A great business model, good partners and genuine passion are all you need to launch your startup; this is Korean FinTech startup XQuant Inc.’s CEO and founder XQuant mantra and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. The Chinese-origin founder of XQuant was brought up in Paris and worked in the financial industry as a trader for over three decades. He first worked in Tokyo for 10 years and then moved to Seoul in 2005 as Head of Trading for Macquarie Group.
Being passionate about technology and Artificial Intelligence, he used AI for investment decisions after taking responsibility for the Strategic Investment Portfolio in Hana Financial Investment in 2016. Finally, in 2019, he created his company XQuant with former colleagues from Macquarie.
XQuant is an AI-specialized company providing automation and data analytics to Financial Institutions and currently has 15 staff worldwide. XQuant has staff in Moscow, Tunis and Seoul. The company is currently collaborating with NICE and Hana Financial Investment in Korea.
CEO & Founder of XQuant Chea Srun had a conversation with KoreaTechDesk, about his journey as a startup founder, XQuant services, future plans and advice for budding founders.
Please tell us about your background and your journey as an entrepreneur.
I am the CEO of XQuant, a AI Fintech company based in South Korea. I am of Chinese origin but became French after migrating to France when I was a kid. I worked for 28 years as a trader for several banks and securities companies and retired in 2018. This is when I’ve decided to become an entrepreneur.
When and why did you launch XQuant?
I started XQuant with two of my former colleagues. All the partners and founders all were working with me since 2005, when I moved to Korea. We all wanted to take up the challenge of becoming first-time entrepreneurs.
We share the same passion for doing something more in AI and software. Since we were already working in finance, we knew the industry. We thought about using AI to make software for the financial world. We know what are the problems, and we know the potential customers. This our competitive advantage.
How is XQuant helping the financial industry?
When we started in 2018, we saw that there were lots of inefficiencies in the banks. Many processes are done manually; for example, in the back office, when there are some confirmations of operations, people manually do the inputs, which is time-consuming and also prone to error. We provide them with an application that can automatically read those confirmations without manual input.
How does XQuant software exactly work?
It takes a PDF file, finds keywords and the values associated the those keywords. We also using natural language processing (NLP) to understand the meaning of what we find. Then we translate change everything into structured data. We use a combination of traditional algorithms, AI, and OCR and NLP.
What are the advantages of using XQuant services?
Our solution will help our customers to save a lot of time. For example, a document that will take half an hour to process manually with our software will take five to ten minutes. It also helps them to avoid making mistakes. It also allows customers to do reconciliations with their existing database.
Can you give successful examples of the XQuant service?
In Korea, we have two significant customers: one customer is Hana Financial Investment. They are using our application to save time for the Front and Middle Office. Another customer is NICE P&I, one major financial service companies in Korea. They use it to do reporting. They have transaction documents they receive from the customers, and they must report to the regulators. So they use the application to process the documents and then send the reports to KRX.
What are your business development and expansion strategy?
We are currently focusing on Korea, but our solution can work as well can work as well oversea. Our strategy will be first to have success in Korea and then target overseas customers. We are starting with Hong Kong and, Singapore, Australia, and next we will go to Europe and North America.
Can you talk about XQuant’s team and the company culture in the aspect of Employee management style, niring or motivation approach, etc.?
One unique thing about XQuant is that our company’s culture is global and international. We are a Korean company with a foreigner founder, which is rather rare in Korea. Of course, I have Korean co-founders, and also a team of 8 people based in Tunisia doing the development. We also have two other colleagues in Moscow.
We take into consideration everyone’s background. For example, during the month of Ramadan, we’ve changed our working hours for the Tunisia team so that they can sleep in the daytime and work at night. In Korea, we’ve shifted to a hybrid structure where people work three days in the office and two days from home
Why did you choose South Korea to launch your startup?
At beginning, I registered my company in Hong Kong because it’s a great financial place and a good place to do business. But because I was living in Korea , some people told me about some programs that the Korean government has for startups, like giving them free offices, subsidies, etc.So I’ve incorporated an XQuant office in Korea.
Last year, we participated in K-Startup Grand Challenge, a program that attracts thousands of companies from overseas. And only 60 companies are selected for an incubation program. At the end of the program, there is a competition and we were very proud to win the second prize.
What is your investment strategy for the future?
If you want to grow faster, you need funds. We have been cautious about hiring people. But sometimes because of resource constraints, we had to let go of some busines opportunities. So getting some investment is something we’re thinking about. It will allow us to hire more people, grow faster, provide more services, and develop more products.
Any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs or startup founders?
I’m very lucky have good partners. If I had been alone, my life would have been much harder. So, get some good partners and work with people who you can trust.
Another important thing is to have a good business model. Think about what you want to do, believe in you. This is a very competitive world. There are many good ideas, and many people talk about them, but only a few really succeed to do what they want.
I started coding when I was a teenager, and I wanted to develop software and sell them. To be able to start XQuant is like realizing my dream. Every day I have a sense of accomplishment.
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