Rohith Murthy, Joanne Leila Smith, SingSaver, FinTech, Finance, banking, financial inclusion

Rohith Murthy on Females Finance and Fintech

April 3, 2019

We sat down with Founder of SingSaver Rohith Murthy to discuss the rise of fintech in Singapore, his insights into consumer spending by gender and why getting finance savvy should be at everyone’s fingertips.

By Joanne Leila Smith

Launched in 2015, SingSaver is a personal finance comparison platform which provides free resources to help users make informed decisions on personal finance products such as credit cards, personal loans, and travel insurance. SingSaver is part of CompareAsiaGroup, a series B-funded online financial marketplace whose investors include Goldman Sachs, Alibaba and IFC World Bank.

After four years, SingSaver quickly achieved a foothold in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore.

According to SingSaver Founder Rohith Murthy, his platform is committed to advocating financial literacy to empower consumers to lead healthier financial lives.

Prior to SingSaver, Murthy held various senior management roles at Siam Commercial Bank for Thailand and Citibank for Central and Eastern Europe where he led Digital Banking and Innovation after completing his Bachelor of Engineering (Honors) degree in Computer Engineering from National University of Singapore over a decade prior.

“Our mission is to empower people to make informed decisions by providing a space for consumers to compare as many financial products that are available in the market. We also teamed up with Content Marketing Agency New Savvy so we can educate consumers about personal finance products, how to use them, when to use them,” says Murthy.

According to Murthy, there is a need for a comparison platform in this space, given the breadth of choices now available to consumers. He says his lightbulb moment, in identifying this gap in the market, was through his own consumer experience.

“When I returned to Singapore after seven years, I was looking for a financial product and I could not find a single impartial platform. So I researched all the products available and put them in an Excel file so I could do a comparison. I had spent my life as a banker for 12 years. I considered myself financially savvy, and I thought if I have to do this, what will the average consumer do? Since launching, we have not only seen the market respond and embrace it, we also see the banks embrace it because we’re a trusted source of acquisition for them,” says Murthy.

With regard to the commercial model of SingSaver, we asked Murthy whether the platform is incentivized by banks to promote products.

“No, not at all. We are an impartial platform, our entire business model is referral based, we don’t force consumers to pick any specific products. We do provide various ways for them to compare. But eventually, when they decide to pick a product, they are free to pick that product, and we do not interfere in the decision-making process. We make a conscious effort to show all the products available – not only products where we have commercial relationships,” says Murthy.

To create appeal and reach, Murthy says SingSaver try to make financial products relatable to the market by finding the persona narrative. To this end, he teamed up with New Savvy CEO Anna Vanessa Haotanto to develop content targeted to meeting the financial needs of women. According to Murthy, this approach has given them some interesting insights into consumer behavior and market segmentation.

“We want to make personal finance engaging so we try to understand the conversations around it. We had a campaign in February where we talked about personal finance and relationships. Money can make or break a relationship. How do you discuss the most unromantic subject in a relationship? So these kinds of scenarios is how we translate personal finance to content. What we have found is that our engagement is an equal split between men and women. This means women are financially savvy and some of the indicators we’ve seen is that women check credit scores more than men,” says Murthy.

To gain further customer insight on women and personal finance, SingSaver commissioned market research firm Kadence in December 2018, to conduct a survey of nearly 700 respondents who revealed cashback was the top reward among women (82%) while air miles were a distant second (28%).

The survey of women aged 21-55, which includes Millennials, also sheds light on Singaporean women’s changing attitudes to personal finance and indicates a shift towards greater financial inclusion for women. The majority (70%) claimed they were the sole decision maker when it came to choosing a financial product.

In terms of credit card spending categories, the top three included dining (23%), groceries (21%) and shopping (19%).

“Our data clearly shows women’s changing attitudes to personal finance, as well as increased financial inclusion and independence. It’s clear that women value cashback more than air miles. In general, we see women in Singapore are looking for instant gratification when it comes to spending, saving or paying down a bill. Fifty per cent of visitors to our website are now women – a telling sign that they are actively comparing financial products to choose the one that best meets their needs,” says Murthy.

According to Murthy, SingSaver’s largest demographic are 25 to 35 years old and they are keen to understand women millennials needs and drivers around personal finance.

“This is a very important segment because that’s where people are likely picking up their first financial product. It could be a first credit product and they’re probably not even thinking about insurance. We are very interested in financial inclusion, what is uppermost in the minds of women, when they think about their finances, what are the barriers and how we can help female consumers who are thinking about starting a business, or climbing up the corporate ladder,” says Murthy.

According to a KPMG Report ‘The Pulse of Fintech 2017, global investment in Fintech reached USD 8.7 billion by Q4 2017. USD 748 Million of this was accounted for in the APAC region. While investment in China experienced a slowdown, other countries in Asia became more prominent. In addition to mainland China and India, companies from four other countries and one jurisdiction in the region were among the quarter’s top ten biggest deals, including Hong Kong (WeLab), Singapore (GoSwiff and Smartkarma), Japan (One Tap Buy), and Australia (Spaceship Financial Services).

The KPMG Report claims Singapore achieved a record high level of fintech funding in 2017, particularly in areas like blockchain, AI, and machine learning. Singapore has also attracted a significant amount of foreign direct investment as well-known VC funds, corporates and established fintech firms set up shop in Singapore as a springboard for expansion into Southeast Asia.

We asked Murthy what his position is on the state of FinTech and banking in Singapore now that we are entering Q2 2019.

“When we look at the financial market in Singapore, there’s a lot of innovation in FinTech; the biggest FinTech festival is in Singapore. I think banks embrace the innovation being brought into the market. Lending is a very competitive market. We’ve generally seen a lot of banks now offering very attractive products, and interest rates have gone down since I started SingSaver. We are seeing more personal loans being affordable. There are more than a hundred credit cards in the market with good value propositions. It’s a very interesting landscape today and we’re happy that we played a part, at least, when it comes to financial aggregation around lending, where we’ve seen banks start to design products for the digital consumer, who are time poor, but have a lifestyle expectation. We are a digital market now. FinTech players are focusing on very niche needs and services and doing a tremendous job of it. We are seeing improved user experience. We understand the consumer with better data; we have more transparency, more innovation in terms of product offering, greater collaboration with product providers, because at the end of the day, banking is a regulated environment so in order to provide financial products and services, and given that regulators push the agenda around FinTech, we’re seeing a very healthy FinTech ecosystem developing in Singapore,” says Murthy.

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