To this day, the story of "Ming Treasure Voyages" is still being talked about. The grand project resulted in seven far-reaching ocean voyages beyond the coastal territories and islands around the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean has brought us hope and longing.
Looking back at the 40-year reformation and opening up of China, the voyage marked a historical milestone in the country’s integration into globalization.
Data from the 2019 BrandZ Top 50 Chinese Overseas Brands Report shown a 15% YOY growth of brand influence of China's leading brands compared to only 5% in 2018. Domestic brands in the field of consumer electronics, home appliances, e-commerce, automobiles and others are demonstrated to have an increasingly important role on the international stage.
This is the “Age of Great Voyages” for the explorers.
Pioneering Chinese financial technology companies venturing overseas
In the early days, mainly Chinese manufacturing companies ventured overseas. The lower labor and material costs have created the popularity of "Made in China" products in the foreign markets. In recent years, with the development of China’s smart manufacturing innovations, more high-tech Chinese brands have jumped the bandwagon for overseas venture. Sunline is the pioneer of China's financial technology brand in overseas venture.
In 2016, Sunline started its internationalization following the country’s “Belt and Road” initiative. After 5 years of development, Sunline became the first national enterprise to successfully implement China’s core system in one of the large Southeast Asian banks and is taking the lead in promoting China’s advanced digital banking technologies globally, setting a strong foothold in more than 10 countries and regions and serving more than 20 overseas banking customers.
Behind the harvest and glory, it is another story about visions and choices.
Rewinding to 5 years ago during the emergence of digital finance in China, Sunline's domestic business was developing rapidly. Chairman Mr. Wang Changchun planned to be forward-looking in the company's strategy and proposed the venture. However, there is no precedent for the internationalization of domestic financial IT brands and to be a pioneer poses great risks. Why does Sunline decided to venture overseas even with a good domestic business development?
"When Mr. Wang first mention his strategy to venture overseas, he caused a great shock to the management. We thought about the many difficulties, the great risks and after all there were no predecessors with mature experience and path that we can learn from. Sunline will be the pioneer in venturing overseas.” Xu Yali, Executive Vice President of Sunline said while recalling the reaction within the company with the decision to venture overseas.
Xu Yali, Executive Vice President of Sunline
However, based on the principle of s-curve of businesses, a rapid domestic business development will inevitably encounter a limit if the next growth point is not laid out in time.
"With the global market in addition to our main China market in mind, the opportunities will be much greater for us. In order to achieve sustainable development, we aligned our visions and decided to venture overseas while our domestic strategy is still effective."
Determination, risks and opportunities always coexist. Li Jinsong, CEO of Sunline has always adhered to a positive attitude and mindset to face with any obstacles during the venture.
“Because we have no experience, we expect a lot of difficulties. However, we thought that we should not be limited by the difficulties because if we don't do it, we will not know the best way to deal with them. We should not be hesitant to move forward because of the difficulties. We should be firm and consistent to follow the strategic direction in place, optimize the processes and adopt our practices along the way. This is the belief we have always adhered to."
Li Jinsong, President of Sunline
Starting from scratch
Aspirations may be lofty but with road at your feet, you can reach by if you walk step by step.
In the process of globalization for Chinese enterprises, the first thing that needs to be solved is localization including in-depth understanding of local policies and regulations, cultural customs, consumer preferences, language as well as other issues, formulating different development strategies along the way.
The complexity and diversity of the overseas markets for Sunline without any international experience, is like a fish that grows in the Yangtze River suddenly swimming into the Pacific Ocean, faced with the unpredictable marine ecological environment and competing fish schools.
"Although Sunline is a leader in China, everything started from scratch in our overseas venture. When we first started the overseas venture, there was no international products, success cases and brand visibility. The market demand for products, regulatory requirements, user behaviors, etc. needed further exploration, adaptation and mutual trust. There were also cultural differences between domestic and overseas teams which we thought were insignificant before but the impact in practice is very large including project implementation, product understanding as well as the large void in the company's future view.” Said Xu while recalling the difficulties encountered during the initial stage of the venture.
Not many Chinese companies have made it global. When faced with difficulties and challenges, the inability to respond on time will turn their vision into a "far-fetched dream"
After repeated market insights and ideological alignment, the management team has gradually reached a unified idea and a steady path of action has was established:
Since 2016, Sunline has gradually laid the foundation for our overseas expansion by acquiring ProSticks in Hong Kong, CP in Malaysia, CW in Singapore along with some joint ventures as well as independent establishment of local companies such as in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to achieve a stronger foothold in various overseas markets.
Built a localized organizational structure centered on overseas professional managers and an international team consisting of sales, projects and implementation workforces.
Continuous understanding of the local market needs through the exploration of products that are suitable for overseas customers and choosing the apt financial solutions to be focused.
The process of cultivation is long and arduous and the results need to be tested by actual combat.
In 2018, Sunline ushered in its first large-scale project in Thailand.
Seah Sin Jiun, who was the project manager at that time, felt the stress of shouldering the first main project. The client is one of the top five banks in Thailand. If this project can be successfully launched, it will definitely add a splash of color to Sunline's overseas resume.
"There were many risk points in the project at that time which could result in the failure to complete the delivery on time." Seah smiled wryly.
Seah Sin Jiun, project manager for a bank in Thailand
Objectively speaking, there was definitely a gap between us and our product internationalization. From the discussion phase, implementation phase, testing phase to the final production, every stage was affected by the conditions and the progress of the project was once faced with the risk of delay.
Seah realized the seriousness of the problem and quickly reported the situation to the company headquarters to look for a solution.
