It has been slightly over a year since I was tasked to lead 8VI on a digital transformation and development path in order to overcome the traditional earning challenges and operational limitations in conventional education and training businesses.
FY2020 has been a significant year for us and we are now doing ever more with ever less. Not only have we managed to successfully transform the business into an integrated, value investing platform for investors seeking knowledge through a variety of recurring subscription products, we have also built a solid community (VI Community) that offers lifelong learning opportunities. In addition, with the collective effort of the team and management, 8VI has also regained its footing to a healthy financial position.
CEO & Executive Director
The Group recorded revenue of S$10.9 million in FY2020 as compared to S$22.3 million in the previous corresponding year (FY2019). This was mainly attributable to the one-off contribution from the strategic disposal of the Digital and Marketing Segment in FY2019, which had contributed revenue of S$9.4 million in the previous financial year prior to disposal, so as to focus our resources on expanding the FinEduTech business in Asia-Pacific. Notwithstanding the sale, our revenue stands at S$12.9 million, representing a decrease of 16%.
Meanwhile, we recorded net profit after tax attributable to owners of the company of S$1.1 million, thereby signifying a return to profitability over FY2019’s net loss position. Cash flow from operations have increased significantly to S$3.9 million inflow (FY2019: S$1.4 million outflow) while free cash flow stands at S$4.2 million inflow (FY2019: S$3.8 million outflow). This was made possible with the improved performance of the Financial Education segment which we attribute to the resilience and determination of our team, who have innovated continuously to meet the ever evolving demands of today.
We set out on a 3-year transformation plan in FY2019 to work towards a more integrated offering, based on an 80% online, 20% offline model (80:20). In FY2020, we have since developed further on our initial strategy based on a few key areas of focus.
Given that we are operating in the age of the 4th industrial revolution, we recognised an inherent challenge to remain relevant and to move towards an integrated business model which comprises an 80% online, 20% offline offering. Our VI App is the culmination of years of contemplation, planning, investment and work. Together with VI College, we have established a cohesive ecosystem which is designed to make investments Smarter, Faster and Easier and without borders.
Essentially, we work to transition and retain every “one-off” course graduate persona into a thriving member of our VI Community, benefitting from the continuous support and repeat learning opportunities through tiered subscription options.
Coupled with the integration of signature programs with the subscription to our VI platform, we achieved a massive breakthrough in the way our company grows and generates high-quality recurring revenue and positive cashflow. This is the result of our recurring “Software as a Service” (SaaS) approach where we leverage our software to infuse new ideas, products and services, to ultimately serve more customers.
Our digital transition was accelerated as a result of the current COVID-19 situation, but we took this challenge on by the horns. As our ecosystem moves into full swing, the value investing know-how, ideas and experience are channeled back into and exchanged within this growing, thriving network. Eventually, we hope to empower the average man-on-the-street to embark on their own sustainable wealth journey through this collaborative, collective network of like-minded value investors.
Our VI Community has been the cornerstone of 8VI’s success, and the team has persisted with its efforts through FY2020 to cultivate and engage meaningfully with the community through various activities and trending topics. The launch of VI Social Bubble within VI App in early 2020 facilitates the opportunity for direct knowledge exchange among investors and potentially companies. As we improve user experience and incorporate aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) over time, we expect a marked improvement in information flow to users, with VI Social Bubble becoming a powerful aggregation of market sentiments providing insights into investor behaviour.
Generating robust content is one of the core pillars of our acquisition strategy. We plan and create content which is deployed across various platforms to build engagement and showcase continual, new additions to our programmes such as the latest VI Talk live broadcasts.
These owned digital assets are critical as they can be leveraged across languages, broaden our reach across borders, drive organic traffic while reducing the reliance on direct marketing, and build brand awareness and loyalty. With our ecosystem in place, the assets can be further amplified amongst the community and benefit from the natural network effect. We measure our success in acquisition rates based on monthly growth in users and subscribers, as well as growth in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).
Growth in users 183% growth in LTM, 9% growth in CMGRLTM - Last Twelve Months
We are also focused on building retention through a customer-centric culture and mindset to bring entire lifetime value. We believe in active engagement and content building via our VI Social Bubble, providing content and support in the form of VI Coaching Sessions and VI Resources for flagship programme graduates, as well as showcasing the potential and power of the VI App and value investing so that the information is relatable, easily understandable and ultimately results-oriented.
Retention success rates are measured via broad performance metrics such as the renewal rate for VI App subscription, customer engagement which is data- and analytics-driven, as well as increasing number of average page views on our website which has increased by 404% since FY2019. We also monitor the usage level of VI Social Bubbles, which has been growing steadily since implementation.
Growth in average page views
As we develop our technology, we continuously build on existing and new features that enhance user experience. For instance, we have incorporated a Smart Tagging feature this year so that our users can benefit from Smart Tag suggestions using machine learning-based services while posting on our Social Bubble. This could mean that users will be prompted with relevant tags to include while crafting their post so that it can aggregate and reach out to other users who are actively engaging or putting out content with regards to the same type of information. Functions such as these improve searchability and interaction around the topics or tags of their interest. We are also invested in continuously improving the robustness of our existing proprietary VI Analysis e.g. VI Star Chart, a classification algorithm which we built to enable easy discovery and identification of the different classes of stocks. Using machine learning to refine the distinctions in the stock classifications, we were able to identify and create new categories within the app to improve overall user experience. Furthermore, we are building our own backtesting and scenario testing methods to ensure that we verify the reliability of the system, whilst exploring the possibility of extrapolating this data to build future predictive features.
Refining the distinctions in stock classification through machine learning
We are also building AI and ML capabilities and making investments in cloud facilities and machine processing so as to achieve results-driven outcomes for our customers. Ultimately, continuous technology development leads to better investment and learning experiences, which aligns with our main objective of enabling users to Invest Smarter, Faster, Easier.
In FY2020, we moved to cement our position in highly successful and well-adapted English, Chinese and Malay language-speaking markets, which resulted in the further streamlining of our operations to Singapore, Malaysia, Shanghai and Taiwan.
In Singapore, we continued to see good traction for programmes such as our flagship VI Bootcamp, VI OS+ and ReWealth and we have gained good momentum in growing the number of programme participants.
Malaysia remains a significant, addressable growth market of focus as it continues to generate positive growth, whilst our operations in Taiwan have stabilised in FY2020 with a good team in place, and we are confident this is headed in the right direction.
This year, while we expanded our efforts in mainland China out of our base in Shanghai, our Thailand office – which we started as an overseas testbed – has wrapped up its operations in line with our strategy outlined above.
4,714 VI College graduates in FY2020
102 new VI College batches in FY2020
During the year, we have also refined our programmes to cater to the diverse and growing needs of our community.
Particularly in view of the evolving COVID-19 situation, we have since undertaken a range of business continuity measures beginning in the last quarter of FY2020 in accordance to local directives in numerous regions including Singapore and Malaysia. Our operations and existing online services remain available and have expanded rapidly to accommodate the offsite training curriculum, catering to the rise of new consumption habits of graduates.
Programmes such as VI Bootcamp, Pelabur Jutawan Syariah and Seminar Labur Saham Syariah continue to be grow in popularity and takeup in Singapore and Malaysia, whilst we have introduced more bite-sized programmes such as VI OS+, an extension programme for VI College graduates teaching them how to generate cash flow and boost return on investments using options strategies anchored on value investing principles. In addition, we have also refined our ReWealth and VI REITs programmes to ensure they are concise and tailored for online adaption.
In 2020, we have seen a functional shift in our organisation and new ways of operating through greater digitalisation on all fronts. Essentially, we have also applied our 80:20 rule beyond our business model but also to the way we work moving forward.
What this means is that our existing team members will take on a 80% online, 20% offline working arrangement while we explore remodeling our office in preparation of this new era – such as looking at preparing our infrastructure in view of a longer-term plan of a potentially ‘touchless’ environment, and establishing virtual broadcast studios in Singapore and Malaysia for the production of digital content. We are also digitalising across other formats such as eliminating printed name cards, producing an interactive Annual Report this year, and moving our Annual General Meeting online.
Whilst we put in place these hardware and software improvements, we will also provide our team with the necessary resources to take up courses and digital or technology-related training to support their transition and keep pace with our new business direction.
Going forward, we anticipate that we will harness the skillsets and experience of individuals in the area of software and data engineering to meet our future growth needs. Together, we will aim to work towards the progressive automation of our operational processes and application of data analytics on the backend to optimise our business decisions.
As we look towards future growth, we will be digitalising more programmes which were already in line to be converted to online modules as part of our 80:20 strategy. Technology will remain the bedrock of our journey as we explore further innovation in the areas of machine learning and AI. With this, we will mine insightful data and create better experiences which we will deliver as a value-added service.
Following the successful launch of online programmes during the COVID-19 period, we will also continue to innovate and expand our offerings and service levels which are tailored to our users’ preferences, such as ‘bite-sized’ subscriptions and programmes which are growing in popularity
“We will sharpen and hone our competitive edge in the area of value investing with our Investment Intelligence as a Service (IIAAS) model – leveraging AI, big data analytics and machine-learning, sharing value investing knowledge and empowering smart investment decisions. Ultimately, we will make investing Smarter, Faster and Easier for our growing VI community.”
#8VI #VIApp #FinEduTech #SaaS #IIAAS
Transforming more than 100,000 lives in our VI Community
We have set in motion and put in place the right plans, teams and growth strategies to see through a systematic and measured expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. We recognise that there will be difficult decisions to be made in all businesses, and ours is no exception. It is important not to lose the lesson from the learning experiences that we have gone through. Meanwhile, we will continue to manage our expenses prudently, and work to generate better cash from operations as we refocus our efforts on the FinEduTech segment in our core identified growth markets.
Our team remains steadfast in its efforts, whilst staying nimble to adapt and change. Ultimately, we remain focused on making investments Smarter, Faster and Easier, delivering long-term value to our shareholders and our mission and vision are unwavering – to empower the man-on-the-street to create sustainable wealth and inspire 100 million lives, whilst we work to drive growth and build a sustainable business.
CEO & Executive Director