I started my career in Dublin working for a private client stockbroker before joining investment bank, Merrill Lynch, back in 2006. I worked in back office roles and was fortunate to land a move to their Singapore offices at the start of 2008. My career blossomed in Asia with a subsequent move on to their Prime Brokerage team, dealing with hedge fund clients. It’s been a fantastic, unforgettable, rollercoaster ride ever since.
How did you get into FinTech PR in Singapore?
I loved my time in banking. Undoubtedly it was challenging and demanding. It was also invigorating and inspiring to work with fiercely talented people.
Nonetheless, my instinct has never let me down and I knew I wanted to try something else. I left to complete a Communications degree in 2013.
I joined a Financial Services PR agency where my first big client was a FinTech company. I knew first-hand of the profound impact technology had on financial services and quickly recognized that this sector had tremendous promise.
Singapore has a thriving FinTech community with tremendous government support particularly from the local regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore. On a regional level, ASEAN is on a tipping point for large-scale growth with a booming middle-class. Again, my instinct dictated that it was too exciting to sit on the side-lines and I started Bowlah PR at the end of 2015.
What’s it like as an Irish person in Asia?
I arrived on February 1st 2008. The Irish community in Asia has undergone a period of change and upheaval since then. Economic conditions added to the natural wanderlust of the Irish and we witnessed an influx of people arriving to these shores. Thankfully Asia is hugely welcoming to newcomers and communities have mushroomed across the region. It’s a tight-knit bunch who stay in touch even when people move on. I now have friends across the globe – what’s not to like?
I’d like to see more Irish-based companies look eastwards as there is huge opportunity here. They can contact Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Chambers overseas or the local embassy for details – they do Trojan work on the country’s behalf. They can also drop me a line, I’m always willing to have a chat!
Pros and cons between Sing’ and Ireland?
The most obvious pro is Singapore’s weather. I live in shorts and t-shirts with big blue skies and bright sunshine for six out of seven days. The fantastically multi-cultured society is a blessing to experience and has taught me so much about the world. Setting up your own company is straightforward with minimal red-tape and a supportive entrepreneurial environment. On the con side, I miss watching Ireland play rugby and the live music scene here cannot compare. Oddly, having a single currency is also very handy for travel regionally so may I add the euro?
— Caroline – Bowlah PR (@CaroBowler) May 31, 2016
What FinTech trends are you excited by?
RegTech! From my background in banking I fully appreciate the day to day complexity of operating within a changing regulatory environment. Scrupulous operations, although necessary, are time-consuming and resource-heavy for both practitioner and client. Innovation in this area, to mechanise manual processes, would create space for compliance teams to increase the value they add to the banking industry. A good result for all.
— Bowlah PR (@BowlahCom) February 3, 2016
Tell us about the local scene? What FinTech companies are doing interesting things?
Singapore is the centre of Fintech for South East Asia, thanks to a thriving community but also an infrastructure that is actively supported by the regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore or MAS. If I was to point directly to an innovative organisation, it would actually be MAS! They have conducted a global tour, visiting international fintech centres of excellence with the aim of building ties for Singapore. They have issued a consultation paper on the introduction of a regulatory sandbox, leading the way for regulators throughout the world. All of this is culminating in the first Fintech Festival taking place in November (www.fintechfestival.sg). They are also hugely involved committed and supportive of the Fintech community at a grassroots level.
Which overseas markets are most relevant to you guys, China / Aus, or US or Europe?
One market opportunity that does get overlooked is the ASEAN Economic Community. This regional economic block of 10 countries rather softly come of age in 2015. It represents a whopping market of $2.6 trillion US across a population size of over 622 million people. The banking sector and capital markets are undergoing an overhaul due for completion in 2020. This will streamline regional bank regulation and open up access to the financial system from outside the home markets. I think it’s important we keep focus on opportunities that are also closer to home.
PR tips for FinTech startups?
Firstly, keep it simple. Fintech is hugely exciting but needs to sell its story outside of our community. Ultimately you need to be able to explain why your FinTech innovation is going to be a game-changer to non-industry people. When it comes to technical concepts, it does not hurt to bring things back to basics. Boil your idea down to three sentences and then ask yourself, would a 12 year old understand it? That’s a useful place to start.
For the more advanced, there is a burgeoning international network of FinTech PR agencies who understand the marketplace and more importantly, have connections in to the media and key influencers. PR people are always happy to meet for a coffee and a chat so drop them a line!
Which PR / FinTech thought leaders do you follow?
I have been fortunate to connect with a variety of FinTech leaders across the globe. The extremely knowledgeable David Gyori has generously shared his time and insights. In the U.S., Gregg Schonenberg from Wescott Capital produces the Financial Revolutionist newsletter of which I am a rabid fan. If you have an interest in FinTech or wider finance, you need to read it. Locally, I always enjoy thoughts from Markus Gnirck, co-founder of Startupbootcamp and now tryb, an ASEAN-focused FinTech advisory service. He is a forthright, honest advocate and cuts right to the heart of any issue. I’m aware that there aren’t any women’s names on this list and I look forward to that changing.
What are your plans for 2016?
We’re now about half way through the year and it’s been an unbelievable journey for Bowlah PR. I suspect like many first-time entrepreneurs, it has taken up every waking thought but I’ve loved every minute. For the rest of 2016, we want to keep up the good work for our clients and spread the word on Fintech beyond the usual channels. We also want to grow the business and expand the range of in-house specialities as AI and robotics have really caught my eye. Planning ahead for 2017 and beyond!