Six questions with Bambu’s Ned Phillips

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For the next in our series of fintech entrepreneur interviews, we caught up with Bambu CEO Ned Phillips. He talked us through his vision for the business, the future of the financial advisory sector, and why he finally might be rewarded for all his long distance running…

Can you tell us a little about Bambu?

Bambu is a Singapore based Robo advisor that offers all companies, not just financial ones, the ability to integrate and benefit from the shift in digital wealth. We offer Robo advisory to financial firms and also telco, Internet and all consumer brands that are looking to expand their product offering into digital finance. Currently we have 4 employees, and have key partnerships with firms such as Tigerspike and Thomson Reuters. Our current private banking product is being built in conjunction with Thomson Reuters, which aims to improve the efficiency of the relationship managers within the banks. Secondly, we are developing a mass affluent robo advisor that can be offered by financial institutions directly to their customers. Finally, our mass retail product targets the consumer brand, telecom, and media companies.

What led you to found the company?

Being in Asia 25 years and FinTech for 17 years it seemed I just had to! I joined one of the very first online brokers, E*TRADE in 1999 in Hong Kong. I ended up being the MD for E*TRADE for Asia. It was a great experience to go through the first dot com boom with one of the original FinTech companies. From 2008 I was involved in another area of FinTech, stock exchange transformation. I helped to build two pan Asian exchange, one of which was in conjunction with the SGX. In 2015, I was consultant to 8 Securities in HK and helped them as they launched the first Robo Advisor in Asia. So after all that I figured it was time to build my own!

What is the benefit of your B2B model over a more traditional B2C approach?

The traditional approach B2C approach has one huge issue; the cost of customer acquisition. When launching a new financial brand it takes a very large commitment to marketing and branding effort to establish trust with your customers. This is often misunderstood by many start-ups. I would put minimum acquisition cost of a funded account at approx. US$350 so a US$1million of marketing spend gets you approx.  3,000 customers. It’s an expensive business to get into to but with a B2B play we are providing Robo to companies who already have a customer base so they can grow their business at a fraction of the cost. We see huge opportunity in the telco, Internet and consumer brands that are getting into finance and need a Robo Advisory provider to power their initial offerings. The tie up of Uber and Betterment is a perfect case in point.

What is your prediction for the future viability of the financial advisor sector?

It has huge opportunity. It needs to reshape in terms of service, cost, product and digital interaction, but any firm who moves with the market will be in great shape. The issue now is that the face-to-face model has limits on the amount of clients a firm can handle however digital distribution can help the firm reduce cost to the customer and increase the number of customers it serves. The future is bright for the forward thinking firms.

Beyond innovation in robo advisory services, what other fintech trends interest you?

Blockchain and fitness into finance. Last year I worked on a blockchain powered exchange for pre IPO tech companies from Korea. A super exciting project that I am sure will be huge one day. When Blockchain can take the middleman out of finance, and that would be a game changer. Another area is how fitness will be rewarded by finance. For example wearables will be able to tell how fit you are so you pay less health insurance. As a keen long distance runner this sounds great to me!

Why are you excited to speak at Symbol: The Asian FinTech Summit?

I come from a family of teachers. I enjoy standing up in front of people and talking, and if it’s on a subject passionate about then so much better!! We are at the very beginning of FinTech and I am always amazed when I read people who feel FinTech is already overdone. To be able to speak to an audience who can see what is coming and hear their feedbacks; well it’s like being back in early days of the Internet. Lucky to be in the right space at the right time.

Ned Phillips will be bringing the Bambu story to Symbol: The Asian Fintech Summit on 7th-8th March at Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore. To find out more and book your pass, check out the website here.

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