We spoke to Ng Li Lian, Head of Business Banking at HSBC Singapore where she shared what she wishes startups knew before pitching their ideas and ventures.

Li Lian was recently part of The Island Exchange, a business festival that challenged startups to do a speed pitch in front of judges from venture capital firms. The winning pitch walked away with a $12,000 grant from HSBC.

They will also get direct access to expert advice from HSBC’s Business Banking Team for a capital review tailored to their business.

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Li Lian shared a bit more about HSBC’s initiatives and how startups can prepare for their pitches better:

1. Could you should a little more about yourself and what you do as Head of Business Banking?

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I have been head of Business Banking for HSBC Singapore since 2013 where my focus is to grow the Bank’s SME franchise and helping achieve the aspirations of Singapore SMEs, in particular those expanding and trading internationally.

I work with SMEs across a variety of sectors in helping to ascertain banking solutions which provide the right support for them to grow.

I have been in the banking industry for over 20 years across corporate recovery, credit risk management and both core corporate banking products and global capital finance products such as syndicated finance, equity and debt capital markets and mezzanine capital.

2. How does HSBC play a part in helping startups and SMEs in Singapore?

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SMEs are the lifeblood of Singapore’s economy. Representing over 90 per cent of enterprises, they are key players in the business ecosystem and in the continued development of the country. As such, SMEs have a multitude of opportunities open to them to navigate and understand. Our role is in providing the best banking support and solutions to match the needs of both the business and the people running the show. We believe this is best delivered through personal relationships, and as such we ensure that our SME clients have a single, dedicated Relationship Manager to cater to its daily banking requirements.

We also understand that SMEs often need to enter new markets in order to expand – which brings with it its own set of challenges. In a report[i] by the Singapore Business Federation, 77 per cent of companies surveyed indicated their intentions to expand in 2018-2019. Of these, 77 per cent identified ASEAN as the target region. So one of our aims is to support Singapore’s SMEs in their overseas ambitions. From an HSBC perspective, we are well-established in the region and have been supporting businesses of all sizes do business in and with ASEAN for over 150 years.

3. What are some initiatives offered by HSBC that startups and entrepreneurs can benefit from?

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SMEs normally don’t have access to the full suite of banking services that large multinational companies have. To help overcome this, last year we launched Pioneer in Singapore – an exclusive 12-month programme of next-level banking services and solutions, designed to accelerate fast growing businesses by providing for its needs of tomorrow.

Pioneer’s proposition provides members with:

• Delivery of our service promise: An experienced Relationship Manager and dedicated access to HSBCs Cash Management and Trade specialists’.

• Access to funding: Flexible funding options, including extended trade facilities and corporate banking cards

• Building connections and knowledge: Access to exclusive networking seminars, client events and HSBC specialists and insights

• Growing internationally: Support for international growth, leveraging our global network in 54 markets

• Recognising the individual: Access to wealth management solutions for eligible individuals, in coordination with HSBC Private Banking.

4. What advice do you have for startups looking to pitch to venture capitalists?

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Understanding how technology impacts your business is crucial. No matter the sector, digital is becoming part of all businesses and consumer experiences. With the emergence of the ASEAN digital consumer, SMEs both in Singapore and across the region are having to adapt their business models to incorporate new technologies.

For example, nearly four million new users are expected to come online every month in Southeast Asia for the next five years, generating a user base of 480 million by 2020.

[1] The opportunity is there for all to benefit from. But SMEs in particular need to understand the importance of going digital.

For example, how digital solutions are relevant to their business and the positive impact it can create in terms of scale and reduction in cost. SME owners have very diverse profiles, they range from tech savvy millennials to baby boomers with no technological background at all. At HSBC we are focused on helping owners of all businesses to understand the opportunities available to them and support them to digitalise.

[1] SBF ASEAN Outlook Survey 2017/2018

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