New Zealand"s CFG opens office in Singapore

Von Randal Jackson

New Zealand-based Payments system vendor GFG Group is expanding its presence in Asia by opening an office in Singapore. The move is part of an expansion plan, funded in part by recent venture capital funding of NZ$3 million (US$2.2 million).

GFG, which was founded in Wellington in 1990 by several former banking executives, is also operating in Europe. Chairman Ralph Green says this is because banks there are looking for a technology refresh.

But it?s in Asia that the company is growing rapidly, leading it to establish a branch in the Philippines in November that provides local staff and support. Business began there for GFG in 1998 when it did advisory projects for two banks which were looking at ATM switching and establishing credit card processing. In 2000, it sold its GFG Mobile product to Smart Communications.

Green says this is generating around NZ$7 million a year in revenue and has allowed GFG to begin to build on a critical mass.

It has since sold a credit card system to Banco de Oro, the ninth largest bank in the Philippines. This lets the bank offer a full-feature system for issuing and acquiring cards without the traditional infrastructure costs.

Banco de Oro is growing aggressively. It has since bought two other banks, now has 182 branches, and is part of the SM Group, the largest retail mall operator in Asia.

The new Singapore office will be run by one of GFG?s founding partners, Peter Goldfinch.

The irony for GFG is that only 10 percent of its business is done in New Zealand, where it develops its products.

?Frankly, export is easier,? says Green. ?It?s difficult to be a prophet in your own land.?

Where the company may begin to make headway in New Zealand is with its mobile platform, which handles debit cards as well as credit cards.

?It?s a virtual EFTPOS terminal,? Green says.

He won?t say whether any deals have been done locally, but it?s not hard to see the attraction for a mobile phone company linking with the banking system.

GFG recently became an accredited employer under the New Zealand Immigration Service. This means it can bring in people from the Philippines and train them here before assigning them to projects elsewhere.

?We?ve had assignments in more than 40 countries,? Green says.