When we think about women and finance, more than often we would think about bankers or the ladies that greet you when you enter a bank. However, this Singaporean female entrepreneur has proven us that ladies, too, can succeed in the finance industry and help other women in the process too.
In today’s article we look at Gina Heng’s entrepreneur journey and the challenges she faced.
About Gina Heng
Gina Heng is the Co-Founder and CEO of Marvelstone Group since April 2015. She also founded MissKaya.com since September 2016 under the Marvelstone Capital (a portfolio company of Marvelstone Group) and she is the Co-founder of LATTICE80 since November 2016.
Prior to founding Marvelstone Group, she was a venture partner at Yozma Ventures (Korea) and co-founded asset management firms, One Asia Investment Partners and Leonie Hill Capital in Singapore. Gina has also worked at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Cerulli Associates, where she gained expertise in sectors such as asset management, telecommunications, commodities and infrastructure, in Southeast Asia, China, India and Australia. (Source: Money20/20 Asia)
How it started
Her entrepreneur journey began when she took an analyst role at asset management consultancy Cerulli Associates in 2005.
“At Cerulli I was researching the asset management sector in Asia and had a bird’s eye view on product development and distribution trends,” she adds. “I talked to very senior people – including CFOs and regulators – and worked across industries, so I got a fundamental grounding in the real economy.” she said in an interview.
In April 2010, she launched Leonie Hill Capital, a Singapore-based hedge fund with a market-neutral strategy, alongside husband Joe Seunghyun Cho.
She mentioned in an interview saying – “I was scared at first to give up the safety net of my banking job, but I think many women in Asia are too focused on short-term financial security and don’t have the confidence to believe that their new business will make money in the future,”
By 2013, she, Cho and partner Joel Ko Hyun Sik set up another investment company, One Asia Investment Partners to widen their investment scope to fund start-ups and her own role changed to become more focused on people management.
After that, they decided to move from One Asia to found another investment firm, Marvelstone Group.
Marvelstone is the investor behind the LATTICE80 office in central Singapore, one of the world’s largest fintech hubs. It was set up with an initial cost of $5 million and aims to create an ecosystem for start-ups.
When they opened in November 2016, they housed several start-ups in the co-working spaces that they’ve invested in and believed that it is about building a specific eco-system of fintech people who want to learn from and collaborate with each other.
Gina Heng bases her own fintech firm – Miss Kaya, a Marvelstone-backed money manager aimed at Asian women – at LATTICE80.
“Kaya” means wealthy in Malay – and it relates well with ladies in the Southeast Asia region as we’re all too familiar with this local jam made from coconut sugar and brown sugar. According to their website, they called themselves Miss. Kaya because they want the modern women of Asia to be wealthy, comforted and happy – just like how one feels when having Kaya. Miss. Kaya is a financial services platform that aims to meet the financial needs of women, offering robo-advisory services and financial tools.
“People ask: ‘why launch a robo advisor that only targets women?’. And I reply it’s because there’s a clear need. Many women in Asia don’t do a lot of investing, aside from their public pensions. They generally have a conservative outlook regarding money and prioritise taking care of their families.” she explained in an interview. (Source: efinancialcareers)
She says that the language used by traditional investment firms is technical and women tend to switch off, but by using layman examples to explain financial products or planning makes those easier to digest and relate to, she believes that it could make it easier for women.
She started this company when she saw how complex and technical it was to learn about finance. Being a modern women herself, she sees the significance of women being able to take care of their own finances. With reference to their website, Miss Kaya specifically takes into account our modern values and a woman’s lifestyle, making financial planning fun, simple, and trendy. Their easy-to-use, all-in-one financial management service offers personal budgeting, investment tools, and digital banking products.
Challenges she faced
One of the investment mistake she did was doing business with the wrong people who have a different long-term vision. She realised that it incurred to her a loss of potential return that she initially invested for. She has even lost millions from the closure of companies they have incubated before and were not able to grow. She emphasized that the people component is important – it takes time to find out if the partnership can work. Hence, they always start with smaller projects first instead of moving on to bigger ones with the same people now.
She hopes that her businesses will be able to cater to retail investors in the long-run and she hopes for Miss. Kaya to create a community of financially-savvy women. Furthermore, she and her team also invests in or support businesses that reap other types of gains. Through Marvelstone, they’ve invested in start-up community Tech in Asia and a boutique hotel in Cambodia that has a social impact as it boosts local consumption and adds jobs. (Source: The Straits Times)
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