SuperCharger Startup Highlight: Interview with Ned Phillips, Founder and CEO of Bambu
by Seyoung Lee, Program Manager of SuperCharger
I sat down with Ned Phillips, Founder and CEO of Bambu, to interview him as a part of our Startup Highlight Series for the 2017 SuperCharger 2.0 cohort. Ned has been based in Asia for the past 25 years, and has been working in FinTech since 1999.
Bambu is a B2B Robo-Advisor firm offering financial and non-financial firms the ability to integrate and benefit from the shift in digital wealth. They won the Best Early Stage Startup Stage Award at Next Money FinTech Finals 2017!
Q: Tell us a little about Bambu.
Bambu is a B2B robo-advisory solution partner offering digital wealth services to banks looking to provide their end users a financial tool to save and invest their money. We target financial institutions — asset managers, banks brokers; and non-financial institutions — telcos and eCommerce — to enable them to integrate and benefit from the shift in digital wealth.
Q: How did the idea of Bambu arise? What is your mission?
My 25 years in the Asian financial landscape provided me with an insightful exposure and development of the regional financial industry. From this, I realised that the biggest demand for robo was in the B2B space. That influenced me to start Bambu.
Bambu was founded to be Asia’s leading B2B robo-advisor. Our mission is to provide wealth management products to businesses that enable their customers to save and invest for their future. We believe every individual deserves the best financial advice irrespective of his or her personal wealth.
Q: People say robo-advisory is a crowded space. What are your thoughts about this?
I think they couldn’t be further from the truth. People talk about how crowded the robo-space is but when individuals are asked about owning a robo account, most don’t have.
According to statistics, about one percent of current markets in United States are already using robo-advisory. The term ‘robo-advisory’ could be a buzzword with people within the industry as they are constantly surrounded by it. However, beyond this circle, many are not familiar with the term or aware of this new technology. As an analogy, people like to say if the life of the earth is one year, then we humans have been on it for a mere two seconds. So I would say, if the life of the robo-advisory is a year, I would say we are in the first week of January. These are early times for this industry.
Q: Why would banks and other financial institution choose Bambu over building a robo in house?
To reap the advantage of time and money. Banks would have to invest a large amount of time and money in building their own in-house robo. Working with Bambu allows banks to leap frog over this hurdle as we will provide the establish technology platform at a shorter time frame.
Additionally, firms working with Bambu can also choose to start on smaller projects and evaluate the platform thereafter. The partnership allows them to consider the platform without a large initial investment of time and money. Banks will benefit from Bambu’s vast knowledge and expertise on fintech to move ahead in digital wealth.
Q: There are several robo-advisories. Why choose Bambu?
Bambu does not build a one-size-fits all product. Acknowledging every company has different needs and expectations, Bambu customizes its products to meet these differing needs.
Bambu has developed three different products for each segment — Intelligent Advisory, White-Label Robo and Robo-in-a-box. The Intelligent Advisory is a private banking app that enhances the relationship manager’s services, White-Label robo is a customizable goal-based platform for high net worth individuals and Robo-in-a-box is marketed at the retails firms.
Our team has a strong backbone in tech and finance; Aki Ranin, COO at Bambu, is a recognized authority in FinTech with more than 15 years of experience while I have over 25 years of experience in finance and was former MD for E*TRADE in Asia. Between us, Aki, me and the other team members, we hold expertise in technology engineering, design thinking and business development. Unlike most companies, we found a customer, built the platform and team and grew from there. So we started the unconventional way, which makes us kind of different.
Q: What’s in the pipeline for Bambu in 2017?
Future proofing Bambu.
1. This involves selling to a big non-financial consumer brand client.
2. Bambu has introduced a collaborative research program into applications of Deep Learning and Neural Networks in Finance. These tools have an incredible potential in simplifying and automating financial processes that are currently complicated and cost-prohibitive. Bambu’s dedicated research and development team offers over 50 years of experienced and are based across Australia, United Kingdom and Singapore.
3. We won Best Early Stage Startup Award at Next Money FinTech Finals 2017 in Hong Kong, and have a PhD student coming on board the team. This will set us apart and ahead of the competition.
4. By the end of year, we aim to have a team of 20 with a strong development team and a solid book of clients. In the near future, the number of FinTech startups will increase rapidly and we aim to be the leading robo firm.
Q: Any tips for other FinTech start-up founders?
1. Perseverance is the key. Sell more than you are currently. You have to continuously sell your products. Its about doing hundreds if not thousands of meetings, having a large pipeline of clients and following up with all of them.
The romantic notion of start-ups is “so great, fun, fluffy and wonderful, we are going to change the world”. The reality is, it takes a lot time to gets deals, and it’s hard. If you nail it, everything will fall into place.
1. Build a product that you truly believe in. So when Steve jobs was asked, “how do you know what to build, how do you know what people want?” He replied, “people don’t know what they want until I build it”. None of us are as good as that, so we have to get the market’s perspective repeatedly. You need to test and question your product by everyone, get feedbacks on improvements, fix it and repeat.
1. One major reason startups fail is due to lack of money. Manage your finances well and keep track of expenditure.
Q: Do you have any last words?
SuperCharger has built an accelerating environment that pushes the finalists to grow through demo presentations, workshops, events and more. Your encouragement and perseverance enables each team to strive in their expertise. Because of SuperCharger, Bambu is progressively maturing since the start of the program and for that, we thank you.