Direct Debit Made Easy for SMEs

DIRECT DEBIT

Direct Debit Made Easy For SMEs

Automatic direct debit payments may be a norm for large corporations but previously inaccessible to SMEs. Curlec co-founder and CEO Zac Liew shares how the direct debit fintech helps businesses get paid on time while cutting out the administrative burden on SMEs.

One of the biggest headaches facing small businesses is getting paid on time. Not only it is frustrating and time consuming, it could potentially mess up a company’s cashflow.

Direct debit fintech Curlec wants to take that pain away by making it easy for businesses to collect recurring payments – a normal process for large corporations but one that SMEs had always found difficulty in accessing. 

“Before we launched Curlec, direct debit was only available for larger companies, but it wasn’t available for the smaller SMEs,” says Zac Liew, co-founder and CEO of Curlec.

“That’s where our services come in. So, that all types of businesses can have access to direct debit payments. We make it easy for businesses of any size to collect recurring payments and really take control of their cash flow,” adds Liew.

Liew is a law graduate but admits that technology is what excites him. “My parents had encouraged me to pursue law,” says Liew. “But when I was called to the bar, that’s when I realised that I didn’t want to be a lawyer,” he laughs.

“So, I tried my hand in various tech-related jobs. I even gave banking a try. Although, I have a law degree and zero experience in the tech world, a career in tech is really what I wanted to pursue,” says the 27-year old.

Our initial goal was to cater to the smaller SMEs, to provide them with a seamless direct debit payments mechanism.

After his move back to Malaysia from the United Kingdom, Liew partnered Steve Kucia and Raj Lorenz to start Curlec in 2018.

Through Curlec’s online direct debit payments platform, businesses of all sizes have access to interbank direct debit mechanism. Curlec acts as intermediary between a business and its consumers’ banks and automates the entire collecting workflow by replacing the old method of cumbersome paper workflow with a cloud-based solution – making the entire process more efficient.

According to Liew, although the firm focuses on SMEs, Curlec counts some big corporations as its clients; Axa Affin General Insurance, CTOS, Funding Societies, HelloGold among others.

“Our initial goal was to cater to the smaller SMEs, to provide them with a seamless direct debit payments mechanism. But our services are now being used, surprisingly, by bigger corporate names as well.

“I think the way finance has traditionally been run is that it’s dictated by the banks. They would cater to the bigger companies that can generate them more money. Our customers will always come first.

“By creating this platform, it reduces administrative work for businesses. Therefore, they can focus on the creative stuff and in running the operations.”

Over the past 18 months, Liew says Curlec has processed around 80,000 transactions with a value surpassing RM100 million.

“Our business model operates around transaction fees. As we process the local banking network, we charge a transaction fee of one percent, considerably lower compared to rates charged by most credit card companies.”

He adds that Curlec also helps in easing payments process for insurance firms and their customers.

“Previously, if you want to set up an insurance policy, you would have to fill up a bunch of forms and then send them over to the bank. This would usually take one to three months with super high rejection rates.”

“Now, with our system, your business can easily authenticate direct debit payments by doing an online banking transaction which cost RM1, which then authorises businesses to collect payments from their customers,” says Liew.

Curlec, run by a small team of 20, also faces similar challenges like the SMEs it aims to help. “I don’t even know where to start,” Liew says with a chuckle, “There are so many challenges we face on a daily basis.”

We also want to attract the right talent to come on board.

“Managing the company’s finance is always going to be tough. The cash flow is generally the lifeblood of any business. Trying to ensure our startup doesn’t get out of hand financially is key.”

“We also want to attract the right talent to come on board. That is also one of our top priorities,” he adds.

While Curlec had been focused on Malaysian companies since its inception, Liew says the firm is looking to expand into other markets in the region.

“Let’s just say we are expanding based on projections of a slow but positive growth,” say Liew.

“In terms of competition, right now there isn’t a company that provides the service that we do in Malaysia. We are a payment company, so we compete against other firms offering similar service.

“Payment is a really large market; we are just one piece of it. We welcome competition because it will help us sharpen our sword.”

“Curlec partners with the banks and cater to the underserved SMEs. Banks want to work with us because we provide a solid solutions for their SME clients,” says Liew.