When you hear the word AI, you start thinking about sophisticated robots, killing machines, confused humanoids, and Jarvis from Ironman. It is not an exaggeration to say that hollywood plays a big part in making artificial intelligence (AI) sexy and explosive.
Why? Partly because we have always been obsessed with movies that are set in the future, especially the ones where technology plays a leading role in the overall movie plot.
The reality is that people may have unfounded ideas about intelligence being the same as feelings. The major hurdle today is that people over-identify with the concept of intelligence.
People think that if something is more intelligent, it must be more human-like which is not the case. They equate being intelligent with being alive and knowing suffering and feelings.
Here is an exclusive interview with MyFinB Founder and CeO M nazri on the brief but rapid journey that includes becoming the Top 30 Most Attractive Companies Globally and Top 25 Hottest Fintech in Asia-Pacific awards. nazri shares his thoughts on what the future will be – on businesses or even individuals – in using AI as part of their
Q | First thing first, how do you feel about robots and machines entering our lives?
Nazri| It’s a funny question to ask when they’re changing our lives now in so many ways and they have been for years. From the first time you saw a toaster pop up by itself, we’ve casually accepted that machines can be trusted to do things for us. They record our shows, cook our food, play our music, and even run our cars. We just don’t see it because these “robots” don’t have a face we can talk to or a back we can kick.
Right now, all modern technology is designed to bring the world to you; phone, radio, television, Internet, and if such trends are to continue, robots will soon bring you to the world, everywhere, and at the speed of thought. Robots will be a mind and a hand where it’s needed while you sit safely at home and run the show.
Q | Interesting. So, are you saying humans are able to one day create robots to run companies?
Nazri| It’s a future goal, but it is happening in specific aspects of businesses like warehousing and running production machinery. Automating repetitive tasks could help small companies become more efficient – but trusting robotics with customer service could be a step too far.
It sounds like science fiction, but advances in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence are revolutionising how businesses are run. And it’s not just hospitality. From manufacturing to accountancy, the rise of the robots means the days of living, breathing people running a production line or calculating your taxes could be numbered. But can robots ever really be a substitute for warm-blooded workers? Or are there times when you need a human touch? At present, the work robots are best at is routine work – anything that can be routinised and performed according to a manual and a set of instructions.
If it works beyond routine work as a whole, robots won’t just change our lives in the future, they’ll expand them. not just for fun, but for necessity. We’ve already taken the first steps into welcoming them into our homes and businesses in a limited way. There can only be one direction from here – upward trajectory regarding advancement.
Q | Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Nazri| We started MyFinB in order to fill a big need —giving finance and business people a fast and simple way to understand financial data. We feel that today spending money sourcing and aggregating data, spreadsheets, and dashboards as mechanisms to understand data, simply aren’t value for money. People want the insights and recommendations that the data supports — about their operations, about their business, about their future. And, what better way to tell stories than through analytics?
I foresee that there is a high demand for financial literacy to be automated and democratised and MyFinB enables these organisations to spend less time crunching numbers and more time providing their management and other stakeholders with actionable information that, ultimately, helps them make better financial decisions.
Because there are more than 118 million businesses and 26,000 banks worldwide that rely on financial statements, the potential is vast. We believe we can make a positive impact by helping organisations save costs with efficient planning; reducing risks through analysis, and improve financial outcomes.
People can depend on smart technology like MyFinB’s AI to help them make better decisions through rapid processing of financial info, bringing them higher revenue and profitability.
The fact of the matter is, humans are prone to errors, fatigue, and biases whenever we are faced with a voluminous set of financial and business information over an extended period of time.
Introducing machines into the equation help us overcome this and streamline our decision-making process by automatically evaluate the financial standing of any company and articulating the likely directions that the management should make or likely to make.
The key to expanding MyFinB was in identifying the five key market segments with a strong demand for our services globally. These are financial institutions, enterprises, professional accounting firms, stock exchanges and government agencies responsible for SMe development.
We believe that such market segment needs can be substantially met through the use of AI and cognitive analytics that can drive higher revenues, lower risks and increase productivity.
Another critical factor is that we place a strong emphasis on our R&D. Part of our popular R&D initiative is the Digital AI Labs (DIAL) programme, whereby we encourage companies to harness their own data by building their personal digital assets and leasing our AI engine to them. This is part of our effort to ensure that now everyone can own AI.
Q | What challenges did you face in your initial years? What can your peers learn from it?
Nazri| Jumping in on a trend early is partially a gamble, but it’s also an essential investment in MyFinB’s future survival and growth story. “We were like surfers on a nice surfing board but no waves. We just paddle along”. To me, even if you have an idea of what the future of a product holds, you will always be surprised.
