James Lloyd, APAC
Please introduce yourself
My name is James Lloyd and I joined EY in March 2016. My role is the ASIA Pacific FinTech leader – building the new capability across APAC, relating to financial technology. In theory, the team sits within TAS but in practice works cross service line focused on both large clients and smaller start ups involved in the financial technology industry.
What does that involve on a day to day or project basis?
Building small dedicated team focused on advising current clients on prospects relating to the opportunities and challenges of FinTech but also sourcing and supporting high growth potential start ups and Fintechs in the market and then representing EY on a regional basis when it comes to FinTech thought leadership and events. In the process of building out that small dedicated origination team whilst at the same time producing thought leadership, meeting with clients.
Please share some insights into your day to day work? What type of clients to you work with? What do you do for them?
Traditional clients have been banks, insurance, wealth or asset managers etc. Also work with start ups – those who are building technologies for incumbents or looking to build incumbents – also regulators are key. Sits on various FinTech boards and committees in Hong Kong – they’re doing more with the regulators in Singapore and Australia. These are key stakeholders in the FinTech business.
Please tell us about the FinTech industry in Asia-Pacific.
To define FinTech: FinTech is often considered to be the smaller start ups who are leveraging technology or accessing to data to provide to financial services to disrupt traditional players in the financial services field. Although you could equally apply it to the larger incumbents who are themselves redefining their technologies, their processes and business models to better serve customers. FinTech is anything innovation driven in the provision of financial services. In that regard, ASIA Pacific is a huge opportunity in that space, not least because we have China who have an incredible amount of Fintech innovation and adoption is being driven but you also have developed markets like Australia, HK, NZ, Singapore where some of the existing large banks and insurance companies are them themselves are trying to better understand the market and apply technologies to better service them. On top of that, you have the mix of some of the large developing markets such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam where the opportunity is more around how can technology be used to provide financial services to the under banked sectors. So in terms of FinTech and ASIA, right now, you can separate out China as quite distinct and having a lot of activity going on there but the rest has a huge amount of potential for innovation.
Why is this an interesting business area to start a career?
Technology has always been applied to financial services. What is new in the last ten to fifteen years is access to computing power, access to analytics and changing customer expectations which has really provided an opening or opportunity for smaller firms to get in to this space. So even though right now thre is a lot of excitement around FinTech, the underlying fundamentals in relation to data analytics and computer power and other such things are absolutely going to be transformative – the manner in which you interact with your money, the manner in which you pay or are paid are going to be hugely impacted by technology over the coming years. From an exposure perspective, you’re crossing both worlds, gaining access to financial services generally and then technology and the reality is technology is going to have a transformative impact on every industry.
How do you see careers evolving in this sector in the future?
One thing that is interesting right now is that some of the large incumbents, banks and insurers for example, only a few years ago would have only looked at people with experience in start ups or smaller businesses, that didn’t have brand or name recognition as that wouldn’t have been seen as a great positive whereas over the last few years, a lot of these firms are now really looking for people with experience in an entrepreneurial sense or start up sense, or building a business so I think the demands of the future in Finance are going to be as much about that type of entrepreneurial experience as they will be about just a certain amount of years in the industry so the industry in that sense will change quite a lot over time. From an EY perspective, a big attraction of it is that you get to play both sides of the equation – you get to interact with start ups and you get to interact with the big financial institutions so you can better understand both worlds as a result of that.
Why is EY well placed to provide insights to clients in this area?
EY is very well placed in the market with Entrepreneurship generally in the market – Entrepreneur of the Year – accelerating entrepreneurs etc with the global and regional programmes that we run. I think that brand and client recognition. Even more importantly, from an FSO perspective, the team is regionally integrated so that means that although James is based in HK, his role sits entirely across ASIA Pacific. The integrated view allows us to be much better informed to some of the trends, threats and opportunities but also enables us to better advise clients not just on what is happening in their own market but what is happening regionally. A lot of the big players are transnational to begin with – they have multiple functions operating in may different countries so if we can provide seamless coverage in those countries, it is a huge advantage. Similarly, even if you are a start up and you’re a small team and you’re looking to build a piece of FinTech, the reality is that you are almost certainly looking to go international at least if you’re doing it out of HK, Singapore or Australia with one of the maller populations, youre more likely to build an international project so EY, by virtue of being regionally integrated, it is well placed to do that.
What’s your top tip for students hoping to start their career in FinTech?
Getting on the ground experience is really beneficial – if you can get involved with either Fintech or start ups full time or part time or even just on the side while studying you will get to better understand them and hat type of knowledge will be invaluable. It doesn’t need to be what you do full time but you can get involved in meet ups, community building side of FinTech will give you a great insight in to the world – nothing accounts for more than first-hand experience. Similarly, bias towards Advisory because if you can straddle both the startups and the large clients that’s beneficial because ultimately, for all the talk of disruption and disintermediation – a lot of FinTechs are actually trying to build services or products for the large incumbents and unlike other areas of startup activity, having the knowledge of financial services and a deep knowledge of the problem you’re trying to solve is essential. FinTech entrepreneurs tend to be a little older than entrepreneurs in other areas just because they typically have some banking, insurance, fs or professional services experience.
What legacy would you like to create?
Focused on building a team of people who are genuinely interested and enthusiastic about the FinTech space and to not only have the core team but to branch out and leverage all the knowledge and enthusiasm across the firm. Making sure some of the most exciting things that are happening in the Fintech space permeate throughout EY and each part of the business being made aware that this is happening and how it might affect them or their clients and to ensure that there is a single point of contact who they can go to in order to better understand what is happening in the region.
Tell us about a time you asked questions to discover a better way for your client.
Big clients are commonly asking EY to bring them FinTechs to work with – however, sourcing and finding FinTechs to work with is the easy part for EY. The more difficult part is identifying why they think they have this requirement and also asking the questions as to what do they need to change in order to fulfill the requirement. Some of the banks and insurers are just not structured properly from a procurement and vendor risk management perspective. They are not structured to work with small companies because historically they have only worked with large ones. By asking a series of questions around processes and policies you can get to a point at which you can help the firm leverage some of the benefits or partnering with smaller firms. Likewise, on the startup side, a lot of them are not very well structured to work with large firms so as we try and help with our high growth potential clients - so many advantages are related to speed and agility. Helping them get in to a position where they can strike up relationships with some of the large banks or insurers which will give you access to customers and distribution which you wouldn’t otherwise be able to build on your own.