Streamlining Processes with Technological Solutions

November 30, 201612:28 pm431 views
Streamlining Processes with Technological Solutions
Crowdfunding platform CoAssets may be a young startup, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with plenty of heart, creativity, and agility.

For more than two years, startup CoAssets was spending six hours to assess the credit risk of 10 potential deals to be listed on its crowdfunding platform.

Today, it evaluates 30 deals in less than an hour.

This surge in productivity has been thanks to the company’s new credit risk assessment model, which automates the process of assessing the credit worthiness of SMEs seeking financing.

CoAssets’ platform lists real estate projects looking to raise funds, and allows investors to access the offers directly. Because most projects are listed by SMEs which have no audited accounts, evaluating each of their individual credit risks is crucial.

The CoAssets Risk Assessment Model is a proprietary innovation developed with one of the Big Four accounting firms. It replaced an earlier system that was slow, labour-intensive, and highly unstructured.

“For each potential deal, we have to look through at least 10 documents and analyse more than 40 parameters or numbers, so the probability of human error is very high and you need someone to check and to write a report,” CoAssets’ Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Lim says.

Using the new model makes the assessment far more accurate and structured, breaking the process down into a step-by-step procedure that even an untrained new employee can easily pick up.

“The model is also objective because it spits out a specific number, which is indisputable and anchors the discussion. Previously, people would just say they ‘felt’ a certain deal should be done,” Lim says.

With the time saved from credit risk assessments, the company has been able to pour more resources into verifying the authenticity of statistics and discussing the subjective merits of each deal.

CoAssets started working on the model in March this year. The pilot was launched in April, and the final version was ready by May.

Come November, CoAssets will showcase the model at the inaugural Singapore FinTech Festival, organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Its other technological solutions include data analytics, which it uses to streamline internal processes and the design and format of its materials, as well as a cutting-edge customer relationship management system.

Mixing work and play

To a large extent, innovation at CoAssets is fostered by the flat organisational structure and vibrant and open culture.

Its young workforce, made up of vivacious millennials with an average age of 30, attest to a “youthful”, “fun”, and “casual” environment.

All employees are also part of the company’s WhatsApp chat group, where they share inspirational quotes, congratulatory messages for birthdays and graduations, group photos, videos, and news articles. Emojis pepper the conversation; even the C-suite leaders use them liberally.

Open and frank dialogue also lies at the core of the company culture.

After every CoAssets event, the business leaders hold a debriefing session and all employees get to talk about their takeaways and suggestions for improvement. “We can see that the C-level people really value everyone’s opinions,” says design and marketing associate He Yihong. “All voices are heard and everyone is open to criticism.”

In the office, there is also an open wall for staff to pen down their reflections. Lim says, “We want to encourage them to be confident, transparent, and unafraid to voice their views and share the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

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Keeping things candid

The culture of transparency also manifests in the frequent, direct feedback through an online performance review system.

Depending on the department, the CoAssets Management By Objectives (CAMBO) assessment takes place either weekly or quarterly. Individual staff members are given a score from 0 to 5 based on their work performance against previously set targets, the extent to which they adhered to processes, and discretionary contributions beyond the primary job scope.

The scores are aggregated to determine staff bonuses and share options.

“CAMBO gives us a very good pulse of things,” Lim says.

A big reason to assess his staff every week or quarter instead of biannually is the volatility in the industry, Lim says. “To do only midterm reviews, you need a stable environment. But our market needs more frequent tracking.

“We want our new hires to learn quickly, and we want to know if employees are consistently hitting their targets so that we can give them bigger roles,” he explains.

The daily huddle

Alongside CAMBO is a performance management system that helps staff to synchronise and keep track of their daily and weekly progress.

Without fail, a scrum meeting kickstarts the daily office routine at 9.30 each morning, with each department head gathering with their team. Employees talk about their key tasks, the areas they need help in, and what they are going to do to help their teammates.

“This allows the superiors to lead by example, hear first-hand the feedback from their people, and address any concerns,” CEO Getty Goh says.

Each team also has an ‘integrator’ to help coordinate information and tasks with other departments. Senior marketing executive Choo Jin Wen is the integrator for the design and marketing team, which works with the IT team on electronic direct marketing campaigns. “We send the data to IT, while IT updates the servers. So I will inform IT that we’re going to send on, say, Tuesday and check whether they’re facing any issues,” she says.

The morning scrum is done “very openly”, Lim says. “Everyone knows what’s happening because people will just stand up and talk in our open-concept office, so the subordinates will also hear what their superiors are discussing.”

For Choo, the scrum has helped her team set clear goals for the day, track their progress, and respond to impromptu or urgent tasks.

“If I have a lot of things on my plate, I can also air my concerns. It lets us have a mutual understanding and we can talk through issues instead of just emailing,” she says.

Self-engaged employees

Lim, who was the former Chief Artillery Officer of the Singapore Armed Forces, says his time in the military taught him that employees need to have personal convictions and a sense of purpose in their work.

“You cannot convince people to do something for you if they don’t have some sort of respect or allegiance to the organisation. You need to engage them, especially for Generations Y and Z,” he says.

“Simply barking orders at people doesn’t work.”

Describing himself as a “Type B” person who is the “Papa Smurf” of the company, Lim says he frequently asks the staff how they are and where they want to be in half a year, to learn more about their personality and goals.

So far, however, employee engagement has mostly been organic and impromptu. Lim says it is often initiated by the employees themselves who are eager to brand the company; the senior management then readily greenlights the ideas and participates themselves.

For instance, staff have taken the initiative to create and post videos on Facebook. They recently recorded themselves talking about their experiences, got Lim to share with viewers about his day-to-day duties, and created a video montage of the company retreat in Phuket.

“In their free time, they will also interview people who have done business with us, to find out how they view the company,” Lim says.

This freedom to be creative with how they want to build a compelling brand for CoAssets motivates the employees, and gives them a sense of ownership and pride in the company.

“We engage employees by giving them the freedom to engage themselves,” Lim says.

HR plans

CoAssets is moving to list on the Australian Stock Exchange. Once that is complete, the company is planning on designing an upgraded remuneration scheme and to formalise its culture, values and code of conduct. Lim says employees will be involved in the latter process. “We want to grow the soul and spirit of the company together,” he says.

“We’ve always been running in this race, but now we want to run for passion; the soft aspects.”

Toughen up with soft skills

Crowdfunding startup CoAssets has seen multifold growth in its short three-year existence. From five employees on its first day, it now has 40 in Singapore, 12 in China, and five in Australia. The publicly-traded startup also has upcoming offices in Indonesia and Malaysia, and a possible partnership in the works in Myanmar.

To keep up with the company’s expansion and the business environment’s rapid changes, all employees are expected to be adaptable, hardy, and quick on their feet.

“We’re running a marathon at the speed of a sprint, so we need people who are comfortable with this pace, can sustain the tempo, and react to new things,” says Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Lim.

Learning and development are hence crucial. The firm puts a heavy focus on not just training its staff in technical skills, theories and new market developments, but also building their soft skills.

Lim says this focus on the oft-overlooked areas of communication and service is what gives the company an edge,

Employees learn how to talk effectively on the phone, engage people face-to-face, make presentations, and manage difficult situations, such as an unhappy investor.

The article first appeared on HRM Asia


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