Interview : Best Tips to Someone Who Starts Their Career in Fintech with Kelvin Lee
Written by: Kelvin Lee
Team Spotlight & Power Hour Episode 12 features Kelvin Lee, President — Asia Pacific of WadzPay, who has been in the payment industry for the past 28 years and talking about: “Best tips to someone who starts their career in fintech”.
Hear from him on what is coming next and how he sees some of the first steps he would take toward achieving his goals for WadzPay
Head to our Youtube Channel to listen to his insights.
What is your typical day as a President, a husband, and a father?
I believe in being a good husband first, right? And then, you get lots of love and care for your wife because it is crucial that if your wife is happy, naturally, your kids will feel good at home. And similarly, the effects will cascade down to your professional life. So, instead of wearing too many masks over three different roles, it all starts from home.
So, my typical day starts at least 6:00 AM. I wake up and get my kids ready to send them to school. From there, I drive straight to work and usually reach the office at about 8:15 in the morning. I love to start the week by checking all my emails and going through what I need to do for the day. Typically, as the President of APAC, we are overseeing the entire operation, sales, and the future.
Where do you want to drive the company through?
So, it has been quite challenging, but at the same time, I have been in the payment industry for the past 28 years. So apart from the region, the operations and how we want to innovate and move forward is essential.
We finish work around 5:00PM and go home. For me personally, I made the point earlier, before I go into the house, anything to do with work I hang outside the door. Home time is home time, that has been my practice for many years.
What is your favorite activity to unwind?
Well, I love cooking and I have tried many different Asian cuisines. I find preparing the right ingredients and following the recipe helps me to relax. However, I am not too fond of washing dishes. Other than that, I used to play badminton. About four years ago, I had three surgeries over two months which stopped me from actively pursuing badminton as it is a high impact game. I also love to read books, some levels of fiction but not anything heavy. Those are the things that help me unwind.
What advice do you give to the 21-year-old version of you?
I am 55 this year, so looking back, I would advise myself to be passionate about what I am good at and be very picky when selecting my specialty area.
But along the way, you will take time to appreciate the flowers and know that you appreciate life and the people around you. It is the social impact of what you have done or whether you can contribute to social responsibility. Those are the things I think matter in life.
Best tips to someone who starts their career in fintech
Fintech sounds glamorous but to be honest, it takes a lot of commitment, sacrifices, and both personal and professional determination to push on because you will not be the only one doing it. Always be a team. There are always technical issues, and in some cases, regulatory challenges.
The person must be very grounded to achieve and deliver. So, my tip to everyone is perseverance, and at the same time, you must be an entrepreneur. Believe in what you can offer to better people’s lives with your fintech solutions or innovations.
If something is not working, there’s no point to keep trying the same thing. But when you are shifting your approach, you are not deviating from your objective, as long as this shift is technical or operational. So, I see a lot of companies in fintech fail because they like to get mass, but they forgot about how you monetize, onboard people, and do a lot of research and studies on the country of operations.
What advice would you give to women who would like to start a career in tech?
First, we need more women in technology. OK, that is my personal belief. And to me, gender equality and respect for members of the opposite sex are fundamental. Because from the perspective of innovation, structure, logical ecosystems accompanied with a well-balanced gender equality culture will achieve operational consensus across its peers.
And I have seen it personally, and that kind of company, the type of culture where there’s mutual respect of gender equality and respect among all, is likely to succeed better and faster, while operating I a more effective way. So that is why I said it should not be a male-dominated society.
A company needs that culture. You can call me a feminist; I encourage women to start a career, but it must be helped by both men and women together.
What is more important for a company’s profits, streamlining operations or expanding the consumer base?
I think that numbers do not lie. They are always based on performance. I believe that expanding customer base tops this. Everything else will fall into place because without a good customer base, even if you streamline the highly effective operation, it is quite useless. Profit is naturally reflected based on customer base and operational efficiencies. So, to top it off, I think the customer base should always be at the top, customer base adoption and then everything else will fall in place.
It is essential that the product is ready to go onto the market, but we need to be very selective: we want to reach out to important customer segments. From there when you get a customer base you streamline to what you are delivering, what you are presenting and what you can do for your customer in terms of scalability, profitability, and growth. This will enable you to service your customer better.
Your subordinates have presented you with a project plan that is highly attractive financially, but it tests your ethics. What would you do?
In my early or mid-30s onwards, anything that contradicts my integrity, I will walk away. I do not feel that any deals should be compromised against integrity. Many people do not know about goal practices or lawful governance.
I have walked away from deals that are worth over US$200K because of potentially corrupt practices. It is not worth pursuing. No one should compromise the integrity of the article practice and the lawful governance and/or what you want the company to try towards.
How would you react to a team member who challenges your opinion?
I welcome constructive challenges. I am good with numbers. I observe strict discipline in myself to address the bottom line. So, I look at the bottom lines, and if you can challenge me and make the bottom line better with better ideas to elevate our state and our statistical data in the best way to move forward, I will always welcome this. Bring it up if you have ideas that can be supported with numbers, I do not operate in a dictatorship; everybody’s part of it. We will all wear the same batch. So, I welcome all these constructive challenges.
Can you tell me about your leadership style?
I’m not a free enterprise: I do not go along the floor, if everybody votes one way; I will vote the same. My wife will tell you I am more of an imperialist. But I see leadership styles are based on two main criteria: how much you can do for the company and the team and how much the team can do for you.
So, I belong to the former, meaning that I want to see how much I can do for the team and for the team because, if you are holding a leadership position, it is not about yourself. Make sure that everyone is happy. And that you are growing the company at the same time.
What is your vision for WadzPay, and what are some of the first steps you would take toward achieving it
I have seen a lot of payment solutions. I have worked with global MNC companies like ACI, Visa International and MasterCard. And to be honest with you, our leaders and founders had a very honorable and credible vision to drive WadzPay solutions. We all know right now financial blockchain technology is where the payment industry is blossoming.
It is being adopted across the world at a rapid rate. We are in a very good position: our products are ready and we are able to demonstrate that we are the payment orchestration platform for all kinds of payments, whether digital assets, stablecoins, CBDC, or Fiat.
It is a common payment rail. I have not come across a single company able to do that. Even card scheme companies don’t run on blockchain rails. We can orchestrate all of this under common blockchain rails. At the top, blockchain is a very secure network, so we are able to increase security and mitigate against fraud. One of the first steps we need to do as a company is to educate our team members on the solution which goes beyond a wallet.
Whatever digital assets you want to run through, or even issue Central Bank Digital Currencies, have a cross-border between digital assets and bank accounts, cards for payment, person to person transfers, we are business to business. We are able to do this in a distributed Ledger environment. The first step is to address it with the team members and ensure customer-facing ones such as the sales team can articulate that.
Then the team needs to qualify and quantify who are the customers we want to go for. Sometimes the customer may not know what they want, and they rely on our team to convey the options effectively.
So those are the two key steps that we must take internally and externally, and of course, media plays a vital role. We operate our Singapore HQ, but the world is so big. Very few people have heard of us here from the little red dot. So, we need to work across our offices in Dubai, India, and others to be able to promote our vision and the same common idea. To express our feelings; to share them with the global market; I think that will be the first step towards achieving what we want to do.
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WadzPay is an interoperable blockchain-based payments ecosystem. The company was founded in 2018 in Singapore and currently operates in South East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
WadzPay saw the potential for CBDC and Digital Assets to lead the next revolution in the payments industry: enabling faster payments, improvements in security, and cost-efficiency with optionality.
WadzPay is working with large international payment companies, banks, and global companies to enable digital asset-based transaction processing and settlement.