Entrepreneur

This S'porean Plants 'Money Changer ATMs' In The Heartlands So You Can Change Money 24/7

Admit it, many of us look forward to going on holidays but we always dread packing for it.

The same goes for running travel-related errands. Changing foreign currency in particular, is a very simple task but we often leave it to the very last minute.

And when we desperately need to change money at such short notice, we typically don’t have the liberty of choice to visit a money changer that has ‘good’ rates.

Noting this dilemma, Jeffrey Chin wants consumers to not have to compromise between the two so he started up a new business arm called MoolaFX.

Essentially, it deploys money changing machines that allow users to conveniently buy or sell foreign currencies at competitive rates.

Invested S$850,000 In This Business

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Jeffrey Chin, co-founder of MoolaFX / Image Credit: Jeffrey Chin

Along with his co-founders, Jeffrey bootstrapped the business with S$350,000 of their own savings, and raised another S$500,000 in their first seeding round thanks to investment from their friends.

He notes that there are many friends and relatives who have placed their trust in him and relentlessly supported him in his business, be it in terms of financing or other forms.

To repay their trust and support, Jeffrey said that he wants to “guard” his name and reputation by dealing with integrity and honesty in the business world.

A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favour is better than silver and gold.

– Proverbs 22:1

Citing the above quote from the Bible, he said that these are the same values that he wants his company to uphold.

“As an entrepreneur, before I receive any funding in my business, I want to portray a most realistic picture and highlight the risks in the business. If I ever receive funding, I will do my utmost best to return that trust given to me.”

Digitising The Traditional Money Changer Business

The 49-year-old has had 25 years worth of experience in the banking and finance industry, and previously served as the Vice President of DBS in Interest Rate Derivatives/Structuring, Global Financial Markets.

After spending 10 years working with various local and foreign banks, Jeffrey set up and managed several successful businesses in the fintech industry.

Currently, he serves as the managing director of Moola Holdings Pte Ltd and Money Supply Ltd.

Money Supply is a brick-and-mortar money changer business that he started back in 2006. It started off with an outlet at Toa Payoh, before shifting to Tanjong Pagar in 2015.

So why did he choose to digitise the traditional money changer business?

A money changing transaction is actually very simple and not rocket science.

When I learned about the technology for a money changing machine, I was thinking to myself: why not let the machine take over the most mundane (physical money change) and most time-consuming (manning a retail shop) of the business?

– Jeffrey Chin, co-founder of MoolaFX

He further reasoned that the money changing machine will help to solve some of his immediate problems in the shop, such as manpower concerns.

Jeffrey shared that he has had issues trusting staff with money, and felt that the machine served as a “reliable” replacement. Moreover, it also eliminates potential human error.

On top of that, he can also save on manpower costs despite operating 24 hours.

Changing Customers’ Mindsets To Use A Machine Is An “Uphill Task”

He started conceptualising MoolaFX’s business plan in September 2018, and went on to build and deploy their first machine in April this year.

When asked about any challenges starting out, he cited two problems: logistics and operations.

They had to manage their currency stock well and run a schedule to regularly top up the machines. Thanks to their decade of money-changing experience, they are able to stabilise the operations quite fast.

They also initially faced some problems with their machines despite undergoing many testing rounds, but they managed to fine-tune it along the way based on customer feedback and on-the-ground operational experience.

moolafx singapore
Customer using the MoolaFX machine / Image Credit: Jeffrey Chin

Regardless of these hiccups, Jeffrey said that customer response has been “very encouraging” so far, as they have received an outpour of positive feedback from them.

However, it’s clear to see that the general public is more comfortable with exchanging currency at a physical money changer, so how exactly are they working on changing user behaviour?

Jeffrey admits that it has been an “uphill task” to change people’s mindset to transact with a machine instead.

“However, with the government’s push to adopt innovation and cashless payments, we believe we are on the right track. We also strongly believe that our product truly meets the needs of our customers in terms of providing good rates, true convenience and security through MoolaFX.”

A Win-Win For Both Consumers And Money Changers

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MoolaFX machine at Yew Tee / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

He asserted that the machines are beneficial for both the consumer and the money changer.

A consumer wants convenience and a good rate. However, not all money changers provide good rates and a ‘good’ money changer in a single location is unable to provide true convenience.

– Jeffrey Chin, co-founder of MoolaFX

He added that the checking of exchange rates is also “troublesome”. Although there are some shops that display rates online, they are mostly only indicative and might fluctuate once you reach the shop.

To add on, since money changers deal with cash transactions only, one would need to typically withdraw money at the ATM or bank first, which can be time-consuming given their typically long queues.

The biggest drawback is that most money changers do not operate round-the-clock, which limits the transaction hours.

For money changers, the machines help to alleviate the cost of shop rental and staff. That said, it’s much easier to scale an automated system than a physical shop.

Jeffrey also added that a machine can generate data that helps to enhance operations and power marketing strategies.

A Money Changer That Works Like An ATM

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MoolaFX’s rates are comparable to physical money changers / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Like an ATM, Moola machines clearly display the rates and calculations. They’re accurate and transparent, the company proudly boasts on its website.

It also allows users to buy and sell up to 13 foreign currencies, including USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, MYR, THB, IDR, CNY, HKD, TWD and SGD.

“Owing to the limitation of our hardware, we are able to buy and sell only certain currencies. We believe our selection of currencies has catered to the majority of our customers based on our experience,” said Jeffrey.

“We may change the currency offerings in future, but it should not be vastly different from what we have already provided.”

Do note that they only provide denominations that are most commonly used, such as 50 ringgit, US$100 and 1,000 baht. For Singapore currency however, they provide the major denominations as well as coins.

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MoolaFX locations / Image Credit: MoolaFX

Their machines are currently available in Toa Payoh, Star Vista and Yew Tee, with plans underway to open in other locations.

Jeffrey asserts that it has always been their strategy to enter the heartlands.

The target customers we wish to serve are mainly Singaporeans and the residents whom we sell our currencies to instead of tourists. We would like to operate 24 hours, 7 days a week, so CBD area — which is quiet during weekends — is not exactly (where) we want to be.

– Jeffrey Chin, co-founder of MoolaFX

Future Plans

Jeffrey shared that he plans to add more functionalities and features to MoolaFX, one of which is offering NETS payments and other cashless options.

They are also exploring collaborations with companies who want to advertise on their Moola machines for co-branding, and maybe reach out to travel-related online platforms to offer their services.

With regards to business expansion, Jeffrey shared that he plans to bring the Moola Machines overseas.

He added that some neighbouring countries have already expressed interest in their machines, but he would like to strengthen MoolaFX’s presence in Singapore first.

Sharing his ambitions, Jeffrey said that he aims to deploy up to 30 machines across Singapore heartlands by the end of 2021.

Featured Image Credit: MoolaFX / Vulcan Post

 

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