Country Director - GoBear Vietnam Tran Nhat Khanh
Since it began operating in Viet Nam last December, GoBear Vietnam has been like a breath of fresh air in the financial services market. It is likened to the TripAdvisor of financial services. Viet Nam News talks to GoBear Vietnam Country Director Tran Nhat Khanh to understand more about the company and how it sees the Vietnamese financial services market.
How has your company been doing in Viet Nam? What has been the reaction of users? Can you tell us what services Vietnamese users and foreigners in Vieät Nam use most in your companies?
We have seen unexpectedly large numbers. We recorded over 200,000 unique users carrying close to 300,000 comparisons on the website in the two months since our launch in Viet Nam. We see a good split between credit card and personal loans traffic on our website. What is more striking is the feedback and requests from consumers to add more products to the webpage. We have also secured some very strategic partnerships with banks and insurance companies on the ground, leveraging both existing relationships at the regional level as well as building local ones. For some partners, we play an advisory role to help them digitise initial traffic acquisition and subsequently bring their products online.
Since financial technology is a new concept in the Vietnamese market, what challenges have you been facing?
From a partners’ perspective, our partners' acceptance of our services is still not what we hoped for. In some cases, partners, especially local financial institutions, are still sceptical about the digitisation trend in the industry and how organisations should cope with this trend. Being the first mover in this market, our company is surely helping partners effectively cut customer acquisition cost. However, due to the complicated cost structure of financial services providers in Viet Nam, we are finding challenges in making partners fully realise our value proposition. While in other markets digital acquisition is well-defined and our company is proven to save up to 50 per cent of cost, it will take a bit longer in Viet Nam to justify our value to partners. Thanks to some early relationships with partners who are a bit more advanced in the digital journey, we hope to speed up adoption by the rest of the market.
GoBear Vietnam operates in Viet Nam from last December. The website has attracted 200,000 users. — VNS Photo Anh Vu
Although Vietnamese consumers are more digital these days, we still see a small population of users who have not fully adopted online decision making, especially when it comes to financial matters. Recent security fallouts here have raised some genuine concerns about carrying financial transactions online, which did not really help the situation here. Like everyone else who wants to reshape the market, we are prepared to invest in educating the public and helping improve the overall financial inclusiveness in Viet Nam.
How do you see the potential of the Vietnamese market? How does the country compare with the other countries your company operates in?
Like I mentioned earlier, in Viet Nam we are the first movers while in other markets we are one of the players. First mover’s advantages also come with many challenges. It sounds simple that we just need to make sure we extract more value from the advantages while minimising the damages from the business and other related risks. We believe in the indubitable growth of the Vietnamese economy, which depends heavily on the personal consumption of people here. Hence, financial products will play an important role in the market that has a double-digit growth in the mid-income segment. With the commitment from the Government to keep GDP growth less than 7 per cent per annum, we believe we will contribute to the exceptional story of Viet Nam.
What are your company’s strategies to develop in Viet Nam?
We will bring more products (up to 9 in 2017) across different verticals (banking, non-life, life insurance) to Vietnamese consumers. We want to make our company a one-stop-shop for Vietnamese to learn, compare and make financial decisions. This covers all financial needs of Vietnamese, all the way from day-to-day transaction to saving/protection needs. With that, we will become a strategic partner to all financial services providers in the market to help them lead the way in targeting the right clients and, more importantly, innovating service offerings.
How do you see the modern financial services trend in Vieät Nam, especially as the country integrates deeply with the global economy?
Similar to many other things, in the financial services segment too, Viet Nam tends to cut corners and quickly catches up with the developed markets on the basis of innovation. Various strategic moves from the government, including the strong push towards a cashless economy make this market such a promising place for fintech to boom. On top of that, deep integration into global economy does create many opportunities for innovations and knowledge from outside Viet Nam to be imported into the country. In the long run, these all would benefit the Vietnamese people tremendously having better services at a much lower cost which is what this industry wishes to achieve.
As one of the fastest growing fintech start-ups in Asia, what is your advice to Vietnamese start-ups for being successful and attracting investors to their venture/ business?
We are already seeing tens of notable fintech start-ups being founded locally every year and successfully attracting substantial amounts of foreign capital. Only time can tell if these companies (including GoBear) will go past the finish line, but this makes me think that most rational-thinking investors have belief that Viet Nam will deliver an attractive return on their investments.
Depending on the risk appetite, different investors may look for different types of companies to back, and I personally believe in business models which place customers first and offer them the best services available. Simply because these companies deliver long-term benefits to customers and are in a way protected by customers and hence build key unique selling points (USPs) and barrier to entry to competition. Now that’s what investors look for. —VNS