The finance industry has a typical reputation of being slow-moving and conservative. However, it is not true with fintech as it is comparatively more agile and responsive to change. The recent onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance for companies to be able to adapt. The disruptions caused due to the pandemic also made it imperative for businesses to have a strong online presence.
As physical shops could not open due to the lockdowns, this created a plethora of opportunities for online stores, in turn, companies and leaders in the fintech industry. Leveraging the opportunities, ardent leaders like David S. Wong successfully steered their companies through the crisis and established themselves as one of the decorated leaders in the industry.
David presently serves as the Chairman and CEO of Midpoint—an international payments platform that is continually reducing the friction of doing business with companies overseas by offering lower rates and faster payments. Being at the helm of Midpoint, David is carrying forward the legacy which was established by the founders of the company. Started as a client, David became an investor and subsequently the youngest Chairman and CEO of the company.
Despite the plethora of advancements in the fintech space, financial exchanges were not keeping pace. Currency exchanges remained expensive and transactions were slow. Midpoint was conceptualized to redefine cross-border commerce. The objective of the company was to increase transparency and facilitate efficiency in the global flow of value. Midpoint offers cross-border payments, multi-currency wallets, and FX services. Instead of making money on the spread, the company gives businesses and consumers the midpoint rate and then puts a transparent fee on top—which is how it generates revenue.
All customers of Midpoint know how much the company is getting paid and they can access the best rates available. The company also provides Avios points on every conversion—which can be used as travel rewards. Midpoint has established partnerships with Avios the travel rewards program and frequent flyer currency of the British Airways Executive Club, as well as numerous airlines operated by the IAG Group including BA, Vueling Aer Lingus, and Iberia.
David marshals the troops at Midpoint. He mentions that every member of the team knows the work they do makes a difference to the company as well as its customers. David is motivated by providing the very best customer service possible, which starts with great company culture. “Everyone is encouraged to make mistakes so they can learn from them, and we have a young and diverse team that really brings a particular energy,” he asserts.
Midpoint constantly receives positive feedback from customers who heap praises for the company’s services and solutions. For instance, here is a verbatim review of a happy customer posted publicly on a leading and trusted review site.
“This was the first time I was using it because I compared rates and was cheaper than my current provider. The online system was simple enough but got stuck on something (my fault, in retrospect). It is Saturday. That’s when you get around sorting your finances, so you email customer service and are angry at yourself for not doing it before. But then–voila! In less than 5 minutes, you get a response from the CEO. Not only that, he offers to call you to walk you through the system and offer advice on how to deal with your bank. All in all, they fix the rate, offer great pricing, and maintain the price until Monday. Transaction closes. You save a couple hundred bucks vs closest competitor and the CEO still checks that you have got everything in order. Can’t recommend highly enough”
David mentions that comments like these mean a great deal to the company and are highly appreciated. He adds that when a customer feels compelled to go to the trouble of writing a review on Midpoint’s service, it validates the company’s approach and demonstrates that it is at least doing something right. The company also values constructive criticism as much as positive comments.
Besides being the torchbearer of Midpoint, David is also an entrepreneur and established Expadis Capital while he was still in university. As an entrepreneur, he believes that each new venture is a highlight. His favorite aspects of being an entrepreneur are the ability to make a difference and get involved with causes that mean a lot. For instance, he started as a customer at Midpoint and believed in the company’s mission so much that he invested in it, and now has the opportunity to lead the company.
With any new venture, David feels a sense of achievement when investors get their money back. “These are people who put finances on the line to show they believed in us, and it is important for me to prove they made the right decision,” he states. He believes his biggest achievements are when businesses generate a profit each month, and the company builds the right teams with a culture that can continue to bring value. “When that’s in place, they can take the business forward to new heights that I couldn’t reach today,” adds David.
The rigorous pandemic outbreak highlighted the importance of resilience last year. The crisis demonstrated that a business is never linear, there are always hiccups and unexpected events that can throw one off course. Companies need to adapt in order to survive. The best businesses respond to the changing market conditions and become bigger and better than before.
David mentions that ambition is an important quality a leader should possess in these unprecedented times. He believes leaders should have something that they believe in to their core. They should do whatever it takes to achieve the goals, and not be discouraged by people who don’t understand telling it won’t work.
David further states that humility is important for leaders to thrive. According to him, it is important to listen to people who have experience and can help in making decisions. David believes one should learn from the mistakes of others. “A business coach or mentor will tell you things you may not want to hear, but which will move you closer to success—so you need humility to take the advice on board,” adds David.
The shift towards digitization was inevitable and companies were preparing for this transition even before the pandemic. David believes that the pandemic simply accelerated the change that was always going to happen, however, instead of occurring over the next few years, the change was condensed into a much shorter timeframe.
“There have been very unfortunate casualties where some businesses couldn’t adapt in time, and there have been big success stories from companies that made the switch and found a much larger customer base as a result,” asserts David.
Like any change, digitization will hurt some companies and benefit others. Companies that have displayed agility and flexibility to adapt now have a global consumer base, and Midpoint exists to help them reduce any financial friction from international transfers.
Like most successful business leaders, David has also experienced failures in his career. However, he accepts failures as part of the process and believes that learning from failure is the key to finding success. For him it’s all about perspective—entrepreneurs should not try to handle failure, that term implies it’s a negative. Instead, they should acknowledge failure is inevitable and embrace each one for what it teaches.
Talking about the challenges faced by Midpoint, David states that new challenges often await the company, and good businesses always grow stronger in response to them. Disruptive technologies continue to make services more accessible to more people, and Midpoint’s low rates and transparent fees are driving this in the fintech space—which David expects to accelerate in the near future.
Resilience is built into the culture of Midpoint. As it is not possible to predict every challenge or risk, the company models different scenarios that could happen and has the contingencies in place for the ‘worst case scenario’ such as the events in 2020. However, the company primarily focuses on positive outcomes—who can it help? What markets need its service?—because that makes the company stronger and more resilient, prepared for the inevitable but unforeseen changes.
As a leader, David is much focused on process than the outcomes—as he believes the right processes will always yield the desired outcomes. This helps him to cultivate the right culture internally, where people don’t feel judged on specific outcomes. David’s age is also an advantage for him as he is young enough to use the new technologies and see the need for improvements over the status quo, as well as see things through the same lens as younger generations who are grappling with stale models in a technologically-driven world.