Singapore: A Fintech Paradise?

It is undeniable that Fintech in Singapore is thriving, with KPMG reporting a record US$229m funded last year in the face of a funding decline across Asia. Why is this the case? What makes the island special? It is arguable that the root can be traced back to the nation’s Smart Nation initiative, a top-down governmental plan which envisions an economy led by digital innovation that harnesses technology to power a digital future. Through this initiative, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and other regulators seek to build the nation’s reputation as a Finance hub, embracing Fintech’s movement as the future of Finance in the process.

On the idea of Fintech dictating Finance, David Hardoon (Chief Data Office at MAS and contributing expert on our AI in Finance course) claims,

“Everyone should be interested in AI in Finance because of 2 reasons: Finance is the center of society. Everything we do has finance related to it, and right now, everything we’re doing has to do with AI.”

Singapore exists as a rare case of a state being proactive in its promise to support a comprehensive framework for developing technologies. This obviously appeals to those in Fintech, an industry predicated on the notion of embracing ambitious and emergent technologies. Admittedly, there are issues stemming from a lack of tech skills in the workforce. However, public programmes such as SkillsFuture and Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) underline the government’s push to retrain the workforce to adapt to new technologies that align with their Smart Nation-vision. Perhaps, then, it should not be a surprise that Singaporean-based Fintech is flourishing. The city-state is in prime position to reap the rewards of cloud and DLT technologies with these initiatives and its new ecosystem of fintech firms.

In July 2018, Varun Mittal, Asean Fintech lead at global professional services firm EY, agreed with these ideas on Singapore Fintech:

“Singapore’s fintech sector has been a great growth story with more than 400 fintech firms in the country and a lot more being added every year. I foresee Singapore becoming one of the world’s fintech capitals in the next five years since it sits in the middle of India, China and South-east Asia, which are seeing huge opportunities in the fintech space.”

Singapore’s funding landscape is comprised mostly of venture capital, angel investors and government bodies. Notable investors in the nation include governmental entities like Temasek and GIC in addition to external sources such as Sequoia Capital, Golden Gate Ventures and 500 Startups. Most funding revolves around crowdfunding, payments & remittances – the latter occupying 26.8% share of Singapore Fintech in the second quarter of 2017.

The island is no stranger to homegrown success in the sector. Grab, for instance, is widely popular in South-east Asia as a shorthand for ride-hailing apps. It recently revealed a new service – GrabPlatform – allowing businesses to integrate GrabPay, its proprietary payment system, into their websites and apps to facilitate payments. Grab is an exemplar for a young business looking to create a strong platform that allows access from almost any business – its apps have reached over 100 million smart devices in the region alone, providing solid encouragement for it becoming a contender as a payment provider.

All this success, exponential growth and interest in Fintech culminates in the world’s largest Fintech event: the Singapore Fintech Festival. Welcoming more than 25,000 participants from over 100 countries, the multi-day event features discussions with industry experts on current issues and strategies in Fintech. Last year’s event included MAS announcing their US$20m grant for AI & data analytics projects; and Singapore & the Philippines jointly revealing blockchain cross-border payments – so expect more live coverage this November on our platforms!

CFTE is familiar with the festival as we covered last year’s proceedings live. Our co-founder, Huy Nguyen Trieu, has the honour of being the only judge to convene on all 3 editions of the event, and has previously led a panel discussion with banking experts on the impact of Fintech in Corporate Banking. Tram Anh Nguyen, also a co-founder, has previously stated how her attendance at the inaugural Singapore Fintech Festival, and witnessing the massive groundswell of people interested in Fintech, inspired her to build the foundations of CFTE. This shows how the palpable impact these public events generate can birth important moments in business. Exploring further on the festival, she states,

“What Ravi Menon shared on stage 2 years ago in front of more than 11,000 people was clear: Technology’s Transforming Finance and in a way not seen before and it is affecting people on their jobs. That had a huge impact on us and we also believe the same and share the vision of lifelong learning and making sure 100,000 to 1,000,000 people stay relevant and see opportunities by encouraging everyone to learn today to adapt. There is no doubt about it – those who learn, those who adapt to a new world of technology in finance will be relevant and part of this Future of Finance. I am very proud to be at Fintech Festival 2018 with my team and I hope we bring our community of learners to join the largest Fintech event in the world again this year.”

This year, CFTE will once again be among the attendees. On November 15th, in association with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, we will be organising a masterclass on “Best Ideas Application – AI in Finance” – hosted by Prudential at Prudential Tower. The day will feature a panel and opening address on how Fintech and education sectors are adapting to the AI revolution. Also, winners of the AI in Finance Awards will detail the ideas that helped them win! You can learn more about attending by clicking the button below.

Please note: CFTE Alumni and Partners can attend the event free of charge! Please contact us at events@cfte.education for more information.