In this episode, we sat down with Lightbulb Capital’s founder Mr. Daniel Liebau to learn his insight about digital transformation in the fintech industry around the globe.

Previously, Digital Transformation Series 1, we had the deep understanding about what is digital transformation and a successful case study from Mr. David Lang, the key advisor of YellowBlocks.

View Episode 1 – A Brief of Digital Transformation

In this episode, we sat down with Lightbulb Capital’s founder Mr. Daniel Liebau to learn his insight about digital transformation in the fintech industry around the globe.

Dan is appointed affiliate faculty of Singapore Management University for Innovation in Finance, FinTech, Blockchain, and digital assets. He is also a visiting professor at IE business school in its top-ranked Master in Finance program. He is also a Review Editor for Frontiers Financial Blockchain academic journal and works on research projects.

In addition, he is a frequent speaker at seminars on Blockchain and  Innovation in Financial Services. Before starting the firm, Dan was Chief Operating Officer (COO) and an Executive Director of HSBC Securities (Singapore) Pte Limited. He was previously also the IT Head of HSBC’s Investment Bank in Singapore and Japan. Dan has over 19 years of Investment Banking Technology experience at UBS in both Germany and the UK, Barclays Capital in both Singapore and Tokyo, as well as Close Brothers in Frankfurt, his hometown.

He is also a Ph.D. Candidate within the Finance department of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University where he researches Blockchain and AI and it effects on Finance. Previously he graduated with a Master of Science in Innovation from Singapore Management University and holds a Master in Finance from IE business school in Madrid, Spain.


Q1: Please introduce yourself

Thank you, Kimiko, for having me today. So a quick introduction about myself: I grew up in Frankfurt Germany, where in 1999 I commenced my career in what today we would call a FinTech company. It was a firm that built electronic trading systems for equities, futures and derivatives. Over the next 15 years or so, I would work for investment banks such as UBS, Close Brothers, Barclays Capital and HSBC, mostly in their IT departments. My last corporate role was as the Chief Operating Officer and board member of HSBC in Singapore. In 2014 I started Lightbulb Capital to bring Innovation to Finance. 

With a small team of experts, we do this in two ways: 1) Deal Advisory work for FinTech start-ups and 2) Education and Consulting for established Financial Services players. I am also half an academic. Currently, I work towards my PhD in Finance at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. I research the impact of emerging technologies (mostly Blockchain and AI) on Finance. I also teach classes on FinTech, Blockchain and Digital Assets in Universities like IE business school in Spain and Singapore Management University.

Q2: How would you describe Digital Transformation for Banking / Financial sector in your own words?

I would say the objective of Digital Transformation in Finance is to leverage all new digital technologies to provide more frictionless service to clients anywhere. Sounds great right? Reality is, it is very hard. And it is not something you can tick off on project list – it is an ongoing effort. As exponential and scalable technologies develop, it has to become part of the DNA of a bank.

Q3: What’s a common misunderstanding people often have about this process? 

There are probably many more, but I would like to highlight two widespread misunderstandings in the Digital Transformation space: 

The first one suggests that it is all about technology. That is factually wrong. It is all about people. To have the right culture to support innovation efforts and to teach the entire team the right growth mindset is essential. This is much more important than having the very latest technology. At our firm, we think about it utilizing this pyramid:

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My colleague Derek Ariss, Head of Innovation Education, runs a two day class on Innovation Culture because we believe it is vital.

The second misunderstanding is that Digital Transformation is taking current processes executed on paper forms and putting them on an iPad and thinking you are done. That is precisely what it is not. Digital Transformation requires first principle thinking. What is the issue that we are trying to resolve and how do we leverage the technology to solve for the problem – not to replicate what we have today. Alipay in China serves as a good example: They now use facial recognition to establish who you are as opposed to asking you to fill in forms on the iPad.

 Q4: What DX trend has caught your attention recently? Please share with us a quick look at digital banking transformation globally 

The trend, for sure, is the adoption of AI in Finance and specifically in Financial Markets. Ethically using AI will be essential in the future. I invite everyone to join the conversation based on the principles government agencies like MAS have already put together. Watch this space – 2020 will be very exciting.

With regards to a global view, there are many failures and only very few success stories:

In the US, the FDP institute launched a Financial Data Professional Certification. The training program commences with Python lessons; this shows the importance of understanding data science and programming in Finance. Critical for human resource development.

In Europe: Sygnum in Switzerland is the first financial services provider with a focus on cryptocurrencies and digital assets with a full banking license from Swiss regulator FINMA. As such, they are now enabled to provide a whole range of financial services for their clients that include custody, corporate finance and asset management.

In Asia: Recent regulatory changes now enable technology firms to open digital banks in Hong Kong and Singapore. I hope for increased competition, and the developments are to be watched daily. I predict that other Asian countries will follow suit and enable this new type of FinTech proposition soon. 

Q5: A successful case study of digital banking transformation

Unionbank of the Philippines, especially Chairman Tito, CEO Edwin and Head of FinTech, Arvie do much good work continually. Unionbank organizes a hackathon regularly, where they invite students to work on Financial Services problems. This is hands-on open innovation. They also get FinTech start-ups to pitch their ideas to an expert panel. Also, they educate their senior leadership in emerging technologies such as Blockchain and AI. All their success, in my view, is down to long term perspective and focus on financial inclusion. And they are a pleasure to work with.

Q6: Your advice to digital banking transformation in Vietnam as an emerging market of 95M population? 

I want to share three principles that all our client engagements are governed by:

1. Focus on people, culture, collaboration and mindset first, then on processes and technology.

2. Don’t be afraid to fail during experimentation. Practice Design Thinking to become more agile as an organization when working on challenging problems.

3. Research latest scalable technologies like edge computing, advances in machine learning and of course the advantages of using Blockchain inclusively – do it continually because we live in exponential times.

In summary key ingredients for digital transformation and innovation in finance are:

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(*) About the Digital Transformation Series

Chuyen Doi So Vietnam Community, in partnership with and powered by YellowBlocks, presents Digital Transformation series designed for business leaders, innovators and change-makers who seek for the winning formula in digital transformation journey.

In each episode, we bring you the global or local expert to share a successful or unsuccessful case study of digital transformation in many industries. Since then, you can find out the factors driving the success and plan out your own formula.


Interviewed by: YellowBlocks

Editor’s note: YellowBlocks curate, collect and share technical and business insights about the highlight digital transformation and emerging tech projects around the world. Share your expert knowledge, thoughts, insights with us via email


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