As Vietnam’s economy continues its emergence, new demand for credit is sparking growth in the country’s financial technology sector, or fintech. Though the market is still sparse, brands, namely Asian leading financial supermarket – GoBear, are stepping in to provide digital lending and promote financial literacy and inclusion.
Vietcetera recently met with GoBear Vietnam’s Marketplace Director, Mai Vu, to discuss the company’s goals, the future of fintech in Vietnam, and her own career journey that led her to work in one of the fastest growing sectors of Vietnam’s economy.
Where were you working before GoBear, and what sort of career moments shaped your decision to work at a tech company like GoBear?
Before GoBear, I have led the sales and business development departments at various corporations such as VinaCapital, Indochina Capital, and most recently, Galaxy Group. I have also recently graduated top of my MBA class at the University of San Francisco in the US. All crucial career moments leading to GoBear have been driven by my desire to take risks and seek personal growth from challenging environments.
In my 11th grade at Le Hong Phong High School, I won a scholarship funded by the U.S. government to study at Patrick Henry High School as a part of the cultural exchange program. Although my parents were worried because I had never been abroad before, I resolved to go alone thousand kilometers from home to embark on this scholarship. My bold choice yielded results as I graduated cum laude in chemistry from the Virginia Commonwealth University.
But at the time there were not a lot of companies investing in research and development in Vietnam. I chose to take risks and explore a new career path. I showed up to my first interview in marketing for a real estate company, a fresh-faced graduate meeting with an experienced American CEO in their 50’s. Besides my academic background, America also taught me a sense of directness and confidence, something that the interviewers respected. I was happy to get an offer!
Even though everyone advised me to be cautious as real estate were going through a crisis in 2009, I pressed ahead and started working in marketing for real estate. However, I also was drawn to the action of sales. I chose to volunteer in sales and eventually moved to that space. I led the sales team for deals at increasingly larger scales, from international real estate developers to Vietnam’s largest corporations.
Most recently, I received a scholarship for my MBA at the University of San Francisco located in the heart of global innovation. I was inspired by my classmates and neighbors who founded their own startups to disrupt industries and change the world. And now going back to Vietnam, I was just looking for the right startup when I was recruited by Mr. Bao Nguyen, Country Director of GoBear Vietnam and Thailand. GoBear’s mission to improve people’s financial health is what compels me to be a part of the team and their amazing journey to build secure, stable and sustainable communities across Asia.
Thanks for sharing, Ms. Mai! So, what’s your day to day work like as the Marketplace Director at GoBear Vietnam?
I drive revenue and take the lead for on-boarding and contracting new partners in the banking and insurance space, as well as solidifying relationships with existing partners.
My workday couldn’t start without the act of updating the latest perfomance figures. Then, my team and I discuss on our daily priorities to work them out the most effectively. The nature of marketplace development prevents me from having a stable routine. It shifts my focus ranging from sharing feedbacks on new product features with the company’s internal stakeholders to kicking off the brainstorm session for a certain campaign with the Head of Marketing or encountering the ad-hoc meetings with our B2B partners.
What products are GoBear’s partners most excited about?
We are most excited about bringing digital lending to the unbanked and underbanked in Vietnam. Several dozen million consumers here having no exposure to credit and banking segment represent a massive opportunity for us. This product is tailored for short-term credit needs.
Anyone who is in need of some immediate working capital for their business, some medical emergency, or a new first bike, first home etc. could be the potential customers. This solution focuses on flexibility, speed and convenience, whereas it might take up several days to complete the paperwork at a bank. Therefore, our vision is to increase financial inclusion by serving the targeting customers that might not be served by formal institutions.
What challenges do fintech companies like GoBear face in Vietnam?
The Vietnamese government has made significant efforts to create a favorable environment for fintech startups to operate. The introduction of innovation such as a regulatory sandbox is necessary for the growth acceleration. We also see, to a certain extent, banks being reluctant to adopt new technologies by working with Fintech firms due to cultural factors and the risks that come with innovation.
Knowledge of financial products is another challenge. Carrying out the online transactions requires the end-users to enhance the level of financial literacy in order to decrease premature financial decisions. Our data and insights mean we can build better products, better assess and price risk, work with partners to improve access to financial products, and identify consumer knowledge gaps.
As a senior in the fintech industry, what do you predict about the growth of this industry in Vietnam?
According to Solidiance, an APAC-focused consultancy firm, the Vietnamese fintech market was worth $4.4 billion in 2017, and is predicted to grow 77% in the next three years. Numerous factors, including regulatory efforts to increase financial inclusion, rising income as well as consumption which fuel the e-commerce sector, and a young & tech affine population with high smartphone penetration rates are thought to drive this growth.
Vietnam millennials will be the main driver of this trend as they have increasingly disposable income. When it comes to financial products, they do research online before making a purchase decision.
Thanks for sharing the rundown on your work, Mai! Outside of GoBear, what sort of programs and initiatives do you work on?
I am a mentor for Luong Van Can Fund (LVCF), a non-governmental, non-profit organization that aims to develop a new generation of highly skilled professionals beneficial for Vietnam’s social and economic growth.
Through its fundraising efforts, LVCF endeavors to provide scholarships for students with disabilities, students with lower-income backgrounds, and students that live in isolated areas to pursue higher education within the country, as well as postgraduate scholarships for outstanding Vietnamese students to study in countries with world-class education systems.
As a mentor, I am coaching 3 mentees by providing skill-based training, mindset training, and career development orientation.
Last October 2019, I co-hosted a training session for etiquette, to give students the skills to appear courteous, confident and comfortable at all times. Our day long etiquette training course combined role play, presentations, discussion and games.