SMU Interview with Bondlinc: ‘Fear not Fintech’ says Bondlinc co-founder EK Ong

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By the SMU Social Media Team

There is plenty of talk about how fintech (financial technology) could disrupt the industry by employing technology and innovation like roboadvisory software in areas where traditional methods have held sway. However, there are many exciting new startups that have been set up to complement mainstream banking infrastructures, and not compete with institutional stalwarts.

We speak to former bond trader Eng Keong (EK) Ong, the founder of one such startup—bond trading platform Bondlinc—to understand how fintech products are boosting banking systems instead of threatening to replace banks or their staff.

How big is fintech’s impact on the local banking sector?

EK: Initially, fintech startups were more aggressive and positioned themselves to be competitors of banks. Then, banks aggressively began hiring and building a costly in-house system to fight back. However, the banks now realise they cannot innovate as fast as smaller and more nimble companies. So, the current lot of fintech firms are often helmed by ex-banking personnel who have come out to fix micro issues which they encountered when they were working in banks.

The biggest growth areas are where fintech companies can provide solutions to internal processes that are time-consuming, repetitive and manpower-intensive. For example, streamlining the initial interaction with the customer (known as “onboarding”), standardising payments protocols, and aiding in time-consuming compliance protocols.

What are the advantages of embracing fintech?

EK: Fintech firms are almost always nimbler than the finance industry as they focus on a specific area of improvement, and there are a lot of areas which need improvement.

Banks are not able to fix all the problems they encounter, simply because banks are meant to provide banking services, not IT services. Fintech firms constantly look at the problems they are fixing, and keep them fixed—something which the banks will not be able to do.

What are the disadvantages?

EK: Being highly regulated entities, banks have a large responsibility to keep their clients’ personal information and well-being safe. That is probably their single biggest concern apart from providing consistent daily banking services.

By working with fintech, they have to ensure that the companies they work with do not threaten or breach these concerns. Working with banks tends to be a slow and protracted process due to the many layers of approval required for every part of a project to be accepted and approved by all the relevant stakeholders.

Is fintech to be feared? Do you believe it could replace banks, human analysts and other current manpower in the finance industry?

EK: Realistically, fintech will never replace banks completely. It can play a big role in making banks a lot more efficient. That said, fintech will definitely replace a lot of the menial tasks which are currently done by humans, in the same way new technology changes every other industry when it is introduced.

Fintech aims to improve existing processes and by doing so, frees up time for people to do more value-added jobs. Take the humble office printer—if there were no printer technology, humans would have to type everything out?

The key is to identify what and where most of the pain points come from and allow fintech solutions to complement existing processes.

You’ve mentioned that Bondlinc’s platform was established with the intention to help bond traders, not replace them. How did the business idea come about?

EK: My business partner, Daniel Yu, and I are both bond practitioners. We realised that bond trading, although being the largest tradeable asset class in the world, has not evolved in the past 30 years and still could not be traded electronically online, unlike foreign exchange and equity. So, along with my other co-founder, Vincent Caldeira, we looked at creating a solution that could be adopted across the different banks.

What are some challenges you’ve faced so far as a fintech company?

EK: We are predominantly a B2B business, and dealing with institutions is often slow, requiring layers of understanding by different stakeholders, agreements and negotiations.

On the tech side, we have to be compliant in working with banks; and bringing a new technology into a bank is a tedious process as we have to explain at length our business and tech stack to the different IT teams.

As we are somewhat disruptive, senior management and people on the ground who would be affected have been a little sceptical about our product.

CTO Vincent Caldeira, one of the expert panelists speaking on the new TRM guidelines set by MAS

  From left to right: Chia Ling Koh (Managing Director, Osborne Clarke), Demetris Booth (Cybersecurity Consultant), Angus Thorn (Head of Incident Response and Threat Intelligence, Horangi), Phoram Mehta (Head of Information Security APAC, Paypal), Vincent Caldeira (Chief Technology Officer, Bondlinc).

From left to right: Chia Ling Koh (Managing Director, Osborne Clarke), Demetris Booth (Cybersecurity Consultant), Angus Thorn (Head of Incident Response and Threat Intelligence, Horangi), Phoram Mehta (Head of Information Security APAC, Paypal), Vincent Caldeira (Chief Technology Officer, Bondlinc).

"Cause or Cost for concern? If you're in or working with fintech or financial institutions, and you don't quite know yet know why the new Monetary Authority Of Singapore TRM guidelines matters: this is for you. We've gathered the experts from Horangi, OC Queen Street, PayPal and Bondlinc to share more about how in the world this impacts you AND your customers.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has indicated in a recent speech that changes to the Technology Risk Management (TRM) Guidelines are underway. What is the likely impact of these changes, and how can mid-size financial institutions and Fintech companies prepare themselves? 

