Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Interview With Reynold Wijaya of Funding Societies

Funding Societies
Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2PL) has been creating some buzz among the local retail investors after a series of articles published by our mainstream newspaper, Straits Times (click here and here for the recent 2 articles). In fact, P2PL is nothing new and it has been around for quite awhile overseas.

Personally,  I am happy to see more and more established P2P platforms coming into the scene to provide retail investors like me to diversify our investable fund. Of course, all investments come with its own set of pros and cons as well as the associated risks. So, you are encouraged to do your own due diligent before proceeding with any kind of investments.

Today, I am honored and thrilled to invite Mr Reynold Wijaya, co-founder of one of the leading peer-to-peer lending provider in Singapore, Funding Societies, to be part of my Interview Series.

Without further ado, let's zoom straight into the interview session...   

Q1 : Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
A1 : I grew up in a family business and saw it transformed from a SME to a multi-national business. I love Indonesia and have spent most of my life here, except for my Masters (Engineering) at University of Michigan where I graduated with Summa Cum Laude and for my MBA at Harvard Business School where I met my co-founder Kelvin Teo. Kelvin comes from a complementary background of professional services at Accenture, McKinsey and finally KKR Capstone, having advised retail banks and mid-sized enterprises in Southeast Asia. Because of our experiences, we’re passionate about SMEs in Southeast Asia and wish to help them grow through Funding Societies.

Q2 : Understand that you are currently leading a local P2P (Peer-To-Peer) lending platform, can you share more with our readers about this platform and what is your role in this organization?
A2 : Funding Societies is a P2P lending platform for SMEs to get loans to grow, crowdfunded by investors to earn good interest returns. We aspire P2P lending to be a major source of alternative financing for SMEs and alternative investments for individuals, by making it as simple, safe and reliable as possible. While I spend considerable time on operations and business development, my key role is to help each team member perform at his/ her best ability.

Q3 : If my readers are interested to invest in such P2P lending (crowd-funding) platform, what are the areas that they need to look out for?
A3 : As P2P lending is still a young industry in Singapore, I believe readers should focus on platforms that invest on customer education, especially on the principle of diversification and risk-and-reward. I’m also a believer in transparency and professionalism. A platform may not obey the wishes of everyone, as different users have different, sometimes conflicting demands. However, the platform should be open in communicating their rationale, loan statistics and default status. Consider the platform’s reputation, track record and management, all these are good indicators on the strength and values of the platform. 

Q4 : Do you think crowd-funding is suitable for beginner investors? If yes, why is that so? If no, why is that so?
A4 : I’m sorry but to say the cliché “It depends”! Undeniably, each year numerous crowdfunding platforms close down due to various reasons. The key is to pick the right platform and diversify. If one diversifies sufficiently at the right platform, crowd-funding is not only an easy, but also attractive and affordable investment for beginners. At Funding Societies, we’ve taken steps to minimize the barrier to invest, allowing investors to begin with S$ 1,000 and invest as low as S$ 100 per loan (i.e., you can diversify across 10 loans!). We’re also the first to engage a government-registered escrow agency to handle the funds and are proud to be the only platform with 0% default record to-date. Much of the loan analysis is also done for the convenience of the investors. In short, crowd-funding potentially offers good returns with low time and resource commitment, suitable for beginners. 

Q5 : So far, how much fund (ballpark figure) has Funding Societies managed to crowd-fund?
A5 : We’re very grateful to have strong, supportive investor and lender base. Since our launch in June 2015, we’ve crowdfunded ~S$ 3.5M for ~45 SMEs across various industries. 

Q6 : What is the business plan of Funding Societies in the next 1 or 2 years?
A6 : Funding Societies shall become the most trusted P2P lending platform in Singapore. The next 1 or 2 years would be a critical period for the P2P lending industry in Singapore, as regulations and hence industry shake-up are set to happen. We’ve taken proactive steps to prepare for it, so that we could serve the interest of investors, borrowers and the broader society to the best of our ability.

Q7 : Personally, do you invest in equities, REITS, Funds or Bonds etc.? If yes, can share a little bit more about your investment strategy?  
A7 : I invest in many types of investments and can definitely say that diversification is king. Diversify everything. Depending on your risk appetite, allocate some capital for safer investments such as time deposit and bonds; some for more attractive, medium-term investments such as business loans on our own platform Funding Societies (I invest a few thousands in each loan); and finally some for longer-term but potentially more volatile investments such as stocks and even bitcoin as a trial!  

Q8 : If the readers what to get in touch with you and Funding Societies, how to get hold of you? (Sharing of your website/blog/social media profile etc..)
A8 : Thanks for taking an interest in me! They can see my brief profile on our website, Funding Societies and can definitely reach out to me through my LinkedIn.


I believed we all learn something new from this short interview alone.


Cheers!

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