HK personal finance site aims to become household name in Asia

May 14, 2015 11:28
CompareAsia founders Gerald Eder (right) and Alister Musgrave said the company's platform answers a real need in the personal finance market. Photo: EJ Insight

Hong Kong residents have got used to receiving unwanted calls from banks and other financial institutions offering loan and insurance services at the most inappropriate time.

But when faced with a real need for urgent cash or service, they are often at a loss as to where to seek help.

One problem is there are too many choices; it's hard to determine which is the best for one's particular need.

A Hong Kong-based startup is trying to build a name in the vibrant but "technologically untouched" personal finance market by focusing on this field.

CompareAsia Group provides a free and easy-to-use online platform that allows users to compare personal finance products such as credit cards, insurance and mortgages.

By using the online comparison platform, consumers save time and money by picking the best-priced service that fits their needs.

“We are like the Tripadvisor for personal finance”, Gerald Eder, co-founder and managing partner at CompareAsia Group, told EJ Insight in an interview.

The various products and services of financial firms are “sorted according to facts, not how much [the providers] pay us”, Eder said.

On the other hand, financial service providers lower marketing costs asclients with real needs come to them for business through the website.

Partnership with CompareAsia, which covers Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, means providers have lesser need to set up new branches or hire more sales people to grow their business, while the customers referred through the comparison site generally have better profiles, he said.

In a sign of the market's confidence in the startup's business model, CompareAsia was able to raise US$40 million in its latest funding round.

The series A funding was led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and other major institutions such as Jardine Pacific, Nova Founders Capital, ACE & Company and Route 66 Ventures.

Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga, and Owen Van Natta, the former chief operation officer of Facebook, also participated in the funding round.

Unlike many local websites, CompareAsia puts emphasis on user experience and easy-to-use interfaces.

According to Eder, the company's 80-strong technology team accounts for more than half of its entire staff presently, and part of the proceeds of the latest fundraising exercise will be used in improving the sites' performance.

The company runs several similar sites in different countries simultaneously, thus saving costs.

“Being regional is making things much easier for us,” Eder said, citing the faster coordination with the regional headquarters of the participating banks and insurers and the broader talent pool across the region.

Founded in 2013, CompareAsia now has eight sites in eight Asian countries and regions, namely Hong Kong, which is the fastest-growing and most established market, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Since its establishment, the company has seen its user numbers grow 30 to 50 percent every month, according to Eder.

“In the next few months, we will cover all bank, insurance and telecom products in every market,” said Alister Musgrave, co-founder and the managing director for its Hong Kong site.

The “vast majority” of the fund will be used for large-scale marketing and the rest for improvement of the website as well as expansion of its product categories.

“We want to become a household name in the next 12 months,” Eder said.

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EJ Insight reporter