George Yeoh Wee Hock, Chief Financial Officer, Curlec

George Yeoh Wee Hock is a renowned corporate finance figure known for seamlessly blending precision with innovation. Having started his career at PwC, he honed his skills in the accounting industry and learned the art of interpreting the narrative within financial numbers. George’s career has taken him across different countries and roles, leaving a lasting impact wherever he has worked. His professional experience includes roles in finance, accounting, merger and acquisition and executive leadership in companies such as Curlec Sdn Bhd/Razorpay, Sign Holding Pty Ltd, IPG Group – McCann Worldgroup, Havas Group – Havas Advertising Worldwide, WPP plc – GroupM, Mindshare, Newscorp and Unisys.

With an MBA and an Accountancy degree from the PwC CPA Program, George’s linguistic proficiency in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, and various Chinese dialects helps him bridge cultural gaps. He was also instrumental in helping the IPO of a technology startup in the Australian Exchange (AXE). He holds several professional certifications, including FCA, CPA, and FCCA. He believes that financial leadership goes beyond the balance sheet and involves crafting a narrative through strategic decisions, meticulous planning, and guiding a team toward a collective crescendo of success.

George believes that great leadership is not a one-person show but a collective team effort. He thinks success can only be achieved by uniting a team towards a shared vision. For George, financial leaders must adapt to new technologies while prioritizing risk management, ethical leadership, and balancing long-term goals and agility. “In addition to these, developing relationships with external partners, continuous learning, and emotional intelligence are also crucial aspects of effective financial leadership,” he asserts.

Vision Unveiled: Bridging the SME Gap

Curlec is a trailblazer in financial technology, reshaping the payment ecosystem for SMEs. Founded in 2017 by visionary leaders attuned to the needs of underserved businesses, the company embarked on a mission to revolutionize Direct Debit payments with its official launch in 2018.

The seeds of Curlec were sown with a clear vision – to democratize the Direct Debit payment system for SMEs traditionally overlooked by banks. Recognizing the market gap, the co-founders seized the opportunity to serve these enterprises, facilitating seamless transactions by bridging the gap between Buyers, Sellers, and their Banks. Today, Curlec stands as a pivotal player in Malaysia’s business landscape, serving hundreds of businesses, including esteemed names like AXA, Funding Societies, and Axiata Digital.

“We envisioned a financial ecosystem where SMEs could navigate payments with ease, leveling the playing field in an arena dominated by larger corporations,” reflects George Yeoh Wee Hock, shedding light on the genesis of Curlec. Initially centered around bank-to-bank payments via Direct Debit, Curlec responded to customer demand and merchant requirements by expanding its offerings. The company evolved into a comprehensive platform that not only facilitates bank payments but also encompasses card payments, payouts, and subscription management. This transformation was a strategic move, aligning Curlec with the diverse needs of its growing clientele.

“Our evolution was driven by a commitment to meeting the dynamic demands of businesses. While Direct Debit was our starting point, we recognized the necessity to offer a broader spectrum of services,” explains George. In fact, George’s strategic prowess encourages Curlec to consider a transformative initiative aimed at enterprise corporations in the online payments and collection platforms industry. The strategy involved developing customized solutions tailored to the unique needs of large businesses.

“We understood that enterprise clients required more than a one-size-fits-all solution. Our team worked tirelessly to create payment processing systems seamlessly integrated with ERP and accounting software,” says George. These tailored solutions brought automation to invoicing, streamlined bulk payment processing, and provided detailed reporting, empowering large corporations to enhance efficiency and reduce manual work. Dedicated account management and support further solidified partnerships, laying the groundwork for sustained business growth. “Our success lies in understanding the intricacies of our clients’ operations and crafting solutions that not only meet but exceed their expectations,” George asserts, emphasizing the commitment to excellence that defines Curlec’s journey.

Striking the Balance: A Multi-Faceted Approach

In the intricate domain of Fintech, where precision meets profitability, George Yeoh, as the Head of Finance in Curlec, orchestrates a delicate balance between deploying cost mitigation controls and ensuring sustained financial success. George delineates a multi-faceted strategy to address the delicate equilibrium of cost and profitability. Leveraging technology emerges as a cornerstone, with automation of processes reducing operational costs while concurrently enhancing efficiency. “Technology is our ally in this endeavor, allowing us to streamline operations without compromising on excellence,” George affirms.

Strategic partnerships form another pillar of this approach. Collaborating with third-party service providers in areas such as compliance, cybersecurity, and customer support optimizes costs without compromising the quality of essential functions. “By forging alliances with experts in specific domains, we ensure a cost-effective yet robust operational framework,” says George.

A continuous review of the cost structure is integral. Identifying areas for optimization ensures financial efficiency, and implementing scalable infrastructure, coupled with cloud-based solutions, proves invaluable, particularly during rapid growth phases.

Curlec and Razorpay: A Confluence of Support and Innovation

The collaboration with Razorpay, a significant development in Curlec’s journey, exemplifies the intersection of support and innovation. The fusion of Curlec and Razorpay under the Razorpay Group creates a dynamic force in the Fintech landscape, simplifying the world of payments. “Curlec by Razorpay weaves an invisible thread connecting businesses and customers. It goes beyond transactions; it’s about facilitating seamless interactions in the financial realm,” George explains.

