Cherie is the founder of Planner Bee, an app dedicated to simplifying and automating financial planning for the masses. She is a Chartered Financial Planner with 11 years of experience, ranking in the top 5% of financial advisors globally in the last 10 years. She shares practical strategies to tackle financial pitfalls, based on her experience with thousands of clients with varied financial situations. She started Planner Bee to apply technology to a century old tradition of financial planning.
Q: What inspired you to found Planner Bee and what were the main challenges you faced?
I've been in the insurance industry for 10 years, and I was inspired by the inherent issues and inefficiencies I've noticed from talking to my clients. I've handled around 600 so far. First, the processes are very manual, from getting a sense of your overall financial health status, to shopping for financial products that suit you. Financial planning is essential but hard to do because of the arbitrary terms that institutions use. Financial literacy isn't high enough in general too, so its difficult for people to do it themselves.
Challenges wise, finding the right partner/co-founder was really difficult. I went to startup incubations, pestered friends from tech firms to find a suitable partner. But its been said that finding the right co-founder is just as difficult as finding a life partner, and I certainly felt that!
Q: Did you start the venture alone?
Yes, but I've recruited a technical co-founder to strengthen our ability to develop features and iterate faster.
Q: In your opinion, what are some key opportunities in the fintech space going forward?
In Singapore, we are moving towards openness in banking and financial information sharing. And in Asia, general financial literacy and planning ability is comparably lower than in the west. At the same time, the internet is widely available and mobile, allowing more people to engage and improve their finances digitally, and with lower barriers to entry—they don't need to have a personal banker, or pay for basic financial planning support, for example.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
At this early stage, we've focused on acquiring users to use the app to manage their finances. We plan to extend our services to provide users with a financial product supermarket for them to shop and compare and review products that can improve their financial well-being, and this will allow us to work with more vendors and bring them on to make a vibrant marketplace.
Q: Do you think luck played a role in the success of your company?
I think we create luck for ourselves. We have to create the opportunities by being open to opportunities, being active and also staying positive. The most important thing is to be open to exposure even if it doesn't seem promising and be ok with rejection.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
We hope that Planner Bee will be widely adopted. We aim to be a trusted financial planning ecosystem, and to be seen as a neutral unbiased marketplace, in the interests of the consumer. A place where people could go to to find information on financial planning and industry updates, and to plan their financial goals. We would aim to be the top of mind when people think about how to achieve their retirement plan and to purchase their life insurances. And we hope to become an essential tool, that's easy to use and always in your pocket.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
I would start with a simpler product and get it out to the market earlier, instead of trying so hard to make the first iteration perfect and packing it with so many features from the get-go.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
My mother. She taught me how to be disciplined and focused, and to tackle each barrier systematically. This has been helpful for me through my entrepreneurial journey, where it can seem like there's no light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: What are your favorite books?
There are many but at the moment, it is "the airbnb story". It sounds like the founders and I would get along. The descriptions of their journey from the start gave me a lot of reassurance that things aren't that easy, and that I should not give up so easily. It also resonated with me that we coincidentally started the business during a bad economic period.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
I've learned that women tend to be really shy about speaking up, and to amp up their stories to sell themselves better. No offence to the men, but I found that women—and I'm guilty of this myself—find it hard to sell ourselves, and this makes it hard to break the ice and connect with people who don't already know us. Men are just bolder, maybe, or have not been conditioned to think that it's "bragging" to sell yourself. So it feels all the harder as a woman to stand up and do that, because the self-consciousness can be so overwhelming. Women are just as capable as our male counterparts, but we are not doing ourselves justice when we cannot explain our capabilities as well as the guys do.