Join us in this insightful discussion where leaders in mid-size Fintech & Financial Institutions share their challenges & strategies whilst leading cybersecurity and legal experts share their advice."

Held at ICE71 on the 19th of July, 4pm-6pm, the panel discussion will cover the changes, challenges, and solution with regards MAS Technology Risk Management (TRM). Our CTO Vincent Caldeira will be among the expert panelists leading the discussion. 
 

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Establishing appropriate controls for Order Management on Instant Messaging channels

By CTO Vincent Caldeira 

 

Recently the Securities and Future Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong issued a circular to Financial Intermediaries (FIs) regarding the key controls and procedures expected to be in place when using Instant Messaging (IM) applications to receive client orders. This is not a new business practice, but I believe the wide discrepancy on how these risks are being assessed and addressed has called for some level of standardization across the financial markets.

While using IM applications introduce several challenges in terms of specific technology, information security, and operational and regulatory risks, such tools are still being widely used by clients and FIs to communicate. This is because they provide a direct channel to distribute relevant and actionable information on a timely basis, while allowing to introduce process efficiency in the interaction between customers and the bankers. As such, we at Bondlinc have enabled IM channels as an inherent part of our solution. Our platform integrates natively with the FIs' clients’ chosen channels (such as Facebook Messenger or WeChat) while providing all the appropriate controls that would be expected of a secure and compliant banking solution.

   Secure login to request for a quotation

Secure login to request for a quotation

This article describes some of the key measures and controls implemented in the solution to meet the requirements described in the SFC Circular.


Centralized Record Keeping

·        The solution provides one central point of interaction for the bank’s employees (Relationship Manager, Dealer) to interact with customers using multiple IM applications. Our solution achieves this with Identity Brokering and User Federation components implemented using some of the most popular security standards for Web single sign-on (SSO) such as SAML 2.0, OpenID Connect and OAuth 2.0. This enables integration with 3rd-party Identity Providers from the FIs as well as leading IM solutions as identity sources.  

·        All order records and contextual information for the order (chat between the institution and its clients) are transmitted and stored for future reference using industry-accepted cryptography standards, in a form that cannot be altered or tampered with.

·        Data retention for all order management data can be specified and managed according to the FI’s internal policies and regulatory requirements.


Security and Reliability

·        The solution manages step-up authentication with an ability to use zero, one or two-factor authentication where appropriate. For example, public information such as details about a new bond issue can be viewed by a customer, without requiring an additional mobile application download or client login. However, access to indicative quotes would require a simple, one-factor authentication. Furthermore, any transaction confirmation will require step up to a second factor of authentication to complete the final transaction. This allows validating the identity of the client at the appropriate time along the transaction process and getting an authenticated digital acknowledgement for audit trail purposes.

   Appropriate zero, one, and two factor authentication requirements

Appropriate zero, one, and two factor authentication requirements

·        Transport security (SSL) is used to protect the communication channel between the IM application and Bondlinc services. This ensures that the end-to-end transmission of order messages is safe.

·        Message-level security is used to ensure confidentiality by digitally encrypting the message itself, authenticating the originating entity using X509 certificates, and enforcing integrity by using digital signatures.

   Secure communication relay between the customers' and the banks' IM applications

Secure communication relay between the customers' and the banks' IM applications

Compliance Monitoring

·        All messages and order information are securely routed to our central event management pipeline. This allows Compliance to perform real-time monitoring against a set of pre-configured rules (including unusual trading patterns, specific restricted keywords used in conversations with the Relationship Manager or Dealer, etc…), and securely store the information in a data warehouse for reporting, reviewing and auditing purposes.

·        A specific module for Compliance officers allows reviewing of all historical order conversations and messages. To support any required investigations, dynamic search criteria can be used to search through a specific period of time or particular clients’ accounts.

 

Conclusion

Bondlinc’s solution natively provides critical controls for our customers to efficiently manage the specific technology, information security, operational and regulatory risks that trading bonds over IM channels entail. For more information or for a demonstration, do not hesitate to contact me at vc@bondlinc.com.


As the CTO Bondlinc, Vincent oversees the technology design and development of the company’s Software-As-A-Service bond trading platform. The comprehensive solution aims to standardise, improve and automate the traditional bond trading workflow.

CTO Vincent Caldeira takes a trip to HongKong to deliver his keynote speech!

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The Innovation Jams help Temenos to identify the very best fintech companies, those that add real business value to its customers. Following the success of previous years' events, Temenos is holding a series of regional Innovation Jams to showcase the most impressive demos of financial services software to financial institutions.

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On 22nd March 2018, our CTO Vincent Caldeira traveled to the Temenos Jam HongKong to deliver his keynote speech "Innovation or Exnovation?" In his speech he covers five principles on how banks can survive in the future. He also shares his insights on the different ways to manage innovation (or exnovation) whether it be through Fintech investment, Partnerships, Innovation labs, or Banking-as-a-service. 

