A few weeks ago, my colleagues Andy Putra , Curtis Au and I were nominated to a coveted spot in the inaugural 10x1000 tech for inclusion foundation program. Put together by Ant Group alongside IFC – International Finance Corporation, the program aims to train 1000 Fintech practitioners each year over a period of 10 years with a focus on inclusion, sustainability and innovation.

We were put through four weeks worth of video lessons, quizzes, Q&A and breakout sessions with participants from across 17 Asian countries, and (lots of) group discussions for our Capstone Project. Imagine having to come up with a solution to drive financial inclusion in just 4 weeks, with 8 other strangers whom you’ve just met, from very diverse cultural and career backgrounds! Considering that each of us still have our full time roles, I thought that was almost impossible.

But we did it. We had late nights - with meetings dragging on till past midnight, we took time off our weekends to brainstorm, and by sheer hard work and plenty of teamwork, we did it. My team put together a solution CoSave, where we enable and encourage the unbanked in developing markets to do digital community group savings through formal financial products. Being the most gender balanced team, we also felt strongly about helping women in particular to achieve financial freedom, and I’m glad that CoSave addresses that as well.

CoSave must have stuck a chord in our audience’s heart. In addition to being judged as the top project of the cohort by a tough panel of fintech veterans, we also clinched the People’s Choice Award out of 16 teams.

I’m grateful to our founders, Jody and Hiro, for the nomination and I’m still reeling from the experience. If I were to summarise my key takeaways, these would be my top 5:

1. Stay curious. You can learn from almost everyone and everywhere.

2. Keep an open mind and never be afraid of failing. As they say – you either succeed, or you learn.

3. There are always pain points. Look out for the people’s pain points in their daily lives and address the pain points specifically. Jack Ma noticed people queuing up at bank branches during summer, waiting to pay their utility bills. He sought to solve this pain point and got his team to think of how they can establish a connection among the numerous utility service providers and their different systems. And since 2018, everyone in China can pay their utility bills through Alipay in just a few clicks. Though it wasn’t a profit driven initiative, they earned the user’s trust because of the convenience and user experience provided.

4. Another interesting thought brought up during the course was to encourage participants to raise the next leader in their organisation or teams. DANA’s CEO Vincent Iswaratioso stressed that by empowering team members and raising them to be leaders, they would be able to make decisions on their own and lead their own teams. This drives out the need for micromanagement, and also helps to expand the company’s ecosystem. And if these raised leaders do decide to leave your team/organisation subsequently, the industry still benefits as a whole with this additional talent.

5. And as one of Capstone project panellist GM Cheng (Head of Global Partnership at Ant Group) repeatedly emphasized throughout all the capstone presentations, you have to always clearly define the product/solution/core (unique) value that you want to deliver. Consider use behaviour, how people will react, and come up with an end to end solution.

-Huiying Han, Head of Operations at Wallex