Vortex banking on tech for a turnaround


  • Corporate News
  • Monday, 06 Jan 2020

New major shareholder Eugene Goh (pic) said that since early last year, a transformation has been taking place that includes beefing up the board with experienced personnel from the financial sector, a licence that enables it to run a digital asset exchange and an intention to break into the financial services market using technology.

PETALING JAYA: Interesting developments have been taking place at Ace Market-listed Vortex Consolidated Bhd.

The technology and property firm may have reported losses in its last two quarters.

But its new major shareholder Eugene Goh (pic) said that since early last year, a transformation has been taking place that includes beefing up the board with experienced personnel from the financial sector, a licence that enables it to run a digital asset exchange and an intention to break into the financial services market using technology.

The 44-year-old Goh, who had first emerged in the local market when he listed technology firm Mtouche Technology Bhd on the Ace Market in 2005, now owns 15.5% in Vortex which he acquired sometime in the middle of last year.

Goh also did not deny speculation that Vortex, which now has RM52.83mil in cash, is in talks to buy one of the last standalone stockbroking firms.

Among the remaining ones are PM Securities Sdn Bhd and SJ Securities Sdn Bhd.

“We have plans to grow our financial services division and stockbroking will be a good fit.

“Fintech is disrupting legacy financial services, making it more convenient and easier for people to invest.

“We would be keen to bring innovative products such as fractional share investing to the Malaysian market, ” he told StarBiz.

It is also interesting to note that the plan to acquire an onshore stockbroking firm comes after Vortex already secured a licence to operate an offshore digital exchange in Labuan.

Last November, the group’s wholly-owned subsidiary THDex Ltd obtained a money broking licence from the Labuan Financial Services Authority.

“The licence will allow us to conduct our digital assets exchange business, which will be known as THDEX.

“We have assembled a team of blockchain management team and specialists for this business and over the last six months, we have completed our internal beta testing and we will be gearing up for our soft launch in the first quarter this year, ” he said.

For the initial phase, Vortex will introduce mainstream digital assets with countries such as China which are looking to start their own digital assets such as a digital yuan.

With the onshore stockbroking licence in sight, Goh explains the other possibilities Vortex is aiming to tap into.

“With the offshore digital exchange in Labuan, an onshore securities broking firm plus using some aspects of fintech and blockchain technology, we want to create an efficient, user friendly and competitive share trading experience for investors.

“The technology available today enables many possibilities to help investors trade across various asset classes with ease and with the necessary regulatory safeguards in place, ” Goh explained.

In April last year, Vortex also acquired a 100% stake in Valhalla Holdings Sdn Bhd, the holding company of Valhalla Capital Sdn Bhd, a licensed money-lending company to diversify into the money-lending business.

While the group is taking a conservative and prudent approach in its money-lending business, Goh said the platform will allow them to introduce more innovative products such as loans secured by digital assets, apart from the conventional properties or stocks.

Asked if the group would apply for a digital banking licence from Bank Negara, Goh said they would likely be more keen to participate as a consortium member,

“We are carefully evaluating the digital banking framework requirements in various countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore in anticipation of Malaysia’s upcoming criteria, ” he said.

On Vortex’s technology division, Goh said this included Viewnet, an e-commerce IT provider with partners like Shopee.

Its property division is currently working on a 34-storey mixed development project in Country Heights, Kajang, which is halfway to completion.

It is also in the planning stages for a lifestyle landed residential development in Janda Baik.

Over the past year, the group had strengthened its balance sheet by undertaking a rights issue which was oversubscribed.

The group had also brought in experienced personnel from the financial industry such as Kamari Zaman Juhari as the chairman and Tham Kah Yong and Lim Kian Boon as executive directors.

Kamari retired in 2014 as the Development Finance and Enterprise director of Bank Negara. Among other positions he held at the central bank were the special investigation unit director and also as the manager of the bank regulation department, Labuan offshore unit and the investment department.

Tham retired as the credit administration and supervision director at Public Bank Bhd while Lim’s last role before joining Vortex was Maybank’s director of client coverage under international business for global banking.

“We are currently undergoing a transformation plan and will continue to invest time and resources to strengthen our company.

“We are optimistic of a turnaround for the company in the near future, ” Goh said.

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