Exclusive: MY forex app CurrenSeek to partner local bank for B2B solutions

CurrenSeek winning the Next Bank Fintech Semi-Finals in December 2015.

Location-based currency exchange comparator app, CurrenSeek is in the works of sealing a partnership with a Malaysian bank with regional reach.

The partnership will be the first for CurrenSeek, which is looking for more tie-ups among banks and money changers, as it rolls out targeting its home market in Kuala Lumpur, initially.

Co-founder and executive director Hakim Karim told DEALSTREETASIA that the bank had approached the startup, with an idea to incorporate the bank’s service on CurrenSeek’s platform.

“Without saying which bank this is, they approached us and asked – how about for their customers, instead of having to take cash and change it at the money changer, they can just pay it through their bank account,” he said.

He explained that the long term prospects of this partnership would be helpful to both banks and the independent money changers.

The bulk of CurenSeek’s strategy to grow revenue is in its potential for backend B2B solutions.

“Money has to go through the banks in the end, and money has to be changed at the money changers. If the transactional value goes up, everyone is happy,” he summed up.

“At the end of the day, the bank can make more money on the consumer’s transactions than what they do from the margins of their money changing business, which is a tiny fraction of their business,” Karim said.

Karim revealed that the partnership could be sealed within January or by February.

Noteworthy, perhaps, is that one of Malaysia’s most prominent bank with regional reach, CIMB Group, recently introduced its CIMB TravelCurrency service, where consumers can buy foreign currency notes online and pick it up at their selected CIMB Currency Exchange location.

CurrenSeek aggregates foreign currency rates among money changers in its coverage for users to find the best rates, according to the most convenient location for them, free of charge.

It is among the 24 finalists to pitch in front of investors in Hong Kong on January 25 to 26 at Next Bank’s Fintech Finals.

The startup, whose app has over 300,000 downloads, was competing among 10 startups for the spot.

“We weren’t expecting much to be honest, there were other companies there that were already revenue-generating, with a million users and partnerships with many banks. But I think our opportunity is way higher than any other people’s opportunity. $1.5 trillion is moved around in cash by travellers worldwide,” Hakim said, pointing out that even having 1 per cent of that market equated to a huge share in monetary terms.

“The travel industry itself is huge, so there’s so many channels for revenue creation. There are banks that came to us and offered ideas, like why don’t their customers pay through our app, and we hadn’t even thought of that,” Karim said, adding that CurrenSeek believed it has about 15 revenue streams it can look into now.

He noted that another selling point about CurrenSeek is that its service is something everyone can relate to.

“I guarantee you can save money or time, or both. Who wouldn’t want that?” he said.

“This is a social business that marries fintech and the travel industry together,” co-founder Amir Haghbin summed up.

Funding the idea

The startup obtained government-supported early-stage tech startup influencer Cradle Fund’s CIP150 grant in June 2014, which gave the startup MYR150,000 to commercialise its idea, having done the market research around Kuala Lumpur city.

CurrenSeek is currently targeting to raise MYR500,000 through equity crowdfunding (ECF) on CrowdPlus.asia’s platform. It is the first ECF deal to list in Malaysia.

It will give out a minimum of 9.09 per cent equity and a max of 14.29 per cent through the ECF exercise, and targets to raise a minimum of MYR300,000.

Karim said, the funds, if raised to the maximum target of MYR500,000, will give CurrenSeek a runway of up to two years, as it develops its iOS platform, amp up marketing, secure more B2B deals, and expand to more key tourist locations in Malaysia.

“There are a lot of things we want to do to improve the service to users, to money changers, banks and other businesses,” Karim said.

He added that CurrenSeek’s future plan is to expand around Asia, some key markets and then eventually globally.

CurrenSeek was birthed from an observation of a significant rate disparity at two money changers when co-founder Haghbin needed US dollars for his Masters in Business Administration course in Malaysia some two years back.

Upon realising that he could have saved a notable amount at the second money changer he passed by, he felt there should be an app to guide people to the best money changers in town, much like the apps in existent for F&B outlet recommendations.

He approached Karim with the idea and set out on market research around the city money changers which led to both entrepreneurs forming a team. Karim is also the founder of GridMarkets Pte Ltd, an institutional marketplace for excess computer capacity.

On the whole, the disparity for popular currencies like the US dollar and the euro is between 5 and 10 per cent, while less common currencies can see up to a 30 per cent difference in rates.

Also read: Malaysia: CurrenSeek seeks up to $115.5k on CrowdPlus.asia’s platform

Malaysia 2015: Pioneering the equity crowdfunding market, anticipating P2P