In this edition of our Guest Interview series, we have the pleasure of speaking to David Rosa, CEO of Neat, an online platform which provides an alternative to a bank account for individuals and companies. Conceived and developed in Hong Kong, Neat gives business owners the chance to pay invoices and salaries, as well as assign dedicated Neat MasterCard credit cards to employees for work-related expenses.
Hi there, David. Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Could you begin by telling us a little about Neat Personal and Neat Business?
[David Rosa] They are both modern alternatives to a traditional bank account. No need for any dreaded trips to the branch and waiting in long queues (because there are no branches!). As their names imply Neat Personal is a solution for individuals whereas Neat Business is a solution for young SMEs and Startups. Both solutions are open to customers around the world.
How was Neat conceived? Was it from trying to solve a problem that you saw in the finance industry?
[David Rosa] Both my co-founder (Igor Wos, CTO of Neat) and I grew very frustrated with legacy systems traditional banks are using. We thought that given our strong backgrounds in both Fin and Tech we could build a very capable team around us and do a much better job at serving customer segments which are not getting the right service level from traditional banks.
How and when was Neat set up?
[David Rosa] It was set up around 3am on a sleepless night in late November 2015!
What kind of challenges or setbacks did you encounter at the beginning?
[David Rosa] Getting our digital KYC (Know Your Customer) compliance solution accepted by business partners. And then that solution won us an award by the Hong Kong government. This catapulted us into a period of hyper-growth.
Who benefits the most from using Neat’s online banking services, and what advantages does the platform offer them?
[David Rosa] Entrepreneurs who run small to medium size businesses. The advantages range anywhere from the fully digital account opening process, getting Neat MasterCards for corporate expenses, making payments to bank accounts around the world at the best exchange rate all the way to automatically integrating with their accounting system.
SMEs depend a lot on collaboration and partnerships to grow. What kind of cooperative work does Neat do with other businesses or organisations?
[David Rosa] We strongly believe in partnering up with other SMEs we lead by example and enable our customers to do the same amongst themselves via our tight-knit community.
What do you think is the future of FinTech in Hong Kong? And what kind of role will Neat play in that future?
[David Rosa] I am very bullish on the future of Fintech in general and the role Hong Kong will be playing. Hong Kong will increasingly play a role in the continued internationalisation of China – the Belt and Road initiative is perhaps the clearest testament to that. Neat’s vision as part of that momentum is to one day become a full-fledged bank.
Neat seems to have a really diverse team! In terms of finding and retaining talent, what are some of the practices that Neat employs?
[David Rosa] Yes I’m super proud of our team. We’ve managed to attract some truly world-class talent. A big part of that is because we invest time in sourcing the right profiles. People who are entrepreneurs at heart, who are passionate about what we’re building at Neat.
How do you keep a group of people with different backgrounds and job functions working together well? Would you say you do things differently than most companies in Hong Kong?
[David Rosa] The passion I described is the glue that keeps us together. We also definitely do things differently. For example, we went on a company offsite in Japan: strategy sessions in the morning, skiing in the afternoon! Given the hyper-growth we’re experiencing, it’s imperative to foster an environment where everyone feels valued and proud of working together.