Lee Ching Wei Makes Credit Card and Loan Applications Easy with iMoney| (EI#5)
iMoney is a website for comparing financial products offered by banks such as credit card and loans.
iMoney makes it easy for consumers to compare and apply for credit cards, loans or any other financial products based on their needs, current financial standing and preferred benefits.
It was founded by Lee Ching Wei, a Malaysian who worked in top tier financial institutions in Australia before returning to Malaysia.
With iMoney, Ching hopes to return power into the hands of the consumers. He believes that by being able to compare financial product offerings from all banks in an easy to understand manner would allow consumers to make better decisions on the financial products they buy.
iMoney is present in Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.
About Lee Ching Wei
Some startups think that once they receive funding they have become successful, but getting the money simply means you have more resources to achieve your goals. – Lee Ching Wei, iMoney Group CEO
Ching spent 8 years working for top tier financial institutions in Australia before returning back to Malaysia.
When he did, he found that most of the financial conveniences he took for granted in Australia – such as applying for a bank account and credit card online – were not available in Malaysia.
It was then that the concept of iMoney, an online based comparison site for financial products which would make it easy for him and fellow Malaysians to buy financial products, came to life.
To further develop his idea, he met with his high school senior and serial entrepreneur Khailee Ng, who introduced him to co-founder, Bruno Araujo.
After doing research and confirming the need for a comparison site as he had initially envisioned, Ching and his co-founders launched iMoney in June 2012.
Ching’s entrepreneurship journey started when he was a university student in Melbourne. Finding parking to be a common problem among working adults, Ching started a parking rental service where he would rent parking spots for cheap from students and rent them to working adults for an added charge.
In this interview, find out:
– the Ukulele business Ching started in university
– challenges Ching faced in the first six months of starting the comparison site
– how delegating tasks helped Ching grow iMoney
– how Ching makes iMoney float on top of all the comparison sites available in the market
– the top three characteristics that can reduce an entrepreneur’s chances of being successful
– Ching’s advice to people who want to start a business in the finance industry
Find out more. Read the whole interview.
A Step Into Entrepreneurship
Lu Wee: While working as a financier, you also founded a site called StrictlyUkulele selling ukuleles. What prompted you to start? Did you create any other sites?
Ching: During my last year in University, I was very drawn to entrepreneurship so it was something that I pursued on the side while working full time. I did it because I wanted to learn what it was like to be an entrepreneur.
Although I don’t actually play the ukulele, I found a mismatch of supply and demand in the ukulele industry in Australia, and used it as a gateway to starting up an e-commerce business.
Before that I had a couple other ideas but the ideas never made it past the research and development phase.
iMoney: Challenges in the Early Months
Lu Wee: What were the immediate challenges you faced within 6 months of starting iMoney?
Ching: When we first started iMoney, 3 years ago, we were a team of 3 with very few users and there was very little awareness about us. We were faced with the task of convincing the whole country that our idea works.
We had to drum up interest in consumers to use our service and simultaneously convince banks to go digital in marketing their products, which at the time, they were not very interested in.
All this while took place while we continuined to write proposals and pitches to garner more funds. With limited man power and funds (about RM 100,000 for the first 6-9 months), we had to juggle our time and tasks and learn to prioritize.
Lu Wee: Trying to be a one-man show was one of the early mistakes you made. Since then you’ve delegated your work and have found this arrangement to produce better results.
Delegation is very much letting go of power. How did letting go feel at first and what happened after that that made you trust that this was the right way to go?
Ching: I believe that it was more of a necessity rather than a mistake, as we had limited man power. However, once we received our first round of funding, we came to the realization that we can only move as fast as ourselves, and that we really needed more help.
So we hired more people that are driven and passionate about what we do, which helped me let go and delegate to people who had specializations in finance, operations, marketing. We educated them about the business and today, we have an excellent team that excel in what they do.
iMoney’s Value to Consumers: Knowledge, Convenience and Customisation
Lu Wee: What makes a user come back to iMoney over and over again and then recommend their friends to use iMoney, and not another comparison site?
Ching: I believe that users come back to us because we give them our value proposition and show them that we are worth using. Our products are made to be customised and tailored to each user.
Our financial consultants then recommend financial products based on specific needs. This tailored advice is our unique selling point and it puts us at a big competitive advantage.
Aside from that, we have a huge resource of content around financial advice and planning that draws people to our site. I believe that as long as we deliver good value that cannot be found elsewhere, we will continue to draw users to our site.
Lu Wee: iMoney is a web-based business that makes money when a visitor becomes someone who gets a credit card or loan from the banks that iMoney partners with.
What strategies have helped iMoney increase conversions from visitors to users on the iMoney site?
Ching: We started off with 0.5 percent at conversion rate, and now, we have double digit conversions. We are constantly changing the site to appeal to our consumers and to increase conversions from visitors to users.
It is not as simple as changing the colour of the site—we have done almost 50-100 different iterations of the iMoney website in the last 12 months alone to see what works best to increase conversions.
We believe that we can always do better, so we make continuous improvement to the way we communicate on the site.
Lu Wee: iMoney has, to date, over 11 million unique visitors. How are most people getting to know about iMoney? (organic search? friends?)
Ching: Our visitors are made of a combination of organic searches and return visitors. However, the majority of them are return visitors. Our marketing strategy is very much content and digitally driven, so we target people who are in the market to look for financial advice.
If you are on Facebook or Google or anywhere on the web, looking for financial advice or research, you will find us. We find that we get a lot of direct traffic to our website, which means that people are proactively searching for us. Aside from digital marketing, good word-of-mouth also provides a reliable source of visitors for us.
Finding Success as an Entrepreneur
Lu Wee: You were known to keep to late nights during the early years of your entrepreneurial journey. In hindsight, would you do it again? What is your advice to entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Ching: I would definitely do it again, simply because I enjoy it. There are always so many interesting things that keep me busy, and keeping late nights is a common trait amongst entrepreneurs.
My advice to new entrepreneurs would be not to get sucked into the “cool” factor and focus on the problem that they are trying to solve. If they are passionate about the problem, then they will be focused on finding the solution.
Lu Wee: You have raised more than USD6.5m in several rounds of funding. How does that change you as an entrepreneur? What is your advice to future entrepreneurs looking to raise a funding round?
Ching: The main difference is that with funding, we had more external pressure from our investors. The moment you receive funding from a third party, there is a bigger pressure to succeed– which can be a good motivating factor for a business. The more money we raise, the more credible and accountable we become as a company.
Entrepreneurs tend to become complacent after a while, so having investors keeps them accountable. Some startups think that once they receive funding they have become successful, but getting the money simply means you have more resources to achieve your goals. It should be seen as the starting point towards your success.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
Lu Wee: What, in your opinion, are the top three types of thinking that will doom an entrepreneur?
Ching: In my opinion, the 3 types of thinking would be:-
1. To be successful you need to keep an open mind be have a growth mindset. If you believe that nothing can be achieved then you will not be able to achieve anything.
2. “You need the world to be perfect” – I believe that you create your own luck and your own opportunities rather than rely on fate.
3. If you’re not thinking about solving the problem, then why does your business exist? Entrepreneurs need to have the right motivation to lead them to success.
Lu Wee: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a business in the financial industry?
Ching: The financial industry needs a lot of new innovation, but it is heavily regulated by the government. Entrepreneurs who are thinking of entering the market need to be open and reactive to change that happens in a blink of an eye, and at the same time be patient as it will take a while for the changes to be implemented.
Consumers react to financial institutions very differently, so we need to be aware of that and meet our consumer’s needs while operating within a confined framework.
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