Interview with Founder & CEO

These are 5 things you should know now about if you are a Malaysian.

  1. iMoney is a free-to-use, independent comparison portal for banking products, the likes of home loan, car loan, credit card and personal loan.
  2. iMoney can help you save money and time.
  3. iMoney can help you make better decision on which banking products to take.
  4. iMoney stands for us, the consumers so that we don’t get taken advantage of by the banks.
  5. iMoney founder cum CEO is Lee Chong Ching Wei, but he is not related to the the world top badminton player. 🙂

I have the pleasure of interviewing Ching Wei on his mission and vision for founding

Click here to download the MP3


iMoney means Intelligent Money

LCF: In our podcast today, I have Lee Ching Wei, which is a character out from being the top badminton player in Malaysia (CF stands corrected – top player in the world) – Lee Chong Wei. So people have been asking whether you are related to him right?

Lee Ching Wei: Yes, all the time. I get that at the airport, all the time. Apparently I look like him as well.

LCF: Wow, that’s something ya. But jokes aside, maybe you want to tell us about your background and tell us briefly what iMoney is about.

Lee Ching Wei: Yeap, no problems. My name is Ching Wei, surname Lee. Lee Ching Wei, not Lee Ching Foo. <laughs>. I come from a finance background, until January this year (2012) , I’ve been in Australia. I worked as an investment consultant for about 3 plus years and before that I was a financial advisor. All this were in Melbourne. Pretty much all my life I have been telling people what to do with their money. I came back in January this year, and I started iMoney in April. It is really out of my personal frustration because…in Australia, I’ve experienced what the future could look like in Malaysia. Which means, when you want to apply for credit card, for example, it’s very easy. So what iMoney is all about – you know, iMoney is really a comparison website for Malaysians. So, we help Malaysians compare financial products, and when I say financial products, I mean credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, savings accounts. They are really day to day products, and we are doing it in a very user friendly way, in plain language as well. Our goal is really to help Malaysians save time, save money – and beat the banks at their own games.

LCF: Wow..

Lee Ching Wei:Yea, because <chuckles> the banks are out, trying to confuse Malaysians.  <laughs>

LCF: So, from what you said, does that mean  the banking system and their products in Australia are more transparent and banks provide more info to customers?

Lee Ching Wei: Not really <laughs>. I think banks all around the world are the same. They are out to complicate matters – I don’t know why they do that, to be honest. But in Australia, unlike here, you have comparison websites, so you have something similar to iMoney, which means, you can logon to this one stop site, and compare all your options easily. Without spending huge amount of time combing through like, different bank websites, because if you think about it, if you want to take out home loan, you can actually go to ten different websites and call up ten different people, and spend half an hour each with everyone.

LCF: That’s true.

Lee Ching Wei: …Things like interest rates…So, why can’t ….all these information are public, why can’t there be someone that collects it, filters it, do their research and present it in a very intuitive way. So, I can’t see why there isn’t such services. So like I said, it’s from personal frustration and hey, Malaysians deserve better. So that’s why I created iMoney.

CF: So do you think that bank products – are they really that complicated, for the layman or it has to do with the lack of financial literacy among most of the people?

Lee Ching Wei: I think it is a combination of both. For one, the banking products, for example, even a simple product like fixed deposits, can sometimes become quite complicated. It’s not really because people don’t understand it; but it’s because the banks make it complicated. There are a lot of terms and conditions, a lot of fine prints…banks like to use what I call – financial jargons. For example, they call, a simple word like how long – they call it tenure. Why is tenure right? Personally, I don’t think that is the right word to use. Hire purchase is another quirky one – why can’t they just call it car loan? Coz everyone thinks it’s a car loan. You know, these are two examples…I don’t think it is really to do with the lack of financial education because you can’t expect everyone – every Malaysians to be financially ….I’m not saying that everyone should not be financially educated, but you should have a basic level of understanding. But then the banks need to do their job to simplify things as well. And this is what I see as the lagging thing in Malaysia, and what iMoney can potentially offer to Malaysians.

CF: That’s very well said indeed. I do agree with you. You did mention earlier it is kind of confusing even for someone of your background when you want to compare financial products from a lot of banks. Having said that, how do you think consumers, especially those without financial background – actually – how can they be a smarter consumer when dealing with banks and stuff like that?

Lee Ching Wei: To be honest, it’s very difficult. I say that because, sometimes, you don’t even know what questions to ask the banks…’coz you don’t understand the terms, the conditions that they have. Sometimes, you don’t have the competence to understand(?) what they are actually advising. Personally, I have gone through those experience. It could be quite frustrating. But one advice I would probably give everyone is that, if you don’t actually understand or you don’t think you understand enough about a complicated product – ask someone who do. There will be people you know who have a better, you know, higher level of financial knowledge than  you. Because you want to get the big decisions right. For example, if you sign a home loan – it is a 30 years commitment. You want to make sure it’s right. Get the right people to actually put your name to it. That’s very important.

