Who are you and what’s your background?
I’m Nanda Kumar and I am the Founder of SunTec. I am a physicist and graduated with an MBA in Finance. I started my career in research and development in the late 1980’s. The timing was perfect as India was at the start of a huge transformation period lead by IT. At the beginning of the millennium, India had invested a lot of resources in science and technology and became the first in Asia to open a university dedicated to research of outer space. This made my home region, Trivandrum, an important research hub for science and technology.
I have always loved computer programing and before I started SunTec I had gained a wide range of experience in the field working on numerous projects for India’s largest telecoms providers. I had the opportunity to build a billing system for India’s national telecom provider in 1990. This was implemented in over 300 billing centres in India, covering the entire nation.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
Today, I am the Chief Executive Officer at SunTec. I oversee all functions in the running of the business to help grow SunTec’s customer base across the world as well as being the public face of SunTec.
From the inception of SunTec 25 years ago to now, my general responsibilities have changed over time. However, technology has always been my favourite interest. Keeping technology innovation at the forefront will always be my main responsibility and priority at SunTec.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
SunTec is a provider of technology for vertical sectors including financial services, digital, and communications industries. SunTec helps its customers through the products we offer to create real-time, personalised deals which enhance customer loyalty and improve customer experience. We are a business that helps vertical sectors transform and adapt to the evolving digital ecosystem.
Tell us how you are funded.
We have always been self-funded at SunTec since day one. However in 2001 Schroder Capital Partners, Singapore invested in us. They were with us for 7 years and exited in 2008 with us buying back the shares. Currently we do not have any external investor and are fully internally funded, meaning any capital needed at SunTec is always at our disposal. More importantly we have no external influence from those who do not understand or share the SunTec vision.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
It has always been important to me to create a business located in Kerala which would transform Kerala’s social dimension and help the community to improve its condition. I started SunTec in 1990 with an opportunity to solve call pricing; billing and customer service issues the telecoms industry was facing. We did this by offering strategic and critical business solutions to help the telecoms sector understand their customers better, thereby becoming customer-centric.
After a couple of years of running SunTec, I soon realized there was an opportunity for relationship based pricing and billing software for the financial services sector. 25 years on, we have built a strong brand in both sectors and our technology has helped large businesses such as HSBC, ING and American Express grow by offering revenue management and customer experience platforms.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Our software has been implemented across 58 countries and our award-winning product portfolio has helped over 300 million end users of banking and telecoms services. SunTec’s target customers are those in the financial, digital and communications industries. We work with global businesses like HSBC, ING, Lloyds and Cable One.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
One thing which remains a key challenge for the banking sector is changing the traditional banking culture to making it more customer-focused. Banks need to steer their thinking towards creating financial value for their clients. In the past, banks were very product-centric and selfish by only focusing on creating profit for themselves. Today banks can no longer get away with this mind-set as the current account switching services help customers move banks more easily.
Banks are struggling with customer loyalty; this is because in today’s digital world, customer expectations and demands have increased. Digital competitors like Facebook and Google are entering financial services and offering payment platforms to users at a lower cost of transaction, meaning banks need to shift their approach to manage these disruptions.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
With the 21st century bringing an explosion of new technology that has changed the banking landscape, I would recommend all the larger players in the industry to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. This is the only way they can understand what customers really want from their services. Even though banks are increasingly convinced that investing in IT helps customer experience, they still seem to struggle in finding the correct technology which meet the challenges of the fast-paced environment.
To dominate in this highly competitive market, banks need to integrate, embrace and converge their old information systems into one central platform so they can deliver the most profitable, accurate individual offers to customers.
What phone are you carrying and why?
I’m a big fan of Apple, so I have an iPhone. Apple is a very well established and trustworthy brand. I chose the iPhone because it has one of the best ecosystems amongst all technology companies. Also it’s easy and convenient for me to sync my other Apple devices with its seamless integration. This is a major influence in customer purchases today. Customers are more likely to go with a provider which can offer a frictionless service and Apple has become the best at facilitating this.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Three publications that I find important to read on a daily basis are The Economist, The Banker and Financial Times. All provide valuable insights and news-worthy coverage keeping me up to date on the financial services industry.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Brett King, @brettking, banking technology innovator, international best-selling author and co-founder & CEO of mobile banking startup Moven.
Anna Irrera, @annairrera, Trading and Tech reporter at Financial News.
Ben Sullivan, @WFSULLIVAN3, Global Head of FS Market Intelligence@Capgemini. Works alongside industry leaders to analyze global business and technology trends.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
Being a fan of Apple, their latest service announcement Apple Pay has really caught my attention.
Apple could become a big player in the FinTech market. It is a trusted brand with a loyal fanbase and has the clout to get banking partners on board. Apple somehow has the ability to work out what it is customers want before they even want it. This is a lesson for the FinTech industry to learn.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
The FinTech industry has seen many milestones in the past year and this course is not set to change for the next few years either. More focus will be placed towards mobile payments, enhanced biometric security, digital currency, cloud computing and the Internet of Things.
My top predictions are the rise of faster payments and real time analytics in banking. People want to make faster payments whenever and wherever they are. The growing competition in the FinTech space means customers are becoming spoilt for choice. This is forcing banks to personalize their offerings by investing in digital channels such as social and biometrics. Investing in technological developments will improve real-time analytics and convergence of consumer data for banks, translating to a better service for customers.