A Reimagined Digital Banking Experience for Asian SMEs and Start-ups
What’s your story?
I started my professional life as a lawyer. First in France, and then in China. After 10 years of practice, and being promoted to partner in a large international firm, I gradually moved to entrepreneurship where I began setting up businesses in the aviation and professional services industries. My entrepreneurial journey has inevitably exposed me to the difficulty in dealing with banks, especially in Hong Kong. When I realised the number of SMEs going through the same challenging experience as mine, I decided to start my most recent venture: Statrys, a digital alternative to traditional banks specifically designed to serve the needs of SMEs and start-ups.
What excites you most about your industry?
We are taking up a colossal but very exciting challenge: reimagining the banking experience for SMEs and start-ups. The truth of the matter is, nobody really likes their banks today. However, we believe there is a possibility Statrys will change that with a customer centric approach that will help entrepreneurs save time and money.
Many players have already disrupted traditional banking in Europe. It’s fascinating to learn from their experience with the objective of achieving even better results in Hong Kong and Asia, considering the specific characteristics of their market.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My wife and I visited China in the mid 90’s as backpackers. We went back a few years later as young professionals when the country started to emerge as a new superpower. Originally, the idea was to stay in the region only for a few years. 20 years later, we are still around, raising our four children between China, Thailand and Hong Kong, with no intention of going back to Europe any time soon.
Asia has unparalleled energy and offers an endless flow of opportunities, making it the best place to live for anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Recognised as one of the world’s most competitive economies, Hong Kong is the ideal place for entrepreneurs to develop their business ideas while having easy access to a pool of well-informed, highly motivated, and internationally educated talents!
As a major global business hub, Hong Kong is capitalising on its cosmopolitan nature to grow entrepreneurial communities and has significantly multiplied the number of Hong Kong-based accelerator programs over the past few years.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Toujours écouter les signaux faibles” in French. Which literally translates to “Always pay attention to weak signals.” I received this piece of advice from a seasoned entrepreneur when I started my first business.
Bringing new products or services to the market is always the motivation of every entrepreneur starting a new project. However, his or her faith in the project too often causes them to ignore the weak signals, alerting the entrepreneur that the market does not actually need these new products or services. This advice is now anchored in how I approach new projects, and it has never failed me!
Who inspires you?
Winston Churchill for his visionary power, his extraordinary resilience in the face of adversity, and his unique style of leadership, accompanied by extravagance and a great sense of humour.
Also, Jean-Christophe Rufin, a French public figure who has constantly reinvented himself with great success, from being the founder of Doctors Without Borders, to becoming a successful author of novels, as well as a diplomat.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The Apollo 11 moon landing’s 50th anniversary! Not so much because it is “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but because given the conditions, it was a big leap of faith! The astronauts were very brave to risk going to the moon with zero assurance it would go well, let alone whether they would come back. If you have the opportunity to visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, have a look at the Apollo 11 capsule. It’s difficult to believe people landed on the moon in that thing. And even more astonishing, with today’s advanced technologies, no other human has been to the moon since… That was a real exploit!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have spent less time working for big corporations and would have shifted to entrepreneurial ventures earlier. I simply relate more to entrepreneurs’ stories than to big corporate ones. I enjoy the multidisciplinary aspects (or challenges) an entrepreneur has to manage; one day you pitch to investors, the next day you attend to HR issues, and, following that, you market to potential clients! This is not really something you see or get to do in big companies where you’re boxed into your specialty.
How do you unwind?
I recharge my battery by spending quality time with my family. I also enjoy comic books (buying many more every year), music (mainly jazz), podcasts (unavoidable Tim Ferriss!), and cycling (proud of myself for cycling up Mont Ventoux, one of the Tour de France’s favourite spots).
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand has hundreds of islands with unspoiled scenery ranging from thick green jungles, crystal blue waters, and white sand beaches, to majestic mountains. Add an ounce of tropical weather, a pinch of delicious Thai cuisine, and a cup of fresh coconut juice to get the perfect recipe for relaxation.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins. I highly recommend this book because it provides a lot of insightful examples of the do’s & don’ts. I’ve personally learned a lot from reading it and have applied some of the information in running my business.
Shameless plug for your business:
Statrys is an alternative to traditional banks, specifically designed to serve the needs of SMEs and start-ups in Asia. We are 100% digital, painless, and transparent from account opening to daily account management.
Our services include access to a multi-currency business account, domestic and international payments and innovative forex solutions to help entrepreneurs save time and money when dealing with their financial affairs.
And because it’s the shameless plug section, I’ll shamelessly invite the readers to check our website: www.statrys.com
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.