‘Q&A’ Executive interview

Angela Scott-Briggs Tech Bullion
20 February 2018

Dave van Niekerk is one of the founders and the current CEO of MyBucks, a Fintech company, dedicated to facilitating finan- cial inclusion by serving custom- ers in predominantly high-growth emerging markets.

1) What were the motivations for founding MyBucks?

Before founding MyBucks (http:// MyBucks.com), Dave van Niekerk managed and grew banking and financial institutions ‘the old fash- ioned way’, with ‘bricks not clicks’. The motivation behind launching MyBucks was to essentially capital- ise on the growing financial tech- nology industry to provide ‘finan- cially inclusive’ products digitally, to both the formal sector and to the previously unbanked or un- der banked across Africa. Finan- cial inclusion is a challenge and would not be viable in the long term without technological ad- vances. The investment and social impact opportunity inherent in cre- ating MyBucks was, and remains wholly worthwhile.

2) What are the challenges and opportunities behind ‘Banking the Unbanked’, specifically us- ing the ‘Haraka’ (‘quickly’ in Swahili) app?

Haraka, which means ‘quickly’ in Swahili, is a revolutionary smart- phone app, developed to strate- gically bridge the gap between formal and informal economies. To do so, Haraka connects unbanked and under-banked small business and informal traders with financ- ing opportunities. There have been over 90,000 downloads of Haraka to date and climbing, with 15,000 currently active clients having used the app over the last 30 days.

The opportunities behind the app include enabling borrowers to take out small loans and build up a visi- ble credit history, ultimately unlock- ing their creditworthiness potential while enabling higher increments of loans and longer payment terms in the future. By developing technol- ogy that can uniquely measure cli- ent behaviour and risk, MyBucks is poised to continue benefiting from the burgeoning informal and SMME market in Africa and beyond.

One of the biggest obstacles to business growth on the ‘Mobile Continent’, where smartphones and laptops far outweigh desktop usage, remains access to finance, especially the case where large proportions of the population live in remote areas and are excluded by traditional banks and financial institutions. We hope to serve as a proponent of reshaping this dynamic.

3) How does artificial intelli- gence (‘A.I.’) play a role within contemporary Digital Financial Service (DFS)?

It is a well known fact that ‘A.I’ plays a huge role in contemporary digital financial services or DFS. Talking regionally, we are the first, and currently only FinTech business in Af- rica to make use of credit technology, supported by an in-house AI team and cutting edge software we’ve la- beled FinCloud, used to determine the credit history and accordingly creditworthiness of consumers.

In FinTech, there is always a slight degree of risk and in Africa, where many have been excluded from the financial sector historically, one often starts relatively from scratch.

FinCloud, together with our inter- nally developed self-learning credit decision and scoring system, works to continuously attain customer be- havioral patterns from previous loans and is able to very accurately pre- dict a customer’s probability of de- fault for a particular product at any given time. FinCloud’s underlying algorithms take a number of factors into ac- count, such as behavioral data, trans- actional data and employment infor- mation. The system then assigns a unique credit score and determines a probability of default, as mentioned, which in turn drives a unique credit offering to the client, by adjusting the loan amount, term and interest rate.

This type of Artificial Intelligence ul- timately and dramatically assuag- es concern on an industry built on return on investment (ROI). We see greater and greater tech-driven sec- toral convergence boons allowing for lesser risk in implementing loans in new markets with efficiency.

4) Where does MyBucks envi- sion expanding their portfolio (sectoral) and expanding geo- graphically?

Recently MyBucks became a publi- cally-listed company. We were look- ing at Germany as an ideal financial hub for launching our Initial Public Offering (IPO). The nation has a reputation for strong gov- ernance, which will in turn create a measurable and transparent valuation of our company, met- rics that investors internation- ally will look for when making a decision on an outfit operating within an industry as innovative as FinTech. Public listings allow organisa- tions like ours to acquire with greater efficiency banking li- censes in all of the countries in which we operate and seek to operate, expediting the expan- sion ambitions of our unique portfolio, which includes mobile banking, lending and insurance throughout Pan-African mar- kets and today, integrated in to Poland, Spain and in future, no doubt further in to Europe and intriguingly, indeed Asia-Pacific.

5) Where does leadership envision Financial Technol- ogy in five years‘ time? My- Bucks in five years‘ time?

‘Big Data’ and its deployment throughout Africa will allow FinTech companies such as MyBucks to identify particular needs and demands in certain African markets pragmatically, continuing our mantra of adapt- ability while allowing for reliable transactions and the expansion of our model even further across the continent. In five years, I can predict greater integration, an increase to our service portfo- lio in-step with technological achievement and a wider net of partnerships that will drive financial inclusion across Africa.

FinTech’s evolutions remain a chief proponent of this; the in- dustry will dramatically reshape the worldwide financial sector and we welcome perpetuating precedents in globalisation as a force for good.

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