Patrick Huang is the CEO of Starfish Digital. Founded in November 2020, this Singapore Fintech has grown phenomenally over the past year as corporate banks respond to their customers demands for digital connectivity.
This interview asks what makes a successful technology leader with experience of driving change at the largest global banks opt to launch into the challenging and risky life of an entrepreneur?
Q: I must ask. Why Starfish?
A: Well, they’re amazing and have unique superpowers. For example, they can regenerate whole limbs just from a central disc!
Like a digital starfish, our platform connects outward to banks and companies to supply repeatable, secure, and resilient data connectivity. We link a company’s finance system to bank providers for the provision of real-time financial data. This means that chief financial officers can view their company’s liquidity position as easily as their personal savings account and corporate banking leaders can meet their customers' demands for digital B2B experiences.
Q: Why did you leave corporate life to start Starfish Digital? Start-ups are notoriously risky and prone to failure.
A: I’m the son of immigrant parents and have been working since I was twelve. My mum and dad taught me to be resilient and adaptable. These character traits have served me well in an international banking career that has taken me from New York to Singapore.
How banks serve their customers is changing dramatically. Retail has undergone a massive change and corporate banking is undergoing a similar transformation. When I was the head of technology for a global financial institution, I spotted the market need for a world class connectivity platform that would easily integrate any company to any banking service.
Q: How did you find who you wanted to build the company with you?
A: I approached people in my network with special talents and tremendous experience. It was equally important they have the same values of intellectual curiosity, integrity, and authenticity. I found that in my co-founders Dan Choi and Sally Clarke who have held leadership roles at UBS, Bank of America, IHS Markit and FIS. They’re experts in their respective fields and strongly support diversity and inclusivity being part of Starfish Digital’s DNA as well as a recognition of the need protect the environment.
Q: What was design of your first products like?
A: We designed for scalability, resilience, security, and flexibility. Litres of coffee fuelled the conversations and, let's face it, not always the best diagrams. We held research conversations with over 60 corporate bankers and technology leaders before building a prototype of Starfish Connect. The result is a cloud-based SaaS (Software as a Service) that is available through any cloud provider, in public or private form, in any geography. It’s fully encrypted to keep data secure. We’ve incorporated Amelia an advanced automation and conversational AI in our technology stack. Amelia speaks any language and eases the seamless onboarding of companies to banks products and services.
Q: Which partners were involved in the Starfish Connect launch?
A: To date we've formed some great partnerships with companies such as MuleSoft, AWS, Amelia an IPsoft company, and URM Group. Recently we joined forces with Genesis Global for some capital markets side opportunities in the commodities space.
Q: What do you wish you had done differently on your journey so far?
A: Probably work a few less weekends! I’m indebted to my brilliant wife Felicia who is incredibly supportive. She’s a sales leader and mother of our beautiful daughter Levin, and I couldn't have managed to drive the launch of Starfish Digital without her. I am also fortunate to work with brilliant co-founders and a highly motivated team that makes each day a stellar one.
Q: What fintech trends are you seeing in the start-up space in Singapore?
A: Let me answer that question by saying that Singapore is a phenomenal place to start a company! In the fintech space, we’ve everything we could possibly need to thrive. Let’s just use private funding as an example. Singapore has taken the lead in Southeast Asia with 65% of FinTech funding directed to businesses in Singapore, close to four times more than the next largest market. The legal framework is clear and more financial institutions are headquartered here than in any other South-East Asian country. It's the perfect environment to launch Starfish Digital.
Q: It’s been almost a year since Starfish Digital was founded. What’s next?
A: I’m excited to share that today is Starfish Digital’s first year anniversary! It's a true milestone moment. Just look at what we've accomplished in the first year. We’ve a clear company identity, have assembled a world class team, and our SaaS platform is in production and launching workloads. Lastly, we’ve secured investment advisors and private equity for this next phase. What a year one!
Now our focus is on meeting the demand for digital corporate banking services, building awareness, driving adoption, and supporting clients.
About Patrick Huang, CEO Starfish Digital
Starfish Digital represents the culmination of over 20 years' experience in the financial services industry gained at the world's leading banks. Prior to founding Starfish Digital, Patrick was Managing Director and Asia Pacific Chief Technology Officer at Deutsche Bank with strategic responsibility for driving the modernisation of the bank’s platforms and new business growth. In addition, Patrick represented technology to the region's regulatory bodies and compliance leadership. Prior to Deutsche Bank, Patrick held global positions where he led corporate integration at Merrill Lynch, Asia Pacific regional development at Credit Suisse, and IT optimisation at UBS where he held the role of Managing Director, Asia Pacific Infrastructure. Patrick graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Engineering