Interview: Business Advice From Kenneth Teo
Welcome a new month with our latest Team Spotlight and Power Hour!
Episode 3 features Kenneth Teo, our Senior Vice President — Investor Relations and Special Projects who shares three common questions investors typically ask. He shares the best business advice that he has ever been given: simplify and don’t over-engineer! Head to our Youtube Channel to listen to his little nuggets of insight.
In our Team Spotlight section, we ask WadzPay’s executive leadership left-field questions to familiarise our readers with who the leaders are as individuals, on a deeper level.
Your role is Senior Vice President — Investor Relations and Special Projects which sounds like two different disciplines for me. Can you tell me a bit about it?
Sure thing. It’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? These two roles are intertwined and complement one another.
For investor relations — To put it simply, I help WadzPay or Anish manage investors. This entails capital raising, documentation, due diligence, negotiating term sheets with strategic investors, and keeping the investors updated on the company, its progress, developments, and financials, reassuring them that their money is in good hands with WadzPay with Anish.
Special Projects — Again, to try to put it simply, I look at developing markets, business opportunities and products for WadzPay. Along with coming up with strategies and identifying opportunities. This means working with regulators, key market players, potential partners to ensure seamless execution and delivery of the project. At the same time, keep a lookout for potential meaningful acquisition targets to grow WadzPay and find the capital to fund the project or strategy.
Most three common questions investors/potential investors would ask you?
It typically revolves around market opportunity, traction, the company’s ability to execute and exit plans, and obviously valuation for any investments.
Translating that to questions would be how big the market that you are targeting is? Your strategy right now to penetrate the market. Plan for the next 3 years, following 5 years, and finally exit strategy. We would need to know the market and articulate a rock-solid business plan in how we will implement it.
Then will come the question: Does your company have what it needs right now to execute those plans and gain market share. Fundamentally they will need to look at the team, experience, background, networks, skill sets, and commitment to the company. The team needs to have both hard skills and soft skills to be resilient, determined, and the ability to pivot to ensure the company’s success.
Lastly would be the question on valuation, which is most often the most delicate topic. In the private equity world, it is often more straightforward than the VC/ startup world. Private Equity investors most often look simply at a blend of 3 models: EBITDA Multiplication, Discounted Cashflow forecasting and Market Comparables or Net Asset Value/ Liquidation methods before deciding on a valuation.
On top of the models above, in the VC/Startup world, and given that most of the time startups are pre-revenue with little or no assets, investors also look at the cost of duplication — which means is the investor better of building his own from scratch or investing in the company.
VC’s given that most of the time have an investment horizon depending on fund life have a method commonly used where they look at the terminal value of the business in the harvest/ exit year and working backward with the projected Returns on Investment and investment amount to calculate the pre-money valuation.
In my opinion, the valuation of companies is more of a science, while the valuation of startups is more of an art.
What’s the best business advice people had given to you? And what’s the best business advice you think you have provided to your CEO?
The best business advice I received from an ex-boss whilst I was in banking is always to stick to fundamentals. Keep things simple, and don’t over-engineer. Also that the market is critical, listen to what the market is saying.
On whats is the best advice I have given to Anish, it is hard to outthink Anish given his experience in running businesses, payments, fintech and just about everything else; I think the best advice I have given him is to convince him to hire me to help him grow the business.
He is the overall visionary, key business driver and general but needs captains to deliver and be accountable for any projects that we take on. He knew that before I told him, and luckily for me, stars were aligned, and he managed to create a role for me in the company. Hopefully, he is not regretting his decision yet. Let’s see.
Is there something that you used to do that you loved but you’ve now stopped doing?
Does partying and chasing tail count? I would say playing rugby was a sport that I loved, and I thought I was pretty good at it. I played rugby at junior college level cos I couldn’t make the soccer team and almost played at national levels recommended by my coach. I stopped cos I busted my shoulder. Playing soccer once a week, golf once a week, playing tennis once and bike 50km at least once a week.
In our Power Hour section, we ask WadzPay’s executive leadership in-depth questions about the fields of Fintech, digital currencies and beyond.
How large is the potential market in our sector? Can you give us your perspective on this?
The potential of our sector is tremendous. The applications that WadzPay provides, limitless. We are looking at the entire digital payments market; revenues amount to just under USD2 trillion dollars globally, comprising more than 400 billion transactions.
Our biggest market or competitor is cash. At least 1.7 billion adults in the world remain unbanked/underserved or not connected to the global financial/payments grid. At least 64% of the world’s payments are still transacted in cash. COVID brought upon this shift, driving preference towards digital payments: bringing existing fiat into the payments grid.
E-commerce remains the key driver for digital payments, with volumes are expected to hit $5.3 trillion in 2021 and projected to exceed $6.3 trillion In the next three years.
