Genie Financial Services CEO Helen Neo shares her journey on launching Singapore’s first B2B Vehicle Auction Platform.
According to a recent Frost & Sullivan report, the global B2B e-commerce market is expected to reach USD 6.7 Trillion by 2020. The report says B2B online sales is expected to account for 27 percent of total manufacturing trade, which is likely to hit USD 25 trillion by the end of this year, with China and the United States leading the B2B online retailing market.
While the likes of ebay, Alibaba and Amazon continue to hoover up much of the marketplace oxygen, B2B online relationships are moving from the ‘one-to-many’ to ‘many-to-many’ business models. Instead of a model where one company invests and builds an e-platform for many suppliers, industry networks are exchanging products and creating public marketplaces for on-the-spot purchasing now more than ever. As businesses buy more online, seller-driven B2C-type open public networks is giving more ‘foot-traffic’ to vendors.
Given the increase in B2B online trading of goods and services, we are seeing an emergence of industry specific, complementary products and services designed to enable greater users experiences and generate higher conversions for vendors.
If we look at the B2B auto auction market, for example, vendors are not the only ones making profits via B2B auction sites. Buyers are too. Making major purchases, such as a car, is often achieved for less through online platforms as buyers seek more value for spend and vendors are incentivized to sell quickly and at greater volume.
Implementing B2B e-commerce strategies however, is not without challenges. Financing, taxation and regulatory concerns impact sales and providers typically have more overheads relating to the distribution of products and services within these restrictions. Marketing and educating buyers in the B2B setting is also complex, as clients need to understand the way products or services work and interact with other systems that they already have or are considering for purchase.
To understand the race to hyper-specialization in this space better, we asked Genie Financial Services Co-Founder and CEO Helen Neo about her B2B Wholesale Platform, which Neo describes as an end-to-end marketplace platform that enables automotive businesses to buy and sell cars faster and easily through a wide network using the wholesale mobile application.
In 2016, Neo co-founded Genie Financial Services, a start-up which applies digitization business models and enhanced end-to-end processes to deliver financial solutions and services to both its corporate and personal finance customers. Within the first six months of its inception, Genie developed its B2B Vehicle Auction platform – Neo claiming the first of its kind in Singapore- with the support of its parent company, Carro Singapore.
As the current CEO of Genie, Helen spearheads operations and manages the team.
“Our mobile app is like a super-app where buyers can bid for cars via our daily auctions, order new cars and apply for loans. Car sellers also benefit as they can put their cars up for auction sales. With each transaction, both the buyer and seller can leave a review and feedback for each other,” says Neo.
Behind the scenes, Neo says the wholesale platform is powered by a full suite of management systems.
“It supports businesses to manage their entire value chain – from leads to inventories, transactions and loans. We also provide a web management interface for businesses to give them a head-start with their online presence and gain a digital shopfront easily. Our goal is to help businesses accelerate in growth with data-backed decision making and in turn, improve the end-customer’s experience,” says Neo.
Neo began her career in 1985 as a Credit Officer in a Finance company. She joined a QFB bank where she served in different capacities and in subsequent years, Neo secured several Vice President positions including Head of Consumer Banking, Head of Business Operations and Support, and Head of Retail SME over a period of eight years. Her last position was Head of Personal Financial Services in the banking industry.
We asked Neo to share some of the challenges she faced since founding Genie Financial Services four years ago.
“Building a startup in the financial services industry has proven to be a challenging process, but as the present numbers have shown, the team has achieved great results. Our biggest challenge was to educate our internal technology team, who had zero knowledge of the finance industry. We worked on training the team to understand what these financial products were and how they work. This was an especially challenging task as we had the entire team working on designing, building and launching a new and unrivalled digitised financial solution within just six months. This process would normally take at least two years for any financial institution or bank to do the same. As we were a startup, it was also hard to convince experienced staff to join us. So we focused our time to recruit, train and develop new staff instead. Lastly, we also struggled to obtain funding. We understood that given how young our business was, we needed to put in extra effort in order to obtain funding. So we built our credentials from scratch in order to garner support from banks. We stayed committed to growing our customer base from the ground up, forming strong relationships and staying focused on expanding our network,” says Neo.
Fast forward to 2020, Neo says Genie now has a strong technology team which it can tap into to develop new digital capabilities and a competitive business model that offers greater efficiency and convenience to its customers.
“I see the automotive business as a diverse one with different perspectives, and not just focused on loans. We have learned to make the business more flavourful than plain vanilla, centered on delivering a better, faster and more dynamic customer experience. Business-wise, it makes me proud to say that Genie has established a strong market presence and experienced significant business growth. Apart from being profitable in such a short span, we have built a solid clientele base of thousands of customers with over 500 dealers currently benefiting from our wholesale and auction application and financial services,” says Neo.
Neo says that the aim of her team is to continually create business value for customers and help them fulfil their dreams. In light of trying to meet customers’ needs, Neo says her team was inspired to adopt the following theme called ‘D.R.E.A.M’, an acronym for dynamic, responsive, engaging, adaptive and mobile.
“Genie will continue to drive innovation and digitise the automotive financial services industry. We understand the market dynamics and are rightly placed to anticipate potential business risks and challenges, while identifying and implementing best practices and opportunities to the benefit of our customers. Regional expansion is definitely on the cards too as we hope to replicate Singapore’s success and offer our services to customers in other markets across Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia too,” says Neo.