As the network partnerships manager for Alumak (Aspire Indonesia), Aprilando Suryokusumo is as passionate about people as he is about startups. Better known by his nickname, Aldo, he adopts a unique approach to leadership that effectively connects and motivates the multiple teams under his care, namely Customer Success, Transaction Monitoring (TxM), Business Operations and Know Your Customer (KYC).
Having been immersed in the startup world since 2017, nothing energizes him more than taking on new challenges that would make a splash in the local fintech scene, whether it’s by building projects from the ground up or going great lengths to ensure that each customer that comes onboard Aspire is thoroughly vetted for the safety of our financial ecosystem.
While his role requires him to work closely with entrepreneurs, Aldo lives and breathes startups even outside of Aspire.
In addition to leading and connecting with people, mentorship comes second nature to him as he frequently mentors game-changing fresh grads who are taking their first steps into entrepreneurship.
In this interview, we caught up with Aldo to find out what are his insights on the fintech landscape in Indonesia, key lessons he’s learned on the biggest project of his career and how digitalization has greatly impacted the KYC experience.
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in Canada. I took business operations management over there with a concentration in new venture development. It was really exciting as I got to learn a lot about building up businesses from the ground up. After I graduated, I started in a logistics company. They created a new department called digital media which involved a lot of digital marketing, building websites, and SEO. As I was the youngest in the company, they entrusted me with the new role, marking it as my first exposure to the internet world colliding with the business world.
After a year, I then transitioned to my first startup where I got to move back to my home country in Indonesia. It was a HR-tech where I handled operations at the time. We managed to do a lot of development like digitizing HR but then after the pandemic hit, I decided that it’s time for me to progress further by joining Aspire.
The startup side of things intrigued me and made me confident in accepting the role as I’m quite aware of how startups are like as well as building up a new business. All of my networks are from the startup world so I’m very excited to join Aspire knowing how it’s so fundamentally innovative, especially the leadership who are made up of YC alumni. It is top of the line when it comes to startups. I wanted to learn from the best and join the best to take on the big Aspire mission.
In the middle of 2020, I was looking for a new opportunity and I was reading about Aspire on Tech in Asia. I then checked out the job openings and saw that it matched the skills I could bring to the team. The more I read about Aspire and its revolutionary tech, the more I wanted to join. I particularly liked that the focus was beyond just one country, but across the Southeast Asia region as a whole that would eventually go global in the long run. That excites me the most.
First thing’s first, I would take 15 minutes of my time to organize my thoughts, review my priorities and objectives before I actually go about my day. After that, I would connect with the team. I have daily morning calls to check in with them on the overall volume, any issues or concerns they have but at the same time also engage with them and find out how they’re doing.
I oversee four main teams, namely the KYC, TxM, Business Operations and also the Indonesia Customer Success team. Depending on the priorities of the day, I would see what are the things I would like to improve, progress updates, etc. Most importantly, working closely with the team is my priority, such as 1:1s with team members, solving issues they’re facing. Once that’s done, at the end of the day we would go on a recap call to address any issues or concerns that need to be checked on tomorrow. My days are mostly connecting and working with people.
I don’t drink coffee anymore. I used to substitute that with tea and now it’s just water. I find that the more that you work, the more important it is to keep yourself hydrated. It’s important to have a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day. Turns out it has the same effect as coffee [laughs].
It is very vibrant but at the same time it is also competitive, especially knowing that there are few fintechs that have reached unicorn status. The type of services that fintechs offer is A to Z throughout the entire financial ecosystem from payment gateway to the financial advisory. It’s safe to say that there are tons of things going on in Indonesia right now.
However, I believe the competition is good as there’s tons of homework still to be done. The underserved, the unbanked; this is the kind of market we’re looking at in Indonesia. Most fintechs, however, are focused on Tier 1 cities like Jakarta, but what about those in Tier 2 and 3? The potential is there and fintech players understand that.
We’re also seeing collaboration between fintechs which is beautiful to see. Indonesia is a big country to take on and it’ll be hard to be handled by just one fintech alone so we do need multiple players. At the same time, this gives more options for customers to choose.
