Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA – Here’s the litmus test of a true man of action: when a friend in high school approached him with the idea of building an exchange in early last year, he promptly spent an hour a day over three months delving into nooks and crannies of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Follow which, the former high-flyer at Bank of America and TD Ameritrade decisively took the plunge and laid the groundwork for what was to be SINEGY.
During his stint at the help desk of Fleet Bank, prior to its merger with Bank of America, he was responsible for making markets in international equities which involves a fair amount of arbitrage trading. Subsequently, his business acumen honed from his years as an entrepreneur led him to realise that to make SINEGY work in Malaysia, emphasis must be placed on both product and positioning.
The efforts of Chuah and his team are paying off today. As the co-founder and group managing director, he is presently responsible for the overall management of the finance and strategy matters for SINEGY, playing a key role in technical and product development. His fervour for trading is still going strong as his daily routine begins with logging into multiple trading platforms to get a sense of the global trading activity.
Ever optimistic about the potential of his company, he also gets regular updates from his team regarding operational matters from software updates to upcoming events and community growth. By recognising the prevailing needs and demands, he believes that there is ample room to grow in the sector. And yes, like most crypto enthusiasts he’s always checking the prices of cryptocurrencies on his phone throughout the day.
Why SINEGY? And why base SINEGY in Malaysia?
Our goal is to create synergies between markets by developing a crypto exchange that is designed to work differently and better. Team-wise, it was a synergy of talents and hard work that has allowed us to grow rapidly within just a year.
First of all, Penang is home for all of us. And in Penang we’re able to keep our cost of operations low, despite the common notion that all cryptocurrency companies are extremely well capitalized, we think it’s really important for a company to exercise financial prudence. SINEGY has entities set up in Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong in anticipation of our regional expansion. We do plan to eventually have operations in the United States once our business scales proportionately.
Why do you think that no previous Malaysian based exchange has managed to stay the course?
The crypto landscape is still new, particularly to the masses in Malaysia. The journey has just begun for some of the local players. Therefore, its bound to have its challenges. For the first time ever, we see the creation of economies so democratized in the entire world. Personally, instead of them not staying in course, I believe that each company is trying to evolve and find their niche as market adoption picks up.
I know there are proactive steps taken by SINEGY to get the government on board with what’s being done. Please share some of those initiatives and were they effective in garnering support?
From the start, our intentions have been to support regulatory developments for cryptocurrencies and digital assets.
SINEGY was set up prior to the regulations set by the Central Bank. We were fast forward by providing them metadata which was uploaded on a monthly basis on a custom portal for the regulators.
In your opinion, what are the factors hindering public adoption of cryptocurrencies?
I’m certain the answer lies in regulations. My friends and peers in mainstream finance industry won’t take crypto seriously because there’s just so much association with scams etc. Once regulations set in and the general masses feel confident, the general public would perceive cryptocurrencies differently.
How can we encourage more adoption by mainstream, non-tech savvy individuals to crypto?
There are several factors that would determine mainstream adoption, especially the less technically inclined. As previously mentioned, regulations are one of it. The rest would lie into how Blockchain driven companies launch projects that gives value to the society, because cryptocurrencies are primarily currencies in the Blockchain ecosystem. Of course, the adoption picks up as the industry players collectively educate through various mediums.
Which do you think is more necessary, greater adoption or infrastructure development on the blockchain?
I think both are equally necessary prerequisites for the blockchain and cryptocurrency revolution. By having more traders around, these traders would have to be trading actual value – which is ultimately backed by real infrastructure developments on the blockchain and vice versa, the blockchain infrastructure can only be scaled when there are real demands, with its value driven by traders and investors.
Currently, I look at the blockchain revolution like the infamous dotcom boom. It’s common to hear everyone saying – “I want to blockchain this, blockchain that”. But very few people are actually doing it. Personally I would like to see more development on the blockchain space. Companies and projects that have been consistently pushing to achieve greater milestones and add value will definitely result the upward adoption curve.
Asia is one of the leaders in the crypto space, what do you think makes crypto more readily accepted in this part of the world? And yet Malaysia seems to be behind the learning curve?
I think Asia is facing a tremendous growth spurt, not just in blockchain and cryptocurrency but in all aspects of society. With that, comes a great demand for more alternatives. Cryptocurrencies are widely seen as alternative financial infrastructure.
Malaysians are generally more conservative as a nation. It also doesn’t help that there are scams and MLM schemes that includes cryptocurrencies and ICOs as part of the plot that are often highlighted by the mainstream media. This gives a bad first impression to the general public.
Do you think ICOs are still a good way to enter the crypto space?
ICOs are just an alternative funding method. It is not a necessity to participate in the crypto space. We believe that Initial Exchange Offerings (IEO) is a better approach, aside from the fact that we are operating an exchange, there are obvious benefits at launching an IEO through a reputable exchange because of compliance. Additionally, exchanges would also perform due diligence on the token issuers, creating more trust from the community.
What advice would you have for those thinking of entering the crypto space? What should they buy first?
Start by holding a small inventory of Bitcoin. Within the company, we only hold inventory on the top 4 cryptocurrencies.
Learn about arbitrage trading and then taking advantage of price differences in different continents and exchanges. Add simple market making trading techniques and you will be amazed at what you could earn as a potential side income as well as helping to liquidise the crypto-economy.
The crypto market seems to be in the doldrums right now, is this a good time for new investors to enter the space?
For sure, it’s definitely easier to spot that needle in the haystack now. Personally, I would suggest new investors to only trade the ‘Blue Chips’. I continue to hold crypto as I believe in the long-term potential of cryptocurrencies. Before we didn’t have a real alternative to money, now we have a choice between a centralized currency issued by governments or something which is decentralized. And although we always have exposure to cryptocurrencies, we also have access to derivatives such as futures which enables us to hedge out our inventory.
As an exchange, what are some of the opportunities you see for re-deploying your capital and growing your pool of listed tokens?
We are definitely re-deploying our capital to grow our infrastructure, from the people to the technology with the goal of being able to list more tokens.
To us, we see domestic/regional opportunities because as an exchange we are a bridge between ICO projects and local communities. As part of our position as a Malaysian company, we tend to support quality, local and regional ICO projects.