Fintech Group: Expanding Horizons

Tony Mbugua, the General Manager, Fintech Group International

Disruptive innovation happens whenever new technologies alter the way markets operate. The same can be said about fintech.

Financial technology (fintech) has a very long history. When most people hear fintech, they think about a revolutionary mobile app or a smart card which can help them pay for bills without ever touching a currency. But technology has always played a key role in the financial services sector in ways that most people take for granted and might not ever see.

The fintech industry is thriving globally and received USD 17.4 billion in investment in 2017 alone.According to EY’s 2017 Fintech Adoption Index, one-third of consumers utilize at least two or more fintech services and those consumers are also increasingly aware of fintech as a part of their daily lives.

In understanding the role of financial technology in Africa’s economy, the Fintech Group was formed in 1993 by former senior executives at Citibank. It set out to help financial sector players effectively automate their operations via technology.

“Today fintech is a commonly used term to describe new technology that seeks to improve and automate the delivery of financial services,” explains Tony Mbugua, the General Manager, Fintech Group International during an interview with StartUp Magazine team.

He explains that in the 1990s, the term ‘fintech’ was rarely used, especially on the consumer front. “We were able to foretell the future of financial technology and better position ourselves to serve the sector, hence our name and DNA.”

For the past two decades, the firm has evolved to be a leading enterprise information technology solution and service provider in the financial services sector across Africa.

“We help business owners and financial institutions better manage their financial operations, delivery channels and processes by utilizing our specialized software and algorithms,” he says.

The company’s e-banking suites of products are robust and flexible mobility solutions for financial institutions that integrates with all known core banking solutions. These solutions include; FinBridge, finMobile, finIB (Internet Banking), finISecure (Biometrics) Security and Postilion Switch.

In addition, the firm has a robust, secure and scalable automated clearing, truncation and settlement solution called Chequepoint. “This solution integrates seamlessly with core banking systems and the central clearing systems hosted by the central/reserve banks, it is truncation ready, agnostic to scanners and is customized to meet set clearing and payment guidelines for different markets.”

Chequepoint is currently deployed in over 60 banks across Africa.

Recently, the firm introduced a new generation of smart point of Sales (POS) devices that increases efficiency in payments for retail customers. The devices allow cash and cashless transactions across multiple platforms and are aimed at delivering more reliable, sustainable, flexible and secure experience to different users.

Commenting on the launch of the POS devices in Uganda, Barry Ryan, the CEO of Fintech Group said, “We discovered a very specific need to produce a device that is reliable and flexible for the agency banking system.”

Solutions for Sacco’s and MFIs

In further understanding the roles played by other financial players in the economy, Mbugua says they developed more solutions that target Sacco’s and microfinance institutions (MFI’s).“When you deal directly with Sacco’s and MFI’s, you realize how important they are in providing financial services to people. Thus we developed specialized in-house enterprise solutions that are designed to help them automate their functionalities. We have the FinFinancials suite; Finsacco for Sacco’s, finMFI for Microfinances, Leasepac for Leasing companies, FinMortgage for Mortgage companies among others.”

The executive affirmsthat these softwares enable MFI and Sacco’s to drastically cut down operational costs while serving clients more efficiently.

Finfinancials modules can also be integrated with other applications as third party modules to meet specific functionalities in an organization. It can also be used in credit reporting by leveraging information about payment history to flag transactions that are outside the norm, used in insurance premium financing and debt management.

Admittedly, Fintech Group has played a major role in moderating the innovations by providing reliable open back end systems that supports the startups/individuals to plug into the financial technology ecosystem. The Group’s wealth of financial and banking experience has further enabled it to quickly align with the compliance and the regulatory requirements of the different markets where it operates.

Data

“In this era of digital inclusion, data has become a key ingredient in understanding consumer behaviour. As companies collect a lot of data, we provide them with solutions where they can be able to analyse and prepare reports from such data. Our experienced consultants have been able to provide robust, flexible and scalablesolutions for both internal and external reporting. These reports include regulatory reports and MIS Systems, CRB reports,” says Mbugua.

Advisory

Fintech Group has a wealth of experience in providing consultancy and advisory services to Commercial and Central Banks across Africa. The services include; national payment systems (shared switches and automated clearing and settlement) and core banking systems. This consultancy practice broadly covers; Project Management, Business Process Re-Engineering and Training.

“Managed IT Services is a proactive process of managing IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems, under a subscription model. We provide Strategic consulting and outsourced services to help organizations transform their technology services into business information enabling centres using industry best practices. Delivery of Services is done by; Fulltime Onsite Engineer/s, On-call services, Hourly/Weekly Engineers and Remote Support Services,” shares the GM.

He acknowledges that Fintech is a certified Oracle Gold Partner with extensive experience in providing Oracle technology, business Intelligence and banking solutions. Fintech’s core banking solution is based on Oracle Flexcube UBS covering; implementation, testing, support and enhancements, including value adding Oracle technology services.“They trusted our knowledge and expertise to deploy their solutions locally.”

Social economic transformation

By helping businesses reduce operational costs, increase efficiency, gain market share and work around the clock to meet unique customer needs, he believes the firm is playing a major role in social economic transformation of the continent.

“We are happy to aide financial institutions in developing solutions that answer pressing economic challenges such as championing financial inclusion,” he adds.

As the general manager, Mbugua believes that the industry has its own challenges, where one needs to exceed customer expectation in order to thrive.“It is never a walk in the park. We are in constant competition with global players who are experienced and with bigger financial clout. You have to be very competent to stand out.”

Consumers are also driving change in the industry in a way that has never been seen before. “Millennials are demanding better banking experiences through digital devices.” he explains.

Besides, cloud is redefining the way we store, manage and access data. Companies no longer need to have servers in their premises to store data. Being one of the rapidly developing technologies, cloud computing has gained massive traction in recent years. In fact, the cloud has been enabler of many other disruptive technologies including AI, big data and IoT.  The firm works with global players to deploy cloud computing for banks, microfinance institutions and Sacco’s. “Cloud is a proven solution to may core banking problems like secure storage, 24×7 uptime and interoperability. Thus, it is key to stay abreast with such tech dynamics to stay relevant,” he advises.

Despite the challenges, Mbugua is bullish about financial technology as it is going to play more important roles in human life.“People will continue to demand more access to seamless banking options, pay for bills, save funds and borrow money via devices and we will always be on the pulse to execute this.”