The Chinese market continues to be one of the more challenging markets for brokers to enter. For this reason, there is a growing premium for localization, given the difficulty in catering to Chinese clients. One such group that continues to make inroads in this space is RootAnt, which has emphasized user experience and product diversity.
RootAnt has carved out a niche in the market as one of the few companies to help overseas financial institutions localize in Asia, namely China. With user experience becoming the differentiator for the industry, the offering of streamlined solutions and a diversified API suite is truly a game changer in the region.
Finance Magnates spoke with Lincoln Yin, Founder and CEO of RootAnt, who explains the trajectory of the Chinese market as well as what it takes to succeed in the region.
What sorts of factors make RootAnt unique in the market?
As a financial technology service provider, the most unique factor of RootAnt is that we focus on solving a very specific problem but a global common pain point – user experience for financial platform.
Presently, users – especially younger generations, use Internet applications every day, which is historically a very good experience. However, most of the financial applications are quite behind.
One strong difference between these applications is the difficulty in retaining a respective user base. Moreover, as fintechs emerge in the market, these keep taking away users from the traditional financial institutions. This big challenge also provides a big opportunity for those pioneers, many of whom are working to improve it. User experience is becoming a differentiator for the industry.
In the past 5-10 years, the Internet industry in China has been growing in a dramatic rate, especially in consumer user applications and platforms. Taking advantage of this growing field, we have a team coming from leading Chinese Internet companies in the financial and software industry.
As such, we continue to focus on overseas clients with experts from finance, technology, and design. Boasting a diverse range of international cooperation backgrounds and solid experience, the fusion of compound abilities makes us in a very unique positioning. Now we work with clients from the banking, brokerage, asset investment, and wealth management space.
The fact that most Chinese local financial technology service providers are not good at international cooperation and most consultation companies are not good at technology side, makes RootAnt one of the very few companies holding this core value.
Another strong advantage for RootAnt is that we have a deep understanding of the APAC market. The APAC market is the growth engine for most international financial institutions, though there are some strong companies in this vertical in UK and US. RootAnt has consistently provided more value to the expanding APAC region.
The biggest challenge is always about individuals themselves. Most of the financial institutions lack a compound team from various backgrounds and fail to work together well. The majority of the financial platforms and applications are led by IT teams, not real product managers.
Moreover, data analytics is more about system performance but not user behavior. The second biggest challenge is the overall mindset. This includes the mindset of the company to design the whole business, including the thought process behind the platforms or the applications.
For example, an engineer’s mindset would never make a user-friendly and easy-to-use result, as an engineer software it’s about features. Lastly, one main issue for groups focusing on user experience is the culture.
The whole financial industry is not open enough, from the legacy core systems to the management team. Everybody is talking about innovation, however very few of them really could tolerate the failure of a new project and always make an innovation project as big as possible.
What sorts of factors are included in RootAnt’s user experience that helps it succeed?
When we talk about user experience, we don’t talk much about UI or front-end. Rather, we always start from what is the target market of the platform or the application and the portrait of the target users.
Without a very clear picture about the users, there would be no real user-friendly and easy-to-use. For different users, it’s definitely different. Furthermore, we don’t talk much about design or style, but instead talk more about the services we are going to provide for the users and what’s the customer journey of the service.
It is critical to align with the business process, i.e. what’s the end-to-end process on the application and platform. Considering the current corporate business resources and the current IT systems, you need to design the automation CTA (call to action) in a systematic level.
While we don’t draw an ideal picture, the best one is a realistic situation that can be made on the ground. RootAnt doesn’t make the project in one step towards the final destination, but rather step by step. We start with something small and build the channels to collect user feedbacks and user behavior data.
Based on the user analytics, we add more services to the application or the platform that are really needed. The whole result helps satisfy the overall user experience.
How important is a diversified open API suite for your clients and is this an area you see growing moving forward?
This is one of the most important factors for the industry, even a game-changer. Now there are few core systems in each vertical dominating the market. If they don’t open their API and make it easy for financial institutions and financial technology companies like us to integrate and develop upon it, it becomes very hard to innovate.
Presently, the big core system software giants are struggling to be real open. This is not just words but means thinking and acting in collaboration and building an environment for start-ups to get involved.
The challenge for them is to be clearer about their core business and then share the short-term profit with the start-ups, while also helping them to grow. Look at the eco-system of Salesforce, there are already some “Unicorns”. With the pressure of financial performance for the capital market, only a very strong leadership team could make this “Open” happen.
Now there are some the fintech companies building open financial platform/system, though the core system is a challenge for them to build from scratch. This is the GAP for now.
Time will ultimately give an answer as to which side would run faster, though the result is “OPEN”, API is just the bridge. Once the industry reaches this tipping point, more sustained levels of innovation would grow exponentially.
When international financial institutions expand to APAC regions, what are the biggest challenges that they have to face?
The biggest challenge is the diversity of cultures and very complicated environment. When you look at Southeast Asia, it’s not one culture, but a logjam of different cultures. There would be no one-size-fits-all solution for all regions, but a very strong user research team to local the applications and platforms for each of the region.
This is especially true where there are big differences between the development status of areas. For example, China skipped the “personal check” stage. And now in Southeast regions, mobile phone would also make a lot “Skips” in financial industry, as the coverage of smart phone is much bigger than the coverage of bank cards.
Another case is when you get into the Chinese market, the infrastructure is always a headache. It would be a unique problem for this specific market. The user habits for different areas in China would also be various. Finally, as the number of users would also be very large, the architecture and the customer service of the platform is also a challenge.
Do you foresee any improvements, upgrades, etc. to RootAnt’s products or servicesto continually evolve in tandem with client demand in H2 2018 and beyond?
In the following period, we will be launching more of our gamification products for financial industry. Consequently, we will be helping institutions to get closer to young generation, which is also a big pain point for our clients.
Gamification financial application and platforms are now very good financial education tools to guide the young users to the financial services, as financial products and services are quite complicated in most of the young user’s impression.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is sponsored and does not represent the opinions of Finance Magnates.