Following on with our Game Changers features, Finance Monthly speaks to Dave van Niekerk, CEO of MyBucks – a FinTech company dealing with lending, insurance and banking which is supported by services such as mobile banking, credit reports, financial budgeting and emergency cover through insurance. Here Dave discusses the challenges and rewards of his practice and MyBucks’ future.
The role of CEO is well positioned to drive cultural change within a company. What goals did you arrive with as CEO of MyBucks?
I had strong desire to create a dynamic culture, built on constant evolution and change. This culture would encourage innovation, and create an optimal environment to create the technology platforms necessary to support the MyBucks vision of financial inclusion, where financial products and services would be made available using technology, to people who did not previously have access to them. I want a culture which empowers people to think outside the box, to use initiative and to always be challenging themselves.
Can you detail the difficulties that you and the other co-founders of MyBucks faced in the process of setting up the company? How did your previous experience within the microfinance industry contribute?
It was a challenge to get people to believe that there were great opportunities to be found in providing virtual financial services in Africa. We also initially met with a lot of resistance from regulators, who were sceptical about virtual financial services as the way forward, and had to work hard to convince them. Over time, we succeeded in building solid relationship with these regulators, as well as with our funders, without whom, we would not be where we are today.
What have been some of your major achievements in the past twelve months?
We formed a partnership with non-profit organisation Opportunity International, a microfinance organisation that invests in philanthropic and social impact capital to lift people out of poverty, and are in the process of finalising the acquisition of three banks, one Savings and Loans Company and two non-bank financial institutions serving sub-Saharan Africa. This will fast track our expansion strategy, and drive our goal of financial inclusion. Other accomplishments that we are proud of include commencing operations in Namibia and the fact that we were just listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, successfully raising EUR 15.5 million. This will allow us to evolve our business model in existing operations, as well as expand into new markets.
In addition to your role as CEO, you are also responsible for MyBucks’ business areas technology and innovations. Given the fast moving nature of the FinTech industry, what are the particular challenges of staying up-to-date with the latest technological developments and how do you overcome them?
I am fortunate to be surrounded by an executive team of more than 20 dedicated professionals, each of whom is an expert in their particular field. We have 3 different Tech teams ,which have developed our cloud-based proprietary customer interface and loan management system “FinCloud”, which is designed to be both powerful enough to handle the large volumes of data required to evaluate customer applications, and flexible enough to capitalise on changing customer preferences, market trends and regulatory changes. Our Artificial Intelligence team has developed our proprietary artificial intelligence credit decisioning and scoring technology and self-learning algorithms enable us to reach customers who were previously excluded from access to these financial services. This powerful platform takes into account a number of factors, including behavioural data, transactional data, employment information and social media engagement to predict credit worthiness. In addition to this, it also enables us to detect and prevent fraud, which is a massive advantage, as it significantly reduces the risk to the business. The whole team keeps on top of the latest technological developments, and they make it their business to keep me informed.
The financial sector in Africa has been expanding in recent years – what potential for growth do you see for MyBucks?
We have massive upside potential when it comes to growth, as Internet penetration in Africa is happening faster than anywhere else. This means that MyBucks is perfectly positioned to leverage off our technology platform to provide digital and mobile financial services. Cheaper smartphones and affordable broadband are seeing more and more people in Africa go online, which is great news for us, as this will give us access to an ever increasing market. So I see massive growth potential for MyBucks.