How many people have you met that have been intimidated by financial jargon, or who have no clue about how best to manage their money.
The answer is probably a lot more than you expected.
That’s not surprising, and it is in line with the national statistics on financial literacy. Last year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) cited a World Bank survey in 2015 which found only 2% of Filipino adults could answer all seven financial literacy-related questions correctly.
Thus, a fintech company, called iMoney, was born.
“Our vision is to empower every single Filipino to make intelligent decisions on money matters,” said Mitul Lakhani, CEO of iMoney Group.
iMoney provides consumers with information, tools, telesales-based support, online content, and insightful data to “enable them to understand, research and apply for financial products such as credit cards, loans, and insurance,” he told Manila Standard in an interview at their buzzing Ayala office recently.
Here is Manila Standard’s interview with the London-educated former investment banker and CFO. Learn more about the one-stop financial product marketplace from the amiable group executive below:
MS: Please tell us more about iMoney and the group behind it.
ML: iMoney operates as a marketplace for financial products. We work together with banks, insurance companies, telcos, and fintech players with the goal to make personal finance easy and accessible for consumers so that they can make the most out of their money.
MS: How does iMoney help consumers simplify personal finance?
ML: Beyond providing information, iMoney serves as a bridge between the consumers and the financial companies. We also speak to customers to understand what their needs and requirements are. Based on the information provided by the customer, we assist them with their decision making process when it comes to selecting the right product based on their needs, requirements and eligibility. Furthermore, we help them through the process of applying for selected financial product.
MS: What made you join iMoney?
ML: I was previously a CFO for a different company and one of the founders of iMoney approached me to better understand the role of a CFO. At that time, iMoney did not have a CFO, and they were interested to find someone to fill that role. The more I found out about iMoney’s business model and their vision to help consumers in their financial journey, the more intrigued I was. I really believed in that vision and I jumped on that opportunity to contribute to that vision by applying for the CFO role myself.
MS: Can you share how iMoney provides comparative analysis on different financial products?
ML: What we do is we help break down some of the complex terms and jargon associated with financial products to make it really simple for consumers to understand. It is really a place where you could get all the information you need to understand and apply for financial products. So, the core fundamental model is around helping consumers make smarter and educated decisions when it comes to their money.
MS: Do you partner with the companies you feature? Tell us more about how iMoney works.
ML: We are effectively a matchmaker for financial products. On one hand, we work with banks, insurance companies and telcos who actually own the products. On the other hand, we help customers by matching their needs and requirements with the product that best suits their needs and eligibility.
MS: What segment of the market do you serve?
ML: We want to make our services available to all consumers, which is why we work very hard to build partnerships with the right providers that offer products for different segments of the market. All our services are free for the consumers. Every consumer should feel comfortable when they are on our website and be able to understand all the information we make available on the site. Everything on the web is made simple, and easy to understand, but more importantly, they also have the ability to speak to someone from iMoney if they really want to better understand the product, or they want further consultation.
MS: What is iMoney’s business model?
ML: Our business model is very simple. The consumer will come to our website, do whatever research that they want to do, and we give them the option of leaving their details on our website. iMoney representatives will call them up to better understand whatever requirements or needs they have, and then assist them with respect to selecting the right product that fits their needs and eligibility. If they would like to apply for that product, then we will help them with the application process as well through our partnerships with the product owners such as banks, insurance companies and fintech players.
MS: How did you start here in the Philippines?
ML: We started in 2015, it was probably not long before I joined iMoney four years ago and our first batch of employees were around 10 to 15 people. Over the last four years we’ve subsequently expanded the team, making sure we’re bringing in people with the same level of passion, drive and enthusiasm, who are motivated to help Filipinos to manage their money successfully.
MS: And now, what is your current corporate landscape?
ML: The company’s operations in the Philippines based in Makati City has been growing 50 percent to 60 percent year-on-year since 2015. We have made some really good progress. We work with more than 20 different partners in the Philippines today, serving an average of 10 million users on our website every year looking for information on personal finance and financial products. So, we have had very good success and track record so far.
MS: Do you think the PH market is ripe for fintech-related technology businesses?
ML: In the Philippines, the mandate of fintech is to make personal finance simpler for consumers and making financial products more accessible. iMoney Philippines was born out of the same reasons or objectives. Our key pillars are around financial inclusion such as financial education, financial literacy and making financial products easily accessible. We want to get to the stage where we can help consumers with all their personal finance-related decisions throughout their life journey. In between, we want to make sure we can help them manage their money more effectively.
MS: How do you bridge the gap of the limited access of the Filipino in formal banking?
ML: We are working with banks and other fintech companies who have products that target a larger part of the population or target the part of the population that don't get access to traditional banking products. We want to continue to grow our partners list to make as many products available to as wide a consumer base as possible in the Philippines.
MS: Do you believe that digital banking is the future of financial technology?
ML: I certainly believe that digital banking is the way forward. However, it is going to take time because trust is still paramount to consumers when it comes to anything related to money. We have the benefit today as we are already have an online model, so consumers can come and do as much as they are comfortable to do online, but we also give them the option of speaking to someone. This behavior is not just restricted to the Philippines, but in all of the markets that we are in. When it comes to personal finance and financial products, consumers still like to speak to someone before they make a decision. There is a comfort factor in having to speak to someone who can offer a more personalized explanation to them.
MS: What are your plans for the next five years?
ML: Over the next five years, we want to provide every Filipino with all the information and the tools that they need to make financial decisions simpler and more convenient, and also grow as a business. This includes extending our partnership to more banks, insurance companies, and telcos in the Philippines to offer their products to the consumers. iMoney is investing more in technology to make it easier not just for research and comparison of financial products, but also to apply for those products without actually having to go to a branch. Ultimately, we want to digitize or bring that entire customer journey online.
MS: What is your outlook for the financial sector in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia?
ML: iMoney has a long-term growth plan in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. I am excited about the fact that there is a lot more information available today for consumers, compared to what it was five or six years ago. I am also very excited about the pace of innovation and disruption around digital banks and in terms of the types of product that are now available so that not just the ‘cream of the crop’ gets access to these products but also the wider segment of the population. Generally, I am upbeat and bullish about the overall financial wellbeing of the consumer base.
MS: What can we expect from iMoney in the near future?
ML: The group’s plan is to introduce more financial products to the Filipino consumers in the future. Today, we focus predominantly on credit cards, personal loans, and simple insurance products. Over time, as consumers get more access to information and become more sophisticated, they would have more needs and wants for more complex products. We want to make sure we are part of that journey with them as well.
To know more about the latest financial tools and information, please visit iMoney.ph
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