The support from the headquarters was like a timely rain. Elites from all department including senior leaders have come to provide support at the project site. The level of unity on the scene at that time has impressed Seah deeply.
"We will participate in customer meetings together on a daily basis to understand the customer’s problems and then give feedback based on the details they requested. At the beginning, everyone’s spirits were relatively low because we faced many problems but slowly the teamwork becomes smoother as we have more trust in each other and the progress of the project has become efficient."
Project team meeting
In the end, the project team solved a series of project problems in stages through tacit cooperation and teamwork. With the project team transforming and leaders providing a lot of support, the customer gradually feel our improvements and started to have more confidence in the project.
After a year of intense preparations, the project was successfully launched in 2019, which not only helped our customer to enter the digital banking field but also caused a craze and huge impact in the Thai banking industry.
For Sunline’s overseas business, this project carries great significance. Like a shot of adrenaline, it injects hope and confidence towards other overseas projects in the future.
In the next few years, Sunline's overseas business has successively expanded into Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore as well as other countries and regions. Major projects in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have been successfully launched one after another, marking a stronger foothold of Sunline's internationalization.
As the overseas team gradually matures, the ability to grasp the market demand as well as project implementation and delivery have been comprehensively improved. Sunline has become more confident to compete with other established European and American manufacturers on the same stage.
" We made the right decision to expand overseas. The general direction was right although we met with a lot of crises and difficulties but the results were good. We have achieved some preliminary results through trial and error. This is just our starting point and we definitely plan to go further." Said Xu, being very firm in believing that Sunline can achieve our goal.
With its innovation ability and professional services, Sunline has gradually established a strong foothold in the Southeast Asian market. While winning multiple milestone projects one after another, Sunline has also received major accolades.
- The only vendor from China featured in IDC Financial Insights report “More Game Changers in Asia/Pacific’s Race for Connected Core Banking”.
- Ranked Top 3 Banking Platform Vendors for Asia Pacific in Forrester’s Global Banking Platform Deals Survey 2019.
- Ranked in CB Insights China's Top 50 Fintech List.
With the continuous expansion of overseas influence, Sunline needs to build its own partner ecosystem to inject new innovations to its solutions.
Huawei took the lead in further collaborations with Sunline.
Prior to this, Sunline and Huawei have carried out in-depth cooperation at multiple levels in China and established a good foundation of trust. Both parties will jointly empower financial digitization with innovative financial technology solutions for overseas under the Kunpeng ecosystem.
"Huawei looked for many financial business partners overseas and has firmly chosen Sunline." Stated Xu confidently.
Sunline and Huawei are planning to “set a new milestone” together.
In response to the problems faced by Chinese financial companies going overseas, Sunline and Huawei have formed a set of integrated joint solutions to comprehensively help companies solve these difficulties. The solution consists of a high-performance hardware system provided by Huawei combined with Sunline's leading application solutions in the field of banking IT that provides high availability, high elastic expansion, strong data consistency, automated operation and maintenance as well as risk control, providing a one-stop financial services to help these companies in their digital transformation journey.
Sunline has partnered with Huawei to empower the digital transformation of a digital bank in Indonesia, successfully creating a set of advanced and efficient joint solutions for the customer and solving the integration, report generation and lack of digital services issues of the bank, effectively promoting the digital development and future-proofing the bank.
In June 2021, Huawei announced its Financial Partner Go Global Program (FPGGP) at the Huawei Intelligent Finance Summit 2021. As the first governing unit, Sunline will actively work with Huawei to create digital banking solutions by integrating China’s leading model, business and technology for global market expansion, enabling China's financial technology to reach global influence.
Bravely shouldering the responsibility of times and propelling China's financial technology towards global influence
Sunline has entered its fifth year of overseas venture. Looking back to the past five years, Avy, Executive Vice President of Sunline, is very emotional.
"The choice and timing of our decision to explore the overseas market is extremely apt. In this process, we have made mistakes and learned from experiences. We have continued to learn and grow, keeping up with the pace of changes. We opened communication channels, gone through reorganization and have set off. We have been moving forward. I firmly believe that Sunline has established brand awareness in the Southeast Asian market and our overseas business will develop more vigorously when the epidemic improves."
Avy, Executive Vice President of Sunline
Li used the words "no regrets" to describe the five years overseas venture. When it comes to Sunline's future overseas development goals, his eyes are firm with certainty.
"We have a medium-term goal and have been working hard towards it. We hope our overseas business will account for at least half of the company’s revenue and more than half of the profit. In order to achieve this goal, we need to change. Overseas business no longer comprises of a single team and the entire company must participate in order to reach the goal. Each department and product line will be a global organization and the market scope is no longer limited to Southeast Asia. We are striving towards reaching the global market. This is our mid-term goal."
In the current environment of the trade war between China and US, technology has become national borders and originality has become essential. "Carrying the banner of China's financial technology" is no longer just a vision of Sunline but is our mission and a responsibility given by the times.
Everything in the past is a prologue. As the backbone of China's financial technology, Sunline is bound to bring its independently developed innovative products and technologies to more countries and regions around the world, so that China's financial technology will reach global influence!
Not many have travelled far and this is the charm of exploration.
"The people of Sunline who are a part of our overseas venture are all are pioneers. They are the main battlefield soldiers of our future and we have a long way to go."
Li is always grateful for the pioneers' contributions.
Even if it was just a force of more than a dozen people at first, a single spark can start a forest fire. The pioneers have opened up a unique market for Sunline. Looking back, this may not be the best but is definitely a wonderful story about "youth, visions and peer".
They might not be Cheng Ho nor Columbus. They may be just a group of explore with their visions to create their own era!