Vantage: Silot

We spoke to Andy Li, CEO at Silot: the FinTech powering smart banking ecosystems through hybrid AI systems...

Tell us more about Silot! What makes your company and your vision unique? What do you feel earned you the 2018 Visa Everywhere Initiative award?

The name ‘Silot’ is derived from two words: Silo + Technology, meaning that we would like to use an artificial intelligence-driven technology to connect data across silos and make organizations work more efficiently.

However, we don’t position ourselves as a technology vendor who sells particular products or solutions to customers. Instead, we are a business partner to banks; we aim to use the different technologies to create a healthy banking ecosystem to better serve merchants and help all related parties to grow together in a sustainable way.

It was our honour to win the 2018 Visa Everywhere Initiative award as well as other award recognitions. In 2019, we were also ranked in the Top 20 Banking Tech Solution Providers by APAC CIO Outlook and were selected as one of 20 Hottest Start-ups by Singapore Business Review.

 

Securing funding is often cited as the single biggest obstacle for FinTech growth. Drawing on your recent experiences, what do you see as the main challenges of successfully concluding a funding round?

The main challenge for start-ups is probably how to make the right investors believe in what they do. Building trust is the key for everything. They should believe that you are doing the right thing and believe that you and your team are good enough to make it happen.

Securing funding in the early stages may not be as difficult because the amount is not so high. Some investors are ready to take such a risk once they see the potential of the business. But to secure funding in larger rounds is different. You need to be able to show them a proven record of success or a milestone from the early stage and make them trust that you are on the right track. Make sure that investors see the same picture of the future as you do. If you can do that, then investors will dig deep.

If you make the mistake of choosing the wrong investors, it can be a big turning point for your company. Securing significant funding shouldn’t be the only priority. Think of the long-term results and see if investors can really help you grow sustainably.

 

Artificial intelligence has become a buzzword, heralded as the technology that will revolutionise many industries. How would you evaluate the impact-to-date of AI in wider financial services? What are the most prospective use cases for the technology?

AI has changed many aspects of the business landscape in financial services and will continue to be applied in wider scopes. Prospective use cases for AI include Process Automation, Credit Decision Making, Anti-Fraud, Risk Management and many more.

Thanks to AI, a lot of tasks can be executed automatically and more efficiently, saving time and costs for both service providers and customers. When it comes to decision making, AI helps to provide faster and more accurate results based on big data analysis, and credit assessment is one of its common applications in financial service fied.

In terms of anti-fraud and risk management, as there will be more fraud and risk emerging across multiple channels in a non-conventional manner, AI will be more important to detect fraud and control risks. For example, Krungsri Bank in Thailand has boosted the detection of transaction fraud and money laundering by 30% in the first six months after utilizing our platform.

 

Tackling fraud is a major challenge for financial institutions. How do you help your customers overcome this challenge? Will future developments in AI’s application in the fraud space be incremental improvements / integrations or step changes?

We overcome the challenge by utilizing machine learning to find various relationships between different people and entities and adjust risk levels accordingly. For example, people linked to accounts that has been identified as fraudulent can be allocated an increased risk level so that appropriate caution is applied in the future.

The future of AI in the fraud space will come from incremental improvements, moving beyond KYC (Know Your Customer) to UYC (Understand Your Customer). This improvement will boost effectiveness and lower the cost. Without AI, fraud detection is at risk of human error or inefficiency due to the volume of data. But the more data it receives, the smarter AI becomes.

 

Merchant payments have seen significant innovation over the last decade, including contactless card, mobile, QR-code based and even deviceless payments. Which technology do you feel will be the go-to solution for merchant payments in the future?

For small merchants, QR is likely to remain the most cost effective payment experience, while for larger merchants and franchises I expect mobile based contactless payments and deviceless payments will be most suitable in the future.

People tend to do more activities on mobile phones. This also changes how entrepreneurs do business, including those micro merchants like street vendors. To harness this trend, Silot is launching a new mobile app to help small merchants in Thailand run their businesses more efficiently in the digital era. There are several features including multi-payment channels, pre-approved loans and targeted marketing for small merchants.

 

Singapore has grown into a global financial and FinTech hub. What makes the city-state so attractive for FinTech?

As the region’s financial capital, Singapore has built strong technological capabilities, a highly educated workforce and a strong regulatory framework. These qualities enable FinTech start-ups to provide fresh solutions to both financial services industry and consumers alike.

In addition to the strong government support, the industry also gains support from non-profit organisations like the Singapore FinTech Association which collaborates with all parties in the ecosystem.

Singapore also pays attention to building tech talent. FinTech modules are incorporated into the curriculum of universities and tertiary institutions.

In addition, it encourages knowledge sharing across the region to push the FinTech industry’s growth. For example, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Temasek Foundation International have partnered with the Indonesian government to extend a new FinTech programme for tertiary students in Indonesia.

 

South East Asia is fast becoming a powerhouse of FinTech innovation. What are the main differentiating aspects of the region as compared to more established FinTech hubs such as Europe and North America?

First of all, we should not compare Southeast Asian countries to Europe and North America as Southeast Asian countries have a different set of rules and regulations as well as different economic dynamics, leading to a differing market for financial services.

In Southeast Asia, banks are the central driving force for FinTech adoption. Most large banks have set a strong foothold across the region, enabling them to work closely with local regulators. Although they have invested in potential FinTech start-ups worldwide, localization is very important for these banks to become established in each new country.

Many companies from Europe or North America use Singapore as a springboard to explore and expand their business in Southeast Asia. However, the opportunities in each market are different.

While Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia focus more on wallets and payment options, Indonesia and the Philippines have a strong loan-driven market for FinTech.

 

What is one pearl of wisdom you would share with FinTechs starting their journey and why?

Always think about what customers need and how to solve their pain points using innovative technologies. FinTech is a very fast-paced industry. New technologies and solutions come out almost every day and you need to be very adaptive to keep up with the trends.

But it’s not enough just to keep pace, you have to be at the forefront to outperform the competition. That’s why R&D and innovation play a very important role for FinTechs.

For example, at Silot, we pay a lot of attention to exploring advanced technologies and integrating them into our solutions. We also believe that technology should be put into real use and be beneficial to people, which requires FinTech start-ups to be open-minded and listen to their targeted audiences. This helps a lot in coming up with valuable ideas and solutions.


Andy Li
Founder & CEO at Silot

Andy Li is the Founder and CEO of Silot, a FinTech firm with a core mission to empower banks and merchants through the transformation of financial products and services with AI.

Spending almost two decades in Asia-Pacific, he is well-known as a business development veteran for Internet companies in this region. He gained experience from helping digital giants including Baidu, Kingsoft, Changyou and SEA Group to set up regional offices and grow the business across Asia-Pacific.

Under his leadership, Silot has secured over $10 million from notable investors during the past two years.

For more news and insights, subscribe to our newsletter here.