Advance Awards 2021: Introducing the Fintech Award Finalists

Simon Loong

Simon Loong is one of the most successful fintech entrepreneurs and thought leaders in Asia. Simon has devoted himself to innovating the financial services industry with technology, advocating fintech development and financial inclusion in the region. He is the Founder and Group CEO of WeLab – a leading fintech company with 50 million users in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Indonesia. In 2013, Simon co-founded WeLab with a fellow University of Sydney alumnus, Kelly Wong. At that time, fintech was still in its infancy and going 100% online for banking services was unfathomable. With the vision to promote financial inclusion with technology regionally, WeLab now operates one of the largest digital consumer finance businesses, a pan-Asia digital bank and a leading B2B fintech enterprise solutions business. Under Simon’s leadership, WeLab is well recognized globally, including ranking #2 on the Financial Times “2020 Asia-Pacific High Growth Companies”, #11 as the most disruptive companies in the world by CNBC on the “2020 CNBC Disruptor 50” list.

As the Asia fintech thought leader, Simon has received numerous awards in recognizing his achievement, including the “Vice Chancellor’s Achievement Awards” by The University of Sydney. He was also named as “one of the 20 people shaping Hong Kong’s future” in the next 20 years by a leading Chinese media outlet. Simon is frequently invited to share his insights on international news outlets, e.g. Bloomberg and CNBC and at marquee industry conferences. He also serves on influential public and private sector committees, sharing his experiences to drive the proliferation of the fintech ecosystem and financial inclusion.  

Simon is a strong believer in using technology to give back to the community, where actions should represent something beyond the interest of business opportunities.  Last year, WeLab stepped up to offer COVID relief measures in the form of an interest-free loan to support the people of Hong Kong during a difficult period while the government was still processing the COVID subsidies. The program provided relief but also facilitated spending, helping to stimulate the economic recovery with the multiplier effect. This generated much-needed positivity as local residents were able to effectively receive the subsidy 5 months ahead of schedule.

Prior to founding WeLab, Simon held senior roles in Citibank and Standard Chartered. In addition to his Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney, Simon holds a Master of Science in Management (MSM) from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Simon is also a Fellow Certified Public Accountant (FCPA) of CPA Australia.

“Live in the future, then build what’s missing. By combining the best of both worlds – fintech fuses together the establishment of trust and credibility of a bank with the agility and advancement of technology to make the present just that bit more interesting.”

Debra Walton

Debra Walton is a dynamic executive at the intersection of finance and technology. Growing up on a sheep farm in regional Australia, Ms Walton selected a job at the local bank because she liked the uniform and her mother thought it was ‘a good job for a girl’. Since then, Ms Walton has lived and worked on three continents, and has held senior executive positions across product, content, sales and marketing as well as financial and risk divisions. As Chief Revenue Officer, Data & Analytics at London Stock Exchange Group, innovation has been central to Ms Walton’s success. Her first major career development came in 1985 when, as head of sales for Australian based Giltnet Limited, Debra lead the negotiation of a joint venture agreement with Dow Jones Telerate and was part of the management team that took Giltnet Limited public on the ASX; making Debra one of the youngest female board members of an ASX listed company. Debra was a founding board member of the Cantor Financial Futures Exchange, the first electronic platform for trading U.S. Treasury futures contracts. She also served as President and Chief Executive of Nucleus Inc., a technology startup delivering enterprise solutions. She serves on the Board of Directors of Springboard, a Washington, DC based nonprofit that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts to help women entrepreneurs build their companies. On top of this, Debra acted as a member  of the leadership team responsible for the spin out of the Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk business to create Refinitiv, valued at 20 billion USD and the onward sales of Refinitiv to LSEG at a valuation of 27 billion USD. Ms Walton is passionate about helping others. She is a tireless advocate of gender equality speaking globally on diversity and leadership and has been the Sponsor of Refinitiv’s LGBT+ employee network. Ms Walton also champions areas of ESG advocating that sustainability will be the multiplier in financial services in the future.

Ms Walton is a recipient of a number of industry awards, including the New York Women’s Agenda Galaxy Award and the Women’s Venture Fund Highest Leaf Award. She was named by The Modern Sale and Collectiv as one of the Top 100 Global Sales Leaders in 2020 and 2021. In 2018 she won the Waters Women in Technology and Data Lifetime achievement award, and in 2017 the Gertrude Crain Award from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) for her extraordinary record of achievement and service. In 2016 she was acknowledged as a Springboard Enterprises Oracle honouree, championing women entrepreneurship. In 2015, she was named a Woman of Vision by the Anita Borg Institute, won the coveted Merit Award from the Women’s Bond Club, and earned a spot on the New York Business Journal’s inaugural “Women of Influence” list.

“I truly believe that we live in a world today where most of us can achieve whatever we want in life. And because of this and my own journey I am deeply committed to helping others from non-traditional backgrounds to find their success.”

Ed Robinson

Ed Robinson is a fintech revolutionary and the Australian co-founder of Stash. The platform has changed the lives of millions Americans, allowing anyone with a mobile phone and $5 to start investing in low-cost baskets of stocks and bonds. The Stash app is one of the fastest growing consumer investing apps in the U.S. The platform currently serves over 5 million clients and 12 million content subscribers, with approximately 40,000 new clients joining weekly. Since its launch in 2015, Stash has raised around $300 million in Venture funding and has grown to +250 employees with offices in New York and the UK. Stash’s customer-centric platform, rooted in a personalised experience with advice and education, has helped customers save $3 billion on the platform to date—all via regular and automatic deposits of just $31 at a time on average. The company has also awarded more than 35 million fractional shares to customers who use the Stash Stock-Back® Card.

Mr Robinson leveraged his financial background on Wall Street and a Bachelor of Commerce, Finance, Accounting and Management from Sydney University to solve what he saw as a personal wealth creation deficit by making the stock market simple and accessible to everyone. For over two years Mr Robinson has effectively led the company as co-founder, President, COO, and product visionary, driving the Stash team forward and leading by example. Mr Robinson and his team actively encourage their growing database of users to understand that putting away a little bit of money each week can add up to a big win. Aiming to counteract average Americans with low financial literacy keeping them compounded in a debt cycle, they have built into the business a strong focus on financial education and tips to empower customers to build good money-making habits. Stash has been listed as part of Forbes’ “Fintech 50” the past three years, as well as one of Forbes’ “Best Startup Employers” for 2021. The company consistently ranks as one of Built in NYC’s “Best Places to Work,” and was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal as one of the “Top Tech Companies to Watch in 2018.”

“Roughly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and about 60% would struggle to come up with $1,000 in an emergency. Our goal is to fix this by making personal finance a source of hope, not fear. Our customer-first approach drives me and the team every day, and guides every decision we make at Stash.”