While the opportunity is there, it comes with more challenges. One of them is financial literacy一especially when you go into Tier 2 and 3. Although the technology adoption is quite rapid, the knowledge and understanding of both the benefits and risks that comes with financial technology are still in progress and need to be developed.
However, I am optimistic that this can be improved in the future.
With the rise of startups in Indonesia, there are tons of solutions being offered to SMEs, especially for financial solutions on the operational level, for example accounting software.
However what’s missing is the business account element. This is something that is inefficient in Indonesia right now as they would need to use multiple platforms to reconcile, make financial reports, and so on. Efficiency is certainly an issue.
This is where Aspire bridges the gap一between financial institutions and businesses that juggle these multiple softwares.
KYC is one of the most important aspects of the business itself as Aspire is not just a standalone一we’re very much connected with the global financial ecosystem. Here at the KYC team, we take that very seriously through rigorous screening when we onboard customers as we need to make sure that they’re involved in money laundering or financing terrorism or any other illegal activities.
By doing our screening well, it means that we are enhancing the financial ecosystem as a whole. This is a collaborative effort on how we can improve the security and risk management of the customers we have. This would also ultimately improve the customer experience.
On the other hand, the world of KYC is developing. In the traditional sense, you would need to meet customers physically but now with digitalization, that’s no longer the case. This also brings some challenges as we need to keep the integrity, manage risks and really understand our customers before we onboard them on our platform一without meeting them face-to-face.
For KYC, the growing trend right now is to tackle the challenges that come with digitalization. Here at Aspire, we utilize cutting-edge KYC technology such as a biometric verification which involves a lot of artificial intelligence to determine whether you’re a real person and not a robot.
In Indonesia itself, this is on the rise. The biggest challenge is there’s always “very smart people” who threaten to expose the system to fraud risks. It is an ongoing issue that we’re all tackling together for a safer financial ecosystem for everyone.
Firstly, I believe in a hands-on servant leadership style. This involves having a mindset that a leader needs to work for their team and lead by example. I find that this establishes a respectful relationship between you and the team. Without that, it would be very hard to expect the best.
Secondly, we need to listen more rather than talk more. After all, we have two ears and one mouth [laughs]. On a daily basis, I work with multiple teams一which means I won’t be there 24/7 as I need to divide my time but my team members are always on the ground. This gives them valuable insights on the things they do. Before you make decisions, be sure to ask more, listen more, assess the situation before applying your own knowledge and wisdom.
Thirdly, try to keep things fun. What I like to do is to think of fun ways to keep the team engaged such as initiating game night where we take the time to spend time with each other outside of work. I would also ask them to share any exciting news, or ask them questions like a good movie they’ve watched recently to connect with them on a deeper level.
By doing these 3 things, I’ve noticed that the team is willing to go the extra mile as they understand the value in it.
This is probably the biggest project in my career so far. I had to really understand the challenges, the risks, as well as the objectives that need to be done for this to happen. For me, I am the type of person who loves challenges and I am not afraid to fail as long as I try first. This fits with the Aspire culture as it’s very much embracing the entrepreneurial mindset.
One big takeaway is that a big project like this could not be done alone. This means my team members are essential for the success of this project. Getting to know each other, collaborating with them in order to achieve a big goal is very important for me.
Also I’ve learned that a good place to start is to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once that’s aligned, we can learn how to support one another as we move on to the next phase which involves conducting research and building a strong network.
The project also came with limitations as there’s a need to work in compliance with the regulator’s restrictions. However, I believe that with problems there’s always a solution and that’s where teamwork comes in where we work on it together to tackle the problem.
If I can classify my life into four boxes, it would be my Aspire career, my family, mentoring the startup community in Indonesia as well as charity work.
Besides doing what I love at Aspire, I always believe that if you keep close ties and take care of your family, your career goals will also be taken care of.
I’m also passionate about mentoring early startups, who are mostly made up of university students who would like to venture into the startup world for the first time.
And last but not least, once a month, I try my best to volunteer at an orphanage or a senior home just to keep my life in balance and also fulfill me as a person.
I definitely keep my life busy with these four boxes [laughs].