We were too early in the game – as early as 2006 where MyFinB existed as a product and was spun off recently as part of a venture building programme. It was only later that the phenomenon of digital disruption occurred, and we were able to position ourselves nicely with strong ecosystem support from both the public and private sectors.
For us, it’s trial and error, experience and knowledge that builds a product; and our contribution over the years allows us to help shape the product of the future.
In assessing an emerging technology’s potential, the paramount concern is whether it can satisfy customer needs and deliver value in a better way. To answer that question, we had to drill down to specifics: How much additional development will be required before the technology is ready for commercial prime time? What will its production economics look like? Will it be price- competitive?
We believe that our ability to create value depends on the development and commercial deployment of other critical parts of the ecosystem and the aforementioned core clusters. We had to go through numerous pilot programmes to ensure our clients maximize the benefits of using our AI- driven analytical solutions.
Q | How successful was your first project roll on? Please share the experience.
Nazri| Before we take on any project with any of our clients from the 5 core market segments, we tend to throw a challenge to them – what if they give us a subject company that we don’t know about, let us process its financial statements through our cognitive engine and we generate a detailed analysis on the spot.
Under 10 minutes, we will then unravel the financial DNA of that company and conduct a SWOT analysis with recommendations and action steps to be taken by the Management to improve its financial outcome.
In this way, we build the confidence of accountants who have been serving their clients for decades, into trusting our solutions. The same goes for bankers who have been lending and cultivating good relationships with their customers for many years.
In the case of a particular bank that specialises in SMe lending, we had each of the 50 senior bankers bring 100 sets of financial statements of their clients as part of their certification process. Within an hour, each banker had to present detailed analysis and intervention measures for the 100 companies they represent after generating the reports via the MyFinB system.
The most intriguing part about this whole exercise is to see firsthand how machines and humans can interact together and give the best for the end customer. Bankers are relieved that they don’t take weeks to attend to their customers’ financial needs after evaluating their financial health. Customers are happy that their bankers attend to their needs fast and sincerely helping to nurse their balance sheet health. It pleases us because these become testament that our products work and help solve a real pain.
Q | A company’s behaviour is as important as its economic performance or the quality of its products. How do you interpret this saying?
Nazri| We believe in a strong set of principles and values that define who we are and what we bring to the market. MyFinB’s success was founded on the value system that identifies us and described as follows:
We believe that our most important resource and our most significant competitive advantage is our pool of highly skilled, knowledgeable and diverse employees and partners.
We promote a culture of respect fairness, and inclusion for all global MyFinB stakeholders. We believe that diverse thoughts and ideas should be shared and valued intending to achieve tangible results.
We believe our people should enjoy their challenging and exciting work. We promote programs that support recognition of achievement, competitive rewards and a safe work environment.
We encourage information to be shared regionally through multiple, open communication channels.
We believe in an accountable culture, in which we deliver on our commitments to each other, our customers and our owners. We seek to maintain trust and credibility in order to manage our business with the appropriate oversight.
We promote a culture that is agile, anticipates change and is committed to implementing that change.
Q | ‘Leaders cannot optimise results by themselves; they need employees’ support and assistance.’ How does your company interpret this saying?
Nazri| At MyFinB we believe in Servant leadership. MyFinB follows a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organisations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.
Through leading by example, I believe that as CEO there is a conscious choice that brings one to aspire to lead. The leaders of our company focus primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong, and what sets us apart from traditional leadership roles is that there is no accumulation or exercise of power.
I make it a point to be personally involved in all aspects of the company without being a micro-manager so that I can support each member of our family grow and meet their objectives.
Q | Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your employees?
Nazri| At MyFinB, we believe in these 6 core tenets. | Trust must be earned. It comes from the conscious effort to walk your talk, keep your promises and align your behavior with your values. We firmly believe that building trust is worth the effort because once trust is lost, it can be tough to recover. This is a two-way street between employer and employees, and we remind one another that it is crucial for us to earn everyone’s trust.
- Be honest and supportive.
Even when it’s difficult, tell the truth and not just what you think people want to hear. We remind ourselves to try understand what employees need to know and communicate facts while being considerate of their effort and sensitive to their feelings. We must be able to show support and understanding for our team members, even when mistakes are made. It goes a long way in building trust as a leader.
- Commit to following through.
We continuously share internally that even the best-intended talk is hollow if not followed by the corresponding action. For me personally, I rather you do something only if you are able to follow through, and don’t commit if there is a chance you won’t be able to deliver. Breaking a commitment can destroy trust you’ve built as well as make people less inclined to trust you in the future.
