Who’s Next? Malaysian Fintech Experiences Wave of Co-founder Exits

Who’s Next? Malaysian Fintech Experiences Wave of Co-founder Exits

by July 5, 2023

In the rapidly changing world of fintech, an unexpected development occurred in Malaysia in 2023. Several renowned co-founders leaving their positions have grabbed attention and sparked discussions about the industry’s future.

While these departures may seem unrelated, they might signify a significant shift within the fintech landscape.

This disruption has attracted scrutiny and speculation, which has fascinated both observers and industry insiders. Could these exits indicate a significant change in industry leadership, direction, and innovation? Is this exodus a manifestation of the dynamic nature of fintech, which is constantly evolving?

In this article, we will spotlight the departure of five key figures from MoneyLion, BigPay, Jirnexu, and Fave, exploring what their decisions mean for their respective companies and the broader fintech landscape.

MoneyLion loses its tech roar

Malaysian fintech

Foong Chee Mun

Co-founder and CTO of MoneyLion, Foong Chee Mun, announced his departure effective January 9, 2023. MoneyLion, a US-based company with Malaysian roots, offers various digital banking, lending, investing, and other financial services. 

Foong’s exit has been a subject of much discussion, considering he was one of the first Malaysian fintech founders to be listed on the NYSE following MoneyLion’s merger with a SPAC. However, MoneyLion’s stock performance has been disappointing, with a 79 percent plunge since its debut in September 2021.

He played a role in MoneyLion’s pursuit of a digital banking license in Malaysia, as part of a consortium that included AEON Credit and AEON Financial Service.

However, in a recent interview with Fintech News Malaysia, Raja Teh Maimunah, CEO of ACS Digital Berhad, divulged that MoneyLion has withdrawn from the consortium, indicating a shift in their focus towards the US market.

Although his departure was marked with warmth and best wishes, it has undoubtedly left a vacuum in the company. As he moves on to newer challenges, the question arises – can MoneyLion continue its aggressive growth trajectory without him?

BigPay’s last founding member steps down

Salim Dhanani

Salim Dhanani

The wave of founder departures continued with Salim Dhanani, the co-founder and CEO of BigPay, a fintech company that offers prepaid MasterCard and e-wallet services. 

Salim, who was recognised for his efforts in transforming financial services, unexpectedly left in February 2023. Now, the task of leading BigPay falls to the interim Group CEO, Zubin Rada Krishnan.

Salim’s departure also marked the end of an era, with the last original member of the BigPay founding team choosing to move away from the company they had fostered since its beginning.

His decision to “pursue other opportunities” fueled speculation about his next steps and left the fintech community eagerly anticipating his next move in the industry.

Despite the change in leadership, BigPay continues to flourish. The company has witnessed a 56 percent growth in revenue year-on-year and an improvement in gross profit margin by 43 percent.

The expansion continues with the broadening of their operations in Malaysia and across the ASEAN, with Thailand earmarked for their next launch. Future plans include stretching their footprint to Indonesia and the Philippines, which reinforces the company’s growth trajectory.

Fave’s flagbearer bows out

Joel Neoh Malaysian fintech

Joel Neoh

Joel Neoh, the co-founder and CEO of Fave, a fintech platform that provides a smart payment app and other services for offline businesses, added another twist to this tale of departures by announcing his exit in early March. 

His departure came after leading the company for eight successful years, which saw the acquisition of Fave by Indian merchant platform Pine Labs for US$45 million in 2021.

With plans to explore new avenues and challenges, Joel did not disclose his reasons for leaving. However, he did share his intent to stay connected with the Southeast Asian technology ecosystem as an investor and advisor.

His announcement of joining a healthcare start-up, Prenetics and CircleDNA, confirmed his continued commitment to technological innovation.

In addition to his involvement in health-tech, Joel and former Fave executive Audra Pakalnyte recently launched the First Move fund. Aimed at early-stage consumer-focused startups in Southeast Asia, the fund further solidifies Joel’s commitment to nurturing the Southeast Asian technology ecosystem.

Fave’s journey will continue under the leadership of co-founder Yeoh Chen Chow and Avantika Jain, General Manager in Singapore, Aik Kuang Heng, Fave’s newly appointed General Manager in Malaysia, and local leadership teams in Indonesia and India.

Jirnexu’s double departure

Jirnexu, the company known for its digital solutions for banks and insurers, was struck by a double departure.

Lucas Ooi and Hann Liew

Co-founders of Jirnexu, Hann Liew and Lucas Ooi, announced their departures this month.

Despite stepping down from their operational roles, Hann and Lucas pledged continued support to Jirnexu as active shareholders and board members. 

While their exit has raised questions about Jirnexu’s next steps, the leadership baton’s passing to Siew Yuen Tuck, the Group CEO since the end of the previous year, has infused a sense of continuity and stability in the company’s operations.

Interestingly, Hann hinted at possibly spearheading a new venture soon, further stimulating the fintech buzz in Malaysia and keeping industry stakeholders on their toes.

What’s next for Malaysian fintech?

The departure of these industry leaders prompts questions about the future of the Malaysian fintech sector. Yet, amidst the transition, one thing remains certain – the industry is growing, and the government is doubling down on its support for digital innovation.

With the revised Budget 2023 allocating RM1.2 billion for MSME digitalisation efforts and an additional RM40 million to the MYCIF, it’s evident that Malaysia is set to deepen its commitment to fintech.

Indeed, these departures may signify not a crisis but rather the onset of a new chapter. With fresh leadership stepping in and the fintech landscape continuously evolving, the sector may witness innovative strategies, partnerships, and products.

The exit of these founders may well be their greatest gift to the fintech sector – creating space for new talent, fresh ideas, and unexplored avenues of growth.

As these founders venture into their new horizons, the Malaysian fintech landscape stands at the cusp of transformation. Their departure is the end of a chapter but not the end of the story. As the sector evolves, the lessons from their leadership will continue to guide the path forward, making their impact everlasting.