The 2020 Fintech Landscape in Singapore

With Singapore fintechs taking 51% of ASEAN funding as of Q3 2019, it comes as no surprise that investors may be keen to learn more about the country’s fintech landscape.

Singapore has over 40 innovation labs, more than 500 fintech start ups, SGD500 million in record-high fintech investments in 2018, and USD12 billion in capital for ASEAN enterprises. Evolution and growth of the fintech industry is key for Singapore to continue as a major international financial centre and to promote the financial services sector, which contributes to about 13 percent of Singapore’s GDP and employs about 200,000 workers. That said, the focus for investors is also shifting towards profitability considering the need for healthy cash inflows. Wework, for instance, lost 1.25b in the third quarter and had to stop its rapid growth and relook at instilling sustainable business practices instead. With that in mind, here are some recent updates to the fintech ecosystem in Singapore.

Issuance of up to five digital bank licenses

In June 2019, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced that it will issue up to five digital bank licenses in addition to any digital banks that the Singapore banking groups may establish under the existing internet banking framework introduced in 2000. This move will extend the digital bank licenses to non-bank players in 2020 and beyond. Not only will the entry of new digital players add diversity and strengthen Singapore’s banking system in the digital economy, these new players can also provide for the under-served segments in the market through innovative business models and strong digital capabilities while spurring existing banks to further enhance the quality of their digital offerings to stay competitive.

Out of the five new digital bank licenses, up to two of them will be digital full bank licenses that allow licensees to provide a wide range of financial services and take deposits from retail customers. Up to three will be digital wholesale bank licenses, which allow licensees to serve SMEs and other non-retail segments. There are 21 applicants at this point in time.

Industry-wide research platform supporting Fintech investments

A collaboration amongst MAS, Deloitte, and S&P Global Market Intelligence was announced in November 2019 to develop a prototype for an industry-wide FinTech Research Platform. This platform aims to help investors and financial institutions connect with FinTech start-ups that they can partner with or invest in.

The move stemmed from an internal analysis by Deloitte which found out that investors and financial institutions currently do not have access to reliable and up-to-date company information of Fintech start-ups, and have to rely on informal networks to source investment opportunities. With the new digital FinTech Research Platform, companies will have a more complete view of all the companies in which they might deploy capital in. In 2020 and beyond, companies can expect increased transparency, enhanced investors’ confidence, and even accelerated decision-making.

BIS Innovation Hub Centre to develop solutions for financial systems

The launch of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub Centre in Singapore in November 2019 aimed to foster innovation and greater collaboration amongst the central banking community globally. It will enhance the understanding of financial technology, and aid the development of innovative solutions for financial systems.

On top of being BIS’s first expansion of its global footprint in 17 years, BIS’s recent establishment of Hub Centres in Hong Kong SAR and Switzerland will collectively identify and develop insights into trends in technology affecting central banking; develop public goods in the technology space to improve the functioning of a global financial system; and serve as a focal point for a network of central bank experts on innovation. 

In 2020 and beyond, two projects will be focused on. The first is on the establishment of a framework for public digital infrastructures on identity, consent and data sharing. Having trusted digital identities for individuals and corporates can support the development of inclusive digital financial services. The second project is to create a digital platform connecting regulators and supervisors with digital and technology solution providers. This way, central banks can expect to put up regulatory problems and challenges to source solutions from the FinTech communities. 

Framework for responsible use of AI

As part of Singapore’s National AI Strategy, MAS has been working with financial industry partners since November 2019 to create a framework for financial institutions that will promote the responsible adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics (AIDA). Known as Veritas, this framework will enable financial institutions to evaluate their AIDA-driven solutions against the principles of fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency (FEAT) to foster trust and confidence in AIDA-driven decisions and financial services.

Comprising of source tools applicable to different business lines, such as retail banking and corporate finance, and in different markets, Veritas aims to focus on use cases in three areas first: customer marketing, risk scoring, and fraud detection. In the second half of 2020, a report on its findings and conclusions can be expected.

Conclusion

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade of fintech innovations and breakthroughs. Investors will need to stay tuned and keep themselves apprised.

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