- Be consistent
Consistently doing what you say you’ll do builds trust over time – it can’t be something you do only occasionally. At MyFinB, keeping commitments must be the essence of our behavior, in all relationships, day after day and year after year.
- Model the behavior you seek.
nothing speaks more loudly about the culture of an organisation than the leader’s behavior, which influences employee action and has the potential to drive their results. Personally, teamwork is crucial to me. I always reinforce the point by collaborating across teams and functions and do my very best to give credit when people do great work. I hope to set the stage for an appreciative culture in MyFinB.
- Build in accountability.
I make mistakes all the time in this business and not ashamed to admit. I acknowledge my mistakes as my own and share the company’s successes as a whole. I like to encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability by building in processes that become a part of the MyFinB culture, such as an evaluation of every project (positives, negatives, things to change) or a status report and next steps in each meeting agenda (tracking deadlines and milestones).
Q | Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your employees?
Nazri| The five factors that have made the difference would be:
| Our People – Those who have supported in the early days faithfully since the beginning of time and those who come in after that to carry us forward through the next lap.
|Our Partners – who play the role of multipliers and advisors at the same time. We value the access to their network that they have provided and entrusted us with.
|R&D – our ability to rapidly produce a prototype leading to commercialization has been a strong point; reducing the risk when presenting a new product, service or a feature to the market.
| Global network – we have grown into a diversified, string network present in more than 26 countries.
| Culture– Wenurtureasupportive, family-like environment that is performance-oriented at the same time.
Q | What do you feel are the reasons behind your company’s reputation?
Nazri| Our reputation stems from our ability to launch and deliver a new innovative solution with accurate, timely and quality analysis. We extend this ability towards existing experiences but on a digital platform.
People find our commitment towards user experience and UI design commendable, which has helped spread the integration of our products into so many different companies across many different industries.
We don’t rest on our laurels; we continue to strive to improve MyFinB’s products and solutions by improving them consistently.
Q | People like when companies are involved in social welfare/ CSR activities, what do you say about this?
Nazri| Part of our CSR focus is to help thousands of micro, small enterprises that have limited access to financial expertise. We are committed to democratize such access by the use of a RoboCFO and help them to evaluate their financial health for free and connect them with the right expertise.
These companies then have the edge to compete with others in their industry by using RoboCFO to determine their full business potential through financial analysis, study the estimated valuation of their business, and get strategic inputs for business expansion and business plans. They have stronger financial performances, lower risks levels, and use their assets and resources more effectively.
Q | Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
Nazri| There are five key priorities that MyFinB has set, namely – market expansion, mergers and acquisitions, new technology breakthroughs via R&D innovation, organic customer acquisition and achieving good profitability growth.
For market expansion, we have set our sights geographically in the major regions of the world (except South America) for the issuance of country master licenses to represent MyFinB and conduct operations locally.
We are doing these in phases and ensure that we do not rush into partnerships hastily. Rather, with our experience of conducting global partnerships in the last decade as a group, we are able to foster steady relationships based on trust, goodwill and mutual benefits.
Most importantly, people must understand what we do and vice versa – that is key to a long-term relationship. Concerning new breakthrough and innovation, we carry out a combination of developing in-house digital assets as well as acquiring established ones to ensure we have a good inventory of expert systems that we can commercialize as quickly as possible, i.e. go-to-market to meet customer needs.
We strive to achieve the optimal product-market fit all the time by sensing and ascertaining what market needs and fill these with a broader set of solutions as quickly as possible.
One of our ongoing activities is also to acquire small but accounting firms that have good management and customer base. Our value proposition is to pool resources and assets together, inject them with our own digital assets like RoboCFO and RoboAuditors, enhance their current operations through digital transformation and boost their overall enterprise value.
next is that apart from acquisition- based strategy, we continue to place top priority on ensuring our existing customers and partners get the support they need and that we continue to deliver high-quality solutions to them.
Our response rate and ability to resolve their ever-changing needs must be maintained well if we want to retain them. Operating in today’s digital economy is not easy – we must always maintain efficiency across time zones and be highly responsive as well as adaptive to changes in the marketplace. Competition is everywhere, and we must always be 10 steps ahead of the curve at all times to maintain our
If we adhere to the four key points mentioned earlier, then topline and bottom-line targets can be met consistently. This becomes our top priority is such that, for whatever strategies we undertake, there will always be a financial impact that we attain, along with the impact we give to our stakeholders. mb