In the local payment gateway scene, where technological sophistication is often lacking, Curlec stands out as a bridge, offering the best of both worlds. The collaboration seamlessly integrates cutting-edge Indian technology with local knowledge and support, providing consumers and businesses with a holistic and technologically advanced payment experience. “Our collaboration with Razorpay has allowed us to leverage their expertise and range of products, enriching the services we offer to our clientele,” George emphasizes.

Curlec’s ascent to success is not only marked by its operational strategies but also by the support of prestigious investors like Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, Lone Pine Capital, and TCV. These backers were instrumental in the startup phase, providing funding and working capital in 2017. However, it’s noteworthy that by the close of 2021, all these investors had sold off their stakes in Curlec to Razorpay. “The support of esteemed investors has graced our journey. Their belief in our vision during the startup phase propelled us forward,” acknowledges George.

On the flip side, Curlec is a part of Y Combinator, which is more than a prestigious badge; it catalyzes growth and global impact. George reflects on the impact of this Silicon Valley tech accelerator on Curlec’s trajectory in the Fintech sphere in Asia. “Y Combinator is a bridge to global opportunities. The access to a global network, mentorship, and expertise propels startups like Curlec & Razorpay to refine products, scale efficiently, and gain invaluable insights into global best practices. This exposure fosters cross-border collaborations, facilitating the transfer of knowledge and expertise. It’s not just about individual growth; it’s about contributing to the maturation and expansion of the Fintech industry in Asia,” George elucidates.

Anticipating Fintech Trends: A Glimpse into Tomorrow’s Financial Ecosystem

Peering into the future of Fintech, George anticipates a trajectory characterized by automation, personalized insights, and seamless integration within the recurring payments and cash flow management domain. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are poised to revolutionize cash flow optimization, while blockchain technology promises enhanced security and efficiency in payment processing.

“The Fintech arena is not just about transactions; it’s about transforming financial experiences. Sustainability and the integration of ESG factors will shape decision-making, aligning financial strategies with broader societal goals,” George asserts. The relentless march toward a cashless society continues, with Southeast Asia spearheading this transition. Malaysia, emerging as a potential Fintech hub for Multinationals, stands at the forefront of this shift. For corporations, online business wallets are set to become indispensable, offering streamlined payments, heightened security, and integrated financial management.

“We are witnessing a digital metamorphosis, and adopting Fintech solutions is no longer a luxury but a necessity for businesses of all scales. However, it’s crucial to recognize that large enterprises and MNCs are catching up with the speed of technological progress in the online payment and collection sphere,” notes George.

The dynamic Fintech industry isn’t without its challenges. Regulatory compliance, cybersecurity threats, and consumer trust are formidable hurdles. George emphasizes the importance of robust cybersecurity measures, staying abreast of evolving regulations, and investing in advanced technologies like AI and machine learning to thwart fraudulent activities. “In a landscape where trust is paramount, transparency and clear communication with our customers are non-negotiable. Collaboration with traditional financial institutions and regulators is key to navigating regulatory challenges and fostering innovation on an industry-wide scale,” adds George.

Pioneering Tomorrow’s Financial Frontier

Drawing from his extensive experience, George offers sage advice to the next generation of leaders in the financial and Fintech sectors. He underscores the importance of adaptability, innovation, and a deep understanding of technology’s applications in finance. “Staying adaptable in the face of change is paramount. Embrace innovation, foster a deep understanding of technology, and build strong networks. Seek mentorship to gain valuable insights from those who have traversed similar paths,” George advises.

In sales and marketing, George encourages thinking “outside the box” and building a brand rather than merely selling a commodity. The key is to offer consulting services to Enterprise corporations, optimizing the best-in-class Fintech products to enhance revenue and operational efficiency. “A customer-centric approach, staying abreast of regulatory changes, and prioritizing cybersecurity are non-negotiable aspects of success in this dynamic industry. Remember, it’s not just about selling a product; it’s about providing solutions that resonate with the evolving needs of businesses,” emphasizes George.

As the financial technology landscape undergoes rapid transformations, George reflects on the evolving role of leadership. He highlights the growing emphasis on agility, innovation, and adaptability, characteristics that are indispensable in navigating complex regulatory environments and driving digital transformation. “Leaders must foster a culture of continuous learning and development within their organizations. Technology integration demands a leadership blend of financial acumen and technological expertise. It’s about steering companies through the evolving landscape of Fintech with foresight,” George elucidates.

Having foresight and the ability to anticipate and plan for future developments is invaluable in this ever-evolving industry. It empowers leaders to make informed decisions, identify emerging trends, and proactively adapt to changes in the market, technology, and regulations. Ultimately, foresight positions organizations for long-term success and resilience. “The role of leadership is not just about reacting to change; it’s about anticipating it. Leaders must be the architects of their organizations’ future, charting courses that align with emerging trends and technological advancements. The financial technology frontier is ever-expanding, and leadership is the compass that guides us through its uncharted territories,” George concludes.

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