Laying global pipes for money movement

CEO Max Liu describes EMQ as the financial plumbers, laying pipes to transform the infrastructure behind capital movement around the world for businesses

What do multinational companies, small-medium businesses, freelancers and digital nomads all have in common?

They conduct crossborder payments like clock-work.

In a hyper interconnected world, whether you’re an international enterprise, local startup or a business professional – receiving and sending money across borders forms an integral part of your life.

SME owners settle payments to suppliers and employees from all over the globe, every month. For digital nomads juggling multiple projects, collecting invoices
rom all parts of the world is a daily task. Multinational companies offering financial services conduct international payments every second.

Meeting the growing need is startup EMQ, which is working towards building a global settlement network.

“We are creating a simple one-stop integration via EMQ to ensure businesses can send money anywhere in the world and to any end point,” explains cofounder and CEO Max Liu.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, the company operates a global money movement network that can effectively settle any crossborder movement of capital, while adhering to complex regulations and compliance standards in different markets. Its flexible and scalable infrastructure eliminates unnecessary intermediaries and directly integrates to all the end-points, facilitating a seamless, real-time and cost-effective crossborder settlement across Asia Pacific.

The company’s network seamlessly integrates ecosystem participants to allow for more efficient financial settlement solutions.

“We call ourselves the financial plumbers; we lay pipes in every country,“ Liu says. “The application of EMQ’s network is flexible and adaptable. And can be deployed across multiple  vertical industries,” he adds.

EMQ’s grand mission is an ambitious one. Adhering to the financial regulations of many countries can be a complex and lengthy process if not managed well. EMQ adopts a ‘hub and spoke’ model, working strategically alongside a local partner bank in each of them.

“Building bank partnerships across the region takes time and patience to cultivate,” says Liu. And for every country it enters, it also needs regulatory clearance.

However, Liu’s company not only works towards building partnerships with banks. In every country, it also builds comprehensive networks of strategic partnerships and last-mile solutions, offering customers immediate access to thousands of distribution points.

An enabler of inclusivity

Such an extensive network also caters to the significantly unbanked population in Southeast Asia, allowing everyone to participate in the digital economy and addressing a key challenge in the region – financial inclusion.

For a foreign worker in Hong Kong sending money back home the process is not as seamless as some of us who are accustomed to transferring money in a few clicks enjoy. Usually, the workers head to a World-Wide House, stand in line for three to four hours, fill out endless paperwork and then carry outthe transaction at a window.

Why is it so frustratingly inconvenient?

According to Liu, it all comes down to ‘massive market fragmentation in the Asia Pacific region and the presence of multiple intermediaries within the payments ecosystem that lengthen and complicate the process’.

In an effort to transform financial services and make it more accessible to the more than 370,000 foreign workers in Hong Kong, Tencent’s WeChat utilised EMQ’s technology to allow migrant workers to transfer funds back home via their mobile phones in real-time and at a more affordable rate.

Their families could pick up money sent to them from cash pick-ups, digital wallets and bank accounts.

What previously could only be done on their day off and involved hours of queuing and filling out forms, could be done seven-days a week, 24-hours a day at an affordable rate.

Through community engagement with foreign workers, Liu understood that adopting new technology wasn’t just a question of consumers learning the technical know hows. But it had all to do with earning their trust.

Once that trust was established, they really enjoyed the convenience of using a mobile app to transfer their salaries and savings to their families back home.

“New technology not only saves time but can also influence consumer behaviour,” he says. “Rather than sending 80 per cent of your salary, the foreign workers can now afford to break them up.

“These are the kinds of change we bring forth with our partners such as Tencent.”

Through its neutral and independent network, EMQ has also forged strategic partnerships with several key industry players including Visa, Shanghai Commercial Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank in India, and HDBank in Vietnam.

Even as the company grows beyond its home base rapidly, there was never any question for Max Liu that EMQ would begin in Asia Pacific.

Liu explains: “We built the network here first because of the market across the Asia Pacific region is highly fragmented.

“Every country in the Asia Pacific region has a different set of regulations, a different local settlement system and a different currency. Due to such challenges, businesses and individuals will increasingly require a network that is versatile while making crossborder payments streamlines, low-cost, secure, and real-time,” Liu says.

EMQ works towards providing a unified, more affordable and efficient crossborder settlement solution for businesses and individuals in the region.

By turning these challenges into opportunities for growth, EMQ has built a strong footprint in the region while expanding to the world’s fastest-growing economies. The company is currently operational in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan and The Philippines.

So what’s next for EMQ?

“Our goal is to allow companies and individuals to move money anywhere in the world in a seamless and compliant manner. Following our expansion in the Middle East, we’re launching our network globally.

“By the end of the year, we will be able to offer pay-outs in Africa and Europe. And in 2020 we will be entering the US market and we’ve set our eyes on Latin America too,” says Liu.

“We always follow our customers.”

 


This article was published in The Fintech Finance Magazine: Issue #13, Page 42 & 43.

Author: Yash Hirani

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