Singapore-based soCash, a fintech startup that’s providing digital cash management platforms for banks, has closed a $600,000 (S$836,697) funding round from angel investors, including veteran bankers and technologists.
The funds will be used to boost the company’s sales team in order to accelerate its engagement with banks in Asia, as part of a regional rollout of its services.
To date, soCash has raised $925,000 in investments and is working on their institutional round, having been the first recipient of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MASs) FTSI Grant under the Proof of Concept scheme. The Financial Sector Technology & Innovation initiative was launched in 2015 to provide support for the creation of a vibrant ecosystem for innovation.
SoCash claims that it is in late-stage discussions with leading banks in Asia to launch its products. Established by ex-banker Hari Sivan, who serves as its CEO, in May 2016, the venture developed a cash management technology that plugs into the mobile apps of banks.
The platform enables users to withdraw cash from merchants such as neighbourhood shops by placing an order on the bank’s app, selecting a cashpoint nearby and picking up the cash at the outlet.
“In the digital era, banks recognise that ATMs are an expensive channel when circulation of cash can be managed more efficiently on soCash. The funds will allow us to onboard the sales team that can close the deals faster and accelerate our bank network growth to gain transaction share across markets”, said CEO and founder, Hari Sivan.
Responding to arguments advocating for the preservation of cash in current financial systems, Sivan told DEALSTREETASIA: “Contrary to popular narrative, data from major central banks suggests the demand for cash is growing in all major economies. Actually, cash transactions constitute the bulk of retail payments even in mature & highly banked economies like USA, Singapore, Japan & EU.”
“Cash is an efficient payment product – Cash transactions do not involve MDR, it enables instant settlement, is universally accepted, does not require expensive hardware and controls consumer debt by promoting conscious spending. These features are hard to match by any alternatives. Hence we need to question the rationale driving the cashless advocate because they are essentially promoting card based payments. Asia needs to question the model and make its choice. If it the ‘cost of cash’, then it is a supply chain problem and soCash solves it.”
“When the next billion in Asia rise above poverty, their consumption journey is going to be transacted in cash. This means that the value chain will be predominantly cash and policy makers in Asia really need to evaluate options and be careful about importing notions irrelevant to our ecosystem (for example, cash inhibits central banks to execute negative interest policy stance),” Sivan adds.
In an email exchange with DEALSTREETASIA, Sivan highlighted their focus on Japan and India, saying, “It is a function on how best our limited resources can invested to yield returns. soCash as a cash management platform was widely appreciated in Japan when we showcased ourselves at FIBC 2017 and won the Seven Bank award. We hope that we will get the cash management mandate from the Japanese banks soon.”
He further addd: “India is a very interesting market and soCash has been well received by banks with a strong focus in digital innovation, like YES Bank. Now that the demonetization has ended with remonetisation, we are working on a launch in September. We see India as a huge opportunity because the big banks are imposing punitive charges on their deposit customers for cash withdrawals.”
Sivan also highlighted that among the challenges of growing the venture in Singapore was a “lack of risk capital for early stage products compared to India, China or the US,” in addition to a lack of depth in analyst talent that impacted how investments were selected, affecting future investment flows in the process.
When asked about an exit event such as a public listing, Sivan explained: “soCash is de-constructing the current vintage supply chain of cash and it is a $300 billion market as per estimates from the NCR-Retail Banker whitepaper. Our market expansion in Asia will need funds, so we look at IPO’s as good funding options over a 3-4-year horizon. ASX is definitely an interesting option, but given the listing options available, the decision will have to factor a lot of variables at that point in time.”