Download here: Keynote Slides: Innovation or exnovation? 

At the 2017 Asian Private Banker Technology Awards Luncheon

CEO Ong Eng Keong and CTO Vincent Caldeira receiving the Most Promising Fintech Startup award at the Asian Private Banker Technology Awards Luncheon! 

We are honoured to be among some well-known and established technology companies receiving one of APB Technology Awards 2017. This is a good way to start 2018, a year in which we are targeting to work closely with Private Banking customers to implement our solution.

Bondlinc's mantle is quickly filling up with all these awards! Many thanks to Asian Private Banker for recognizing our hard work! And also a big thanks to our wonderful in-house development team who have been working tirelessly to improve and develop an even better Bondlinc solution! 

 
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Bondlinc - Awarded Most Promising Startup by Asian Private Banker

 
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We are on a roll with these awards! 

"Launched in 2015, the Asian Private Banker Technology Awards celebrate the innovations and achievements of Asia’s rapidly growing financial technology sector.

The Awards are open to all tech vendors that provide solutions for private banks, institutions with private banking facilities and wealth managers in Asia."

Sincerest thanks to Asian Private Banker for this award and also a big congratulations to the other winners of the 2017 Asian Private Banker Technology Awards! 

 
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Bondlinc – Winner of the ZAMMA AWARD at NTT Data's Open Innovation Contest 7.0

 Kotaro Zamma, Head of Section and Kaz Okada, Senior Expert for the Open Innovation and Business Incubation for NTT DATA Corp. 

Kotaro Zamma, Head of Section and Kaz Okada, Senior Expert for the Open Innovation and Business Incubation for NTT DATA Corp. 

INTRODUCTION TO NTT

“Let’s change the world together.”

"The global community is facing a variety of challenges, including poverty, hunger, health, hygiene, education, gender and national inequality, energy, climate change, destruction of nature, and peacekeeping. In order to solve these challenges, open innovation will play greater roles than ever so that people throughout the world can work together across national borders in advanced technology and new business models to create solutions.

NTT DATA originally started as a public corporation to play a role in the Japanese communication infrastructure. Since the transformation to a private corporation, we have played an essential role in the Information and communication technology (ICT) social infrastructure as the leading system integrator in Japan. Currently, we promote ICT business in over 50 countries across the world."

 Details on the Singapore Contest 

Details on the Singapore Contest 

BONDLINC'S PARTICIPATION AND RESULTS

After being invited to participate in NTT's Open Innovation Contest 7.0, Bondlinc submitted a comprehensive business proposal which was subsequently chosen as one of the ten Finalists. The Pitching Day in Singapore was held on 11th Jan 2018 at the artistic co-working space at The Working Capitol on Robinson. Ten startups pitched their innovative solutions to the five judges for that one ticket to the Grand Finale held in Tokyo.  

The results? Bondlinc won the ZAMMA AWARD, named after Mr Kotaro Zamma himself! 

We would like to thank everyone who made this event and experience possible! 

Bondlinc at the Singapore FinTech Festival 2017!

Bondlinc kicked off the largest FinTech festival of the year, by participating in the Xperts talks during the Lab Crawl at UOB’s FinLab. Organized by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and in partnership with Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), this week-long event included many exciting opportunities to share our company’s vision and mission.

Lab Crawl @BASH: CTO Vincent Caldeira storytelling Bondlinc’s odyssey of a FinTech startup in the Asian Financial Industry...

Held at Singapore Expo, the next three days of SFF2017 gave us many opportunities to meet potential clients, investors, and partners as well as other FinTech startups. UOB’s FinLab hosted us at their cosy Hospitality Lounge to share our products to a great audience. Also, our specially featured FinTech Ecosystem booth at Amazon Web Services allowed us to demo the upcoming Bond Butler and spend a full day capitalizing on the good flow of traffic passing by AWS.

At UOB's Hospitality Lounge... 
What happened at AWS Fintech Ecosystem Booth...

We'll definitely be back for more FinTech festivals! Many thanks to all who were involved in making SFF2017 a great experience!

Bondlinc goes to KL!

Shortly after our Echelon experience, BondLinc is back for more FinTech fairs! BondLinc will be going to Kuala Lumpur from the 5th to the 6th of July. We will be participating in the event Building Global FinTech Connections: Singapore with Kuala Lumpur organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

 

This is a great opportunity for us to meet other FinTech startups and parties interested in FinTech developments. We are always on the lookout for potential partners that would work with us and help us extend our reach in the region. 

 

We will be manning our booth in the event as one of the finalists of The Finlab (Cycle 2). Do look out for our booth located in the UOB cluster and drop by if available! 

 

Details about the event can be found here.