Our target markets, Asia Pacific and MENA represent the most significant opportunities, making up the bulk of the unbanked population and 65% of the USD2 trillion payment revenues in 2021.
WadzPay is well-positioned to capitalize on these opportunities. We have partnered with or are in discussions with strategic market players in providing our solutions to the markets.
How quickly do you see the adoption of merchants accepting new payment methods in SEA?
Globally, merchant acquiring has evolved over the past decade from a legacy processing and hardware business to a full-stack software and merchant services solution.
The evolution of merchant services typically involves a pattern in which revenues from merchant processing are being commoditized. In response, players seek to differentiate by expanding their product suite or building scale — mainly through acquisitions — across geographies, distribution (e.g., integrated software vendors, bank-led), and delivery channels (e.g., digital, point of sale).
One of the pandemic’s most visible impacts on financial services has been the dramatic acceleration in shifts toward e-commerce and digital payments. This is true in more mainstream verticals, such as fashion and groceries, and in merchant segments like healthcare, professional services, and education, which historically have not received a material portion of payments through B2C digital channels. This has led to unprecedented digitization of small-business commerce across geographies, mostly through marketplace platforms.
Southeast Asia is on the cusp of a financial revolution. About 49% of urban consumers in the region who are commercial bank customers already use e-wallets. It is projected that the proportion will reach 84% by 2025. Adoption could accelerate in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, which has triggered a sharp rise in digital payments and home delivery.
Low acceptance by merchants is the main stumbling block in the path to greater e-wallet usage. Yet 74% of merchants surveyed in the region say they would accept e-wallets if barriers to broader adoption, such as poor understanding of processes, complex merchant payment processing, and high fees, are addressed.
With the necessary infrastructure, processes, and onboarding setting, merchants are ready to jump on the bandwagon and an all too eager population keen to pay digitally. We are only at the start but should see tremendous improvements in the next 3 to 5 years.
Any insightful prediction you can share here as an investor relations expert?
Digital disruption is already a fact of life around the world. Developing nations account for most of that growth:
Developing nations have been the vanguard in the digital payment revolution largely because conventional consumer financial services are underdeveloped and riddled with friction. It is hard for consumers to get credit cards from banks in many nations because there is no way to verify borrowers creditworthiness.
And when credit cards are available, many merchants resist accepting them because of high fees. Paying with wads of cash can also be inconvenient; finding ATMs to make withdrawals is often difficult. And ATMs require bank accounts, which often require extensive documentation. The process of registering and completing electronic transactions through banking accounts, meanwhile, can be time-consuming and frustrating.
Regulatory agencies in many nations are supporting the development of e-payment infrastructure to promote financial inclusion. About 90% of the world’s government has indicated positivity toward CBDC’s, Stable Coins and the use of digital currencies.
Many countries have provided systems that allow for free, instantaneous money transfers with high levels of security. In most of the region, such transfers require several days. Several Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Thailand, have followed China’s path and are well advanced toward standardized QR codes.
I envision that more of the unbanked will have access to the financial system, lower costs of transfers, lower use of fiat and widespread acceptance of Stable Coins and CBDC’s. We will see this change in the next 3 to 5 years. This is the future of payments.
What’s the most challenging part of convincing potential investors? And also the success part?
The most challenging part of convincing investors is getting them to comprehend the scale and the opportunity of what we are trying to do. WadzPay is going to build a whole new payments highway embracing the acceptance and utilization of digital assets. The existing highways built in the 70s are outdated and need a revamp. They are not suited to take on the payments and interoperability across systems today. This is going to be a mega shift from the traditional system where the old systems are deconstructed. There is always a fear of the unknown. Everyone is talking about the digitalization of payments but few dare to venture into a system that has not yet been proven.
We have many meaningful conversations with leaders in the fintech space and those who understand the magnitude of what we are trying to do. Our investors need to be aligned with us, our vision and believe in the future of payments and what we are trying to build — in the adoption of digital currencies, helping the underbanked and making payments accessible to all.
As an investor relation, in creating a robust business framework, what can you ignore? Or maybe what first-order problems are you solving?
It is difficult to ignore any aspect of building a robust business framework, especially in an industry like ours that is continuously evolving. Budgeting and regulatory compliance are our key considerations to which we always need to adhere to. The only item that we can probably ignore is resources/human resources allocation, as most of us are wearing 4 to 5 hats. Life in a startup!
My key focus right now is to work with investors in raising capital to fund whatever we are trying to do, namely in Indonesia, China and the Middle East. Our tech is ready for the first phase of merchant acquisition and on ramping/ off ramping solutions, but there is so much more that we are trying to build. Business development is the easy part as almost everybody is willing to talk to us because of our tech. Fundraising is going well and should be closing in the coming weeks.