This month, we recognize the complex world of Tech and Coding, and one Brankas lady who powers through this chaos gracefully. Ria Cataquian grew up wanting to become a medical professional or take up Conservatory of Music. It wasn’t too long until she realized she needed to put that dream to the side, and think of a more sensible path.
Tell us about your background, education, and hobbies.
I am originally from Bangladesh. I came to Singapore for my undergrad at the National University of Singapore. Right out of college, I had a stint as a research assistant working on robotics, but I found it too mechanical for my choice of career (pun intended). I soon found myself gravitating towards entrepreneurship and ended up joining an accelerator, where I founded a social gaming startup - borne out of my passion and love for gaming. Most recently, I joined Brankas as a Business Development Lead, out of my sheer curiosity around fintech.
As shared above, I love online multiplayer games and religiously keep up with the latest happenings in the gaming industry. Oh, and I also play the guitar.
What did you take up in college?
I studied Biomedical Engineering for my undergrad at the National University of Singapore. Back then, I was very passionate about academic research. I worked primarily on areas like 3D printing, cancer cell study etc. and co-authored papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. My eventual plan was to pursue a PhD and build a career in academic research. But soon after I started my first job as a Research Engineer, I realised that was not exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
How did you learn about Brankas? What were your expectations going into a fintech startup?
Soon after the announcement of Visa acquiring Plaid was making rounds back in January 2020, I googled “Plaid for Southeast Asia” and Brankas was the first thing that popped up.
Throughout 2020, I took an active interest in learning about the various developments around fintech and the opportunities in Southeast Asia. I realised that since fintech is such an esoteric industry, you’d have to work for one in order to truly understand the intricacies and nuances. I kept an open mind and mentally prepared myself to learn as much as I could. In fact, I am still picking up something new everyday.
What unique skills did you hone at Brankas? And what tasks helped you brush up on those skills?
I’m constantly working on improving my communication and stakeholder management skills as a result of having to manage multiple parties like regulators, banks, Financial Institutions, SMEs and a host of others.
What is one Brankas culture you enjoy and wish for other startups to emulate?
Brankas did a phenomenal job in setting itself up as a remote first company from the get go. This definitely helped as Brankas didn’t really have to adapt much at the on-set of the pandemic. The remote first nature offers flexibility while at the same time nurtures a result oriented mindset across the organisation.
What is your greatest achievement at Brankas?
One of my first assignments after joining Brankas was providing support for our Visa APAC accelerator application. After a month of preparation and multiple rounds of interviews, Brankas was selected as one of the 5 startups to join Visa APAC accelerator’s inaugural cohort. This achievement was instrumental in building up my confidence since fintech was something still very new to me at that point of time.
What made you decide to accept a full-time role at Brankas?
Brankas’ vision is to make modern financial services available to everyone. Brankas is working tirelessly in the background building the blocks, enabling both financial institutions (FIs) and consumer facing fintech apps to work seamlessly and serve consumers better. In addition, Brankas is leading the charge in working closely with regulatory bodies of different SEA countries and pioneering Open Banking in the region. Brankas, as a result of being in this unique position tying a nexus between Financial Institutions, regulatory bodies and consumer facing apps, is one of the most attractive fintech prospects in SEA.
What is your current role? Any tips that will work during a remote-only environment?
I am currently leading regional business development and partnerships for Brankas. This involves working with potential clients in new markets, coordinating efforts across the SEA region for partners who want to expand Brankas products and services in new countries, exploring new business synergies etc. This pandemic environment pushes you to adapt to make up for the lack of face time you’d otherwise have with existing and potential clients. One thing I made sure was to keep my communication channels open over email, WhatsApp and phone. I endeavor to stay disciplined in terms of bringing down response times to client requests. In addition, I have tried to maintain communication over regular intervals with the existing and potential clients.
What is your advice to young adults like yourself who are adamant about starting a career in startups?
Don’t be distracted by the supposedly glamorous startup life painted on mainstream media or social media. Startups are difficult, but at the same time, they can be incredibly rewarding, if you manage to turn up every day, stay focussed, work hard and move fast. It can also open doors to a host of other opportunities.
Are you interested in a career in fintech? Join the Brankas team!
Brankas is bringing Open Banking to Southeast Asia. Our vision is to make modern financial services available to everyone.