CF: So….oh, continue please…

Lee Ching Wei: The other thing is, take advantage of free services, like for example iMoney, we are new but eventually we are going to provide a lot of tips and guides. There are a lot of websites on the web that provides good, basic financial education for free – your blog is one of them, it’s very good.

CF: Thank you very much.

Lee Ching Wei: You know, things like that. I think, people tend to get afraid of actually diving in and learning more. I would say, if you are doing something like taking a home loan or a car loan, these are years of commitment. You want to, probably do your homework before actually signing up for something like that.

LCF: Right right. Ya, it’s the same like when you do investment. Before you jump in or commit your money, they said – do your due diligence.

Lee Ching Wei: That’s exactly right.

LCF: This due dilligence, even before this,  because I’m from engineering background, this is one of the financial jargon too ya. For people who are not educated financially.

Lee Ching Wei: It could be difficult to do your own research of products because sometimes when you read the terms and conditions, you just don’t understand it. Even I have trouble sometimes, deciphering the things they are talking about. So that’s why I said it’s very important to identify someone you are close with, who doesn’t mind spending time explaining things to you. That’s definitely something valuable  for me, early in the days.

LCF: That is actually the vision when you first started iMoney. That’s where iMoney comes in and it tries to fill the gap – the gap you have observed and seen among Malaysians. So perhaps you can tell the audience about iMoney value proposition and your vision for this money portal which you founded?

Lee Ching Wei: iMoney,what is it – is that we really want to help Malaysians save time and save money. We really want to do it well. So we don’t think combing ten different websites and deciding which banks offer you the best home loan is the right way to go. There really should be just one stop center that just provides you with all these information for free. And that’s really what we want to do at iMoney. We want to make information – basically, we want to make it really easy for Malaysians to make decisions on their financial well being. Because right now it’s just too difficult, especially for the layman. The vision of iMoney is that ultimately, we want to bring in online application as well. So, personally, I don’t know about you Ching Foo, I frankly hate going to the bank. Because it takes too much time, it’s inconvenient….

LCF: That’s right. Long queue – not to mention that, exactly…

Lee Ching Wei: …exactly…finding for parkings…it’s too much trouble to go through to get something so simple done, like opening your bank account. So we really are working hard with the banks to make online application a reality. So in future, what you are going to see in iMoney is – come to the site, it’s free to use. You go through the different products, all explained in plain language you can understand. And if you are interested in any of it, you could just apply directly online. So, it’s really simple, it’s really intuitive for consumers. We think we are going to get it right. Eventually, what iMoney is going to become is a portal for all things related to money – so we are thinking of actually venturing into insurance as well. That’s another area that’s just full of jargons. Ultimately we want to provide a platform for Malaysians to easily compare products.

LCF: Right, and then probably you would do things like iPhone apps or something like that –  I guess that would definitely be  in the plan right?

Lee Ching Wei: Yea, that is definitely in the works. In fact, what would end up happening – you know, we might actually create a shopping comparison as well.  So in future, when you want to buy groceries, rather than going to your favourite groceries store, you logon to iMoney and then …checkout all what the supermarkets are offering, and you could actually shop on iMoney, comparing  your shopping carts across the supermarkets. Those are really the big plans in future, but we want to get the first things right first, which is the financial products. Coz we think that’s the biggest problem people are facing right now.

LCF: Definitely agree with you Ching Wei. Having said, that..erm…because earlier, you are not sure why banks are actually …the banks products, why they structure it in such a way that’s it’s quite confusing and very hard to compare products between banks to banks. And you are actually quite frustrated with banks, and you did say earlier, indirectly that banks are taking advantage of us. Having said so, you are now actually collaborating with the banks, and I understand that you have a team who actually do the research on banks products which the information is channeled to your website iMoney. On one side you are saying that the banks are taking advantage of us, and you are also collaborating with the banks. It is kinda like, you are playing…the banks…erm, how should I put it? Is there a better way to….

Lee Ching Wei: Ya, what you are saying – is that we are basically working with the bank, so how do we position ourselves as an independent third party if we are also working with the banks right?

LCF: That’s right.

Lee Ching Wei: Yeap, ok, I guess there are 2 points really. We are working with the banks because we need the information that they provide. What we are not really doing is partnering with any banks in particular. iMoney stands for the consumer. We are independent down to the core. Our research team actually does the research independently – we only obtain information like interest rates, lock in period – the sort of factual information from the banks. And synthesize this information and provide them in a very friendly format for Malaysians. Yes, we get paid every time someone applies for products on iMoney website. But we do NOT actually actively promote any sort of banking products. We are not tied to any sort of things where you actually get paid more when you sell more products – a sales driven thing. So we don’t have the incentive to heavily promote a particular bank product.

