How to protect the online economy and build a great team along the way
The story of a Singaporean fraud prevention company with its feet on the ground and its head in the clouds
Founded in 2008, CashShield is a fraud prevention solution that combines fraud detection technology with machine learning, predictive analytics, and big data. Boasting an unprecedented 100% chargeback protection, it is the first solution of its kind designed to optimize sales conversions and reduce fraud risk at the same time.
In conversation with Junxian Lee, CFO and co-founder of CashShield, team Jobbatical learned about the challenges of staying on top of the ever-growing fraud prevention market while maintaining a healthy and motivating work-life balance.
“Our company is interesting,” Junxian says when asked to describe the mission of CashShield. Why, you ask? The company is using big data, machine learning, passive biometric analysis, and pattern recognition to identify fraud and provide a solution where the only losers are online fraudsters. “We’re very good at identifying good behavior and bad behavior; identifying fraud syndicates, for example, that are trying to defraud online merchants of money.”
Why is this important? Because online payment fraud rates are growing at an alarming rate. “I think five years ago it was about 1.3%,” Junxian says. “This year it’s somewhere along the lines of 1.5%-1.6%. Every other week we hear of major database breaches. Credit card and other payment data are being used by fraud syndicates to commit fraud online.” As a result, fraud prevention is becoming an increasingly vital industry. “As the world continues to move online, security definitely becomes a bigger issue, and therefore a very interesting market for us to operate in.”
Founded in Singapore with support from the local government, CashShield first started offering its no-frills, fully automated solution to European companies. “We started in Europe because the market is bigger. More importantly, payment technology is more advanced in Europe. The market is much more mature, so adoption rates are higher for online payments.”
Asia, however, is now catching up and becoming increasingly attractive to CashShield as a market, Junxian says. “I think Asian payments, if you’re looking at China and Japan, they’re beginning to move fast. So, we are beginning to come back once again to Asia because we’re seeing the market as more and more ready.”
CashShield started its journey in the digital products industry which is highly prone to fraud. “Traceability is not so good there,” Junxian explains why that was the logical starting point for the business. “Delivery needs to be instantaneous. With digital products — like buying a prepaid top-up code online — you expect to receive it within minutes. If you receive it tomorrow or two days later, it’s kind of pointless.” With the digital products sphere covered, CashShield used the valuable lessons learned to expand further into the ever-growing online payments industry.
There’s a lot to do, and the sky’s the limit. “Big data and machine learning allow us to do a lot of things and analyze data in ways that were previously not possible,” Junxian enthuses. “Our mission is to use this cutting-edge technology to protect the online economy.” Therein lies the beauty of CashShield’s business — it’s a win-win for everyone involved, except for the bad guys. “If you look at the business we’re doing, it’s very ethical. Within the ecosystem, the only people that lose out are fraudsters. The online merchant benefits, we benefit, because as the merchants grow stronger, our revenue gets stronger as well, so the only people that ultimately lose out are fraudsters, and that’s really not a bad thing.”
Obsessed with automation, CashShield’s fraudster-busting team of 22 is all about efficiency. “We’re very inspired by companies like WhatsApp or Instagram, for example, that serve millions of customers and yet manage to keep their team very, very lean. I think that our core belief is definitely that you only hire people when you fail at automation, and automation for a tech company should by far be the most important thing.” The cost- and time-efficiency that comes along with that level of automation is what allows CashShield to scale rapidly.
“We’re onboarding several large merchants whose volumes, when on board, would easily require our system to be able to take about 100 times what we’re currently taking,” Junxian elaborates. “The only reason we can do that is because we have built our solution to be fully automated. If we didn’t create the solution to be automated in every aspect, taking on larger clients would entail hiring a huge team.”
So CashShield doesn’t need a huge team. They just need a great one — and that’s why they turned to Jobbatical to find global talent. “We were basically looking at a few avenues how to reach out,” Junxian says. “We all want the strong guys. And the strong guys, they have choices. For me, Jobbatical is the right choice because of its global pool of talent.”
But even at CashShield, not everything is about skills, skills, skills. Junxian knows that for a team to function as a unit, people’s cultural values need to be aligned. “We would hire someone that would be comfortable within the company, rather than hire the most skilled candidate.”
“At the core of our company, we are very family-centric,” Junxian continues. “Even in Asia, for a tech company, this is not common. In Southeast Asia, most of us experienced Western tech companies because they came to our region and they dominated the market.” The westernization of the local tech scene meant that young people in the region adopted an idea of entrepreneurship that was a departure from traditional Asian values.
“Culture-wise, I think we are a little bit different,” says Junxian of CashShield’s approach. “We actually encourage our employees to knock off on time. Try to balance your life, because we know the last thing we want for you is to burn out. We definitely try to get our employees together once a year. We hold retreats, preferably in Southeast Asia, because it’s a nice region. Just make sure you are really focused, get your stuff done, be productive. That is the culture that we have, the reason we can do that is because we’re not burning money we don’t earn; we’re profitable.”
“If you’re from a very fast-growing American company that got its big exit within three years, maybe you won’t be comfortable with our culture, because maybe you think it’s too slow.” Junxian himself is very familiar with that kind of transition. “I had to adjust to this culture because I came from a very different, fast-moving culture, very fast-moving,” he says. “Like, hey, I want the work done yesterday, not tomorrow. So you must believe and you must be comfortable with the way we are growing.”
What does the future hold for CashShield? Junxian knows that it’s an innovate-or-get-left-behind world out there. “We have to keep our feet on the ground but our head in the clouds. We know what we’re strong in, but for companies to survive, they need to continuously innovate.” Not only does constant innovation keep a company competitive in a world where disruptive startups are everywhere — it also helps with talent retention. “Our projects move forward rather than go into maintenance mode, so our tech talents are constantly motivated to work on the next big thing. Based on current projections, we will look to continually innovate over the next three years. Maybe in year five, we’ll have to go into maintenance mode. But the project will continue to evolve, so I believe our tech guys will continuously be challenged.”
So the future is bright, for both product and people. “We do have something that we’re very privileged to have, where the product and industry are aligned,” says Junxian. “We have something very big on our hands and we see this as a project to see how far we can go. How big can we make this monster?”
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