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Singapore Fintech Festival 2018: What should we expect from the ‘marriage’ of finance and…

Author: Huixian

Taking up four of the convention halls at Singapore EXPO, Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) 2018 has attracted approximately 45,000 attendees across the seven seas — double of last year. The third edition of the festival was kick-started by Saqib Shaikh, Software Engineer of Microsoft. He depicted a more inclusive society made possible by innovative technologies. Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, said:

“Shaikh’s story exemplifies the core objective of Singapore Fintech Festival — innovation, inclusion, and inspiration.”

He added that to build on a stronger Fintech ecosystem; MAS is working on six components: people, identity, payments, data governance, applied research and platforms for innovation.

Other global leaders that graced the event include Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India; Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of International Monetary Fund; Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education of Singapore and Board Member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS); Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance of Singapore; Patrick Njoroge, Governor of Central Bank of Kenya, and Sonexay Sithphaxay, Governor of Bank of the Lao PDR.

Among the international luminaries, many global leaders have shown a keen interest in the developments of blockchain and digital currencies. Christine Lagarde highlighted the importance of digital assets as a backstop against monopolies and regulatory shortcomings. Though the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi joked about the herd mentality of investors on the blockchain, during World Congress on Information Technology 2018, he has mentioned that blockchain and IoT will have a profound impact on our daily lives and needs to be rapidly adopted in our workplace.

Other than being a heartthrob, Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau emphasised his country’s commitment to investing in solutions of tomorrow. Bank of Canada, Bank of England and MAS are working together to examine three models of cross-border payment. According to Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer of MAS:

“This collaborative effort by the central banks and financial institutions across the three jurisdictions helps us identify gaps and areas of improvements in cross-border payments and sets the foundation for further technical experimentation.”

The world largest Fintech Festival also saw historical exchanges among Singapore and other countries such as the launch of API Exchange (APIX) with India; the technology will enable 2 billion people to gain access to banking facilitaties that were previously unavailable. Thus, the implementation of APIX would promote financial inclusion in 23 countries. Brad Garlinghouse, Ripple’s CEO, attended SFF and said:

“This clear regulatory environment makes it easier to apply blockchain and digital asset technology to solve real-world business use cases, such as improving cross-border payments across the ASEAN region. The East Asian markets received $130 billion in inbound remittance payments last year alone. They are expensive, and the market is ripe for adoption of new technology, like blockchain, to drive costs dramatically lower.”

One of the most important procession of the event was the signing of MOU(s) between MAS, Bahrain, IDB Group and other financial intermediaries. For instance, Inter-American Development Bank Group and Singapore have inked an agreement to boost inclusion in financial services.

MAS has introduced initiatives such as FEAT on the sideline of the event. In the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in finance, FEAT is a set of principles used to promote fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency.

What is the basis of digitalisation? The answer is simple — connectivity. Business sans Borders is an initiative designed by MAS, IMDA, and six private sector partners to create a Proof of Concept (POC) for hybrid business data and digital solutions hub.

Security Token (STO) — a token with similar attributes of a company shares- is the new buzzword of the crypto-universe. Many firms and investors have since abandoned the idea of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), to explore the safer haven. If you are a genuine company seeking to launch STO, Sandbox Express will be an alluring option. This initiative aims to enable firms to conduct regulated activities and embark on experiments more quickly; bypassing existing sandbox application and approval process.

According to a press release by MAS, the two requirements of assessments are:

  • technological innovativeness of the financial service, and
  • fitness and propriety of the applicant’s key stakeholders.

The applications will be fast-tracked, with approval decisions granted within 21 days. An approved pre-defined sandbox entity will be required to submit periodic progress reports to MAS as well as ensure that the pre-defined sandbox expectations are well adhered.

Apart from the main activities, SFF 2018 has a launched a new segment, MATCH (Meet ASEAN’s Talents and Champions) — a ‘tinder’ for deal-making between venture capitals and technology companies. MATCH has already generated more than 17,000 matches between 380 participating investors and 840 enterprises. As stated in a press release by MAS, ‘these initiatives are complemented by other efforts to grow the local talent pool while providing flexibility on the hiring of foreign specialists in the PE and venture capital (VC) industry. In addition, the introduction of the Venture Capital Investment Model Agreements (VIMA)2 for early stage VC transactions. The VIMA will enable deal and cost efficiencies through a set of standardised and easily accessible documents that investors and enterprises can use and adapt.’

Innovation Lab Crawl, a sub-segment of SFF — witnessed 32 innovation labs unveiling their latest technology to over 10,000 visitors. The next segment recognised 12 innovative solutions in the FinTech