LCF: Wow, I think this is something new – totally new concept. Yeap, Ching Wei, you brought in a very new concept…

Lee Ching Wei: We see ourselves as a very important party…very important firm or company to help Malaysians in particular …and the last thing we want to do is compromise this independence. So, what we are saying to the banks, is that, hey, we could help promote you promote your products – we are going to make it really friendly for the public. And if you think of it, for example, a particular bank is more friendly to consumer –they break it down into really simple terms – you know, they don’t have all those catches and fine prints, then we would actively promote that bank that because it is good for the public. So you can see, what will happen in the future is that bank will compete to become more friendly to the consumer and this is really what we are hoping. More transparency, and adding value to Malaysians.

LCF: I think after hearing what you have to say, this is exactly what Malaysians need. And anyone who’s listening to our podcast over here – they really should be looking forward to this iMoney portal.

LCF: Maybe a last question Ching Wei – a personal question. Perhaps you want to share with the audience – what do you actually invest in given your qualification in finance (note: Ching Wei is a CFA charterholder) . What are the financial advices you have to give to the audience?

Lee Ching Wei: I really won’t give specific advices because I don’t know what individual circumstances are. The key lesson that people should take away is, whenever you are seeking for financial advice, if someone actually just tells you what to do, then probably you should be a bit wary because as an advisor, the first thing you really need to understand is the individual circumstances of the investor…..I was previously a financial consultant/advisor, for that’s what we usually do – first we understand the clients, and then give advice. But with that said, two things the audience can take away is – number one, diversification really works – it’s really important. And the second thing is to lower your cost as much as possible. When I said cost, I mean management fees, transaction fess – any sort of fees that does not contribute to profits. These are the things you can actually control. You can’t control how the market behaves. You can’t control how the company does, how the CEO does in his job. My take is be diversified and have as low as investment cost as possible. I personally invest in ETFs. Those are actually exchange traded funds. These funds track the index, for example the KLCI ETF tracks the top 40…or top 30 companies in Malaysia. How they actually perform is actually how the stock market performs. That’s how my investment portfolio performs.

LCF: That’s great! I read a book – the Millionaire Teacher, Andrew Hallam, whom I actually interviewed previously and he’s also a firm advocate of ETFs and I think, coming from you, it’s quite good to hear.

Lee Ching Wei: It’s good in a few ways that number one, it’s generally very low cost compared to say, buying unit trust. Secondly, it is very diversified. So, for example the Malaysian ETF – you can access international ETFs as well, invest in something like MSCI world index ETF and that’s thousands of companies in many countries. Ultimately you can invest in something very diversified and very low cost. That’s what I like a lot about ETF. Hopefully that’s an insight on how I go about my investing. I do have a portionin cash as well, just because I like to have emergency fund set aside. I think it’s good practice for people to do that. Having 3 or 6 months of their salary, in case you need it for something.

LCF: Very well said. Are you still in the financial industry? Because you used to be a investment consultant – are you still doing financial planning for people, for clients or things like that?

Lee Ching Wei: I am on full time doing iMoney, I think you can call this as financial industry anyway. I want to grow iMoney into a household name – really want to be number one money website in Malaysia. Coz when you think about jobs – you think about Jobstreet, you think about property, you think about iProperty. We would like that – when Malaysians think about money, you think about iMoney.

LCF: So you are still in the financial industry but not actively doing what you were doing back in Melbourne?

Lee Ching Wei; Yes, not actually actively consulting or giving advice but that said, I do personally give advice to friends and families, and people that actually approach me. I do actually give advice as well, but it’s just not something that I actively promote.

LCF: Right ok. So obviously you are still expanding this iMoney  – so for, any business partner or audience that actually want to reach you personally, regarding iMoney or regarding yourself, what is the best way to reach you?

Lee Ching Wei: Best way is to email me, my email address is ching[at] You could like us on Facebook, post a comment or you could tweet at me – you could tweet at iMoney team -@iMoneyteam. There are various ways but the best way to personally contact me is through my email address.

LCF: Okay, Ching Wei, it’s really a pleasure talking to you

Ching Wei; Likewise, likewise.

LCF: Definitely looking forward to iMoney website – the first independent, can I put it as a tagline, the first independent money comparison or bank products comparison website for Malaysians?

Ching Wei, Well actually iMoney is already launched – check it out – we are constantly improving it, so anytime you want to take out loans or credit cards, make sure you check iMoney

LCF: Right – I actually browse that – some of the products you have listed in the website, I think it’s really helpful. For credit cards, there’s a column to say that what’s the best credit card for travel, what’s the best credit card for shopping…I think it really helps a lot of people.

Ching Wei: Thank you

LCF: So, ok thanks again ChingWei, it’s a pleasure.

Ching Wei; No problems at all.

LCF…I’ll talk to you again very soon. Have good evening

Ching Wei: See you, bye.

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