ensure everything was in order. It worked, although it was time-consuming.
Kee believed there were many people like him who owned more than one credit card, and that an app that could automatically consolidate monthly statements and information would be well received.
Tan Lip Han, co-founder of digital payment services start-up AnyPay, is an investor in Finory. Payment solutions platform provider Revenue Group Bhd purchased a 70% stake in AnyPay for RM4.9 million in July this year.
“Finory is, so far, the first and only credit card management app in Malaysia,” says Kee. Apple’s App Store shows that Finory, which provides free services to its users, has an average rating of 4.9 out of 5, out of 73 reviews.
How does it work? Kee explains that users would need to sign up with the app by filling in their basic information, after which they would be provided with a unique email account. They then need to download their credit card e-statements to their laptops or smart devices and send them to the email account. A few seconds later, the card details would appear on the app.
Insights that Finory users can get from the app include a cashback summary — the amount of cashback users can obtain from their cards — and late payments, which is the outstanding credit that has not been paid off.
It also shows the finance charges — the interest accrued on the money that credit card users owe banks — and recurring charges, namely the repeat payments made each month.
The estimated annual fee, which is the fee credit card holders pay each year to enjoy various benefits, can also be found on the app.
“We provide our users with a feature known as cashback tracker that helps them fully utilise their credit cards’ benefits, and late payment reminders that notify them to make payments before the due dates,” says Kee.
Data extraction from the credit card e-statements is conducted via internally developed software without any human interaction. Finory does not store any personally identifiable information, such as credit card holders’ names and home addresses, on the servers.
The extracted information is partitioned and stored at various cloud servers in different geographical locations under Google Cloud to enhance cyber security, he adds. “We understand the importance of data protection. And we are looking to obtain an ISO certification on cyber security to assure our users that their data is safe.”
Why can’t Finory fully automate the process by extracting users’ credit card information directly from the banks? Kee says it is because open banking is still in its early stage locally.
Put simply, open banking is an initiative that enables banks to share customers’ financial data with each other and third-party service providers, such as financial technology (fintech) start-ups, via a type of software interface known as application programming interfaces (APIs).
Without a mature open banking ecosystem, Finory cannot extract consumers’ banking data from each bank as easily as the fintech start-ups in Europe.
“Open banking seems to have been forgotten by local industry players as the focus seems to be on digital banks. It is why there isn’t any mobile application in the market that helps users consolidate their credit card information. It is why we have to work around the problem by letting users upload their e-statements,” Kee says.
Kee and co-founder MN Hassan have not monetised the app yet, but they will soon introduce new solutions to users to generate revenue.
For instance, the app could analyse users’ spending habits and recommend credit cards with the best benefits. The app would then earn referral fees from the banks or financial comparison websites.
Kee also plans to provide online lending services for credit users to refinance their existing credit card loans at lower rates. “We could partner with a lender or provide the loan ourselves by applying for a licence. But it is not easy to become a moneylender as there are quite a lot of rules and regulations surrounding it,” he says. Finory could also generate income by placing advertisements on the app.
By the end of this year, Kee aims to let users consolidate more financial data by uploading the e-statements of their debit cards and loans, including car, home and personal loans.
He also wants to scale up and grow the start-up in the next few years and follow in the footsteps of similar companies such as China’s 51 Credit Card, now a listed entity on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and Cred in India.
Kee has reached out to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for guidance and plans to approach Bank Negara Malaysia and Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) for recognition and other opportunities.
“We hope to raise funds for our seed funding round in the first quarter of next year,” he says.
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