A fake email address was all it took to unearth sensitive financial information.
It was a typical Sunday afternoon at the Mahtani-Cheung household. They had a usual whirlwind Sunday morning playing hands-on mum and dad, and had tired their 19-month-old cherub enough that she was completely conked out.
That gave them a two-hour respite, and as most boring Singaporean working couples would do, they decided to spend the next two hours sorting bills and looking at their finances.
Cheung, the founder of property real estate firm 99.co, is also a prominent angel investor in Singapore. He has invested in 22 start-ups and funds in the last five years.
But as any busy entrepreneur would tell you, keeping track of everything outside your primary job and immediate family is a luxury most can't afford.
So Cheung, who is averse to all things boring and predictable, decided that they should add some colour to this exercise and make a game of updating their financial records.
They thought up a scheme where Mahtani would email his start-up investment CEOs or CFOs, asking them to provide the following supposedly confidential details:
Some of the start-up CEOs knew Mahtani personally, while some didn't know her but knew that Cheung was married to her. There were a handful who had no idea who she was.
Mahtani also CC’d a fake new email address containing Cheung's name to make here request seem more legitimate.
The purpose of this experiment was to see how many start-ups would ping Cheung directly to confirm the request (showing good financial governance) vs. how many would just reply back to Mahtani with the information.
Out of 15 emails they sent out:
1. A number of startups don't have good financial governance and this is an area that needs to be fixed.
2. It's very easy for a spouse to get access to their partner’s financial records. With half of marriages ending in divorce, this could impact divorce settlements, especially since start-up investments are paper gains and valuations can be skewed by a number of factors.
3. Information is currency in this day and age and we all need to be vigilant in what details we share online.
4. Checking up on your finances as a couple activity can turn out to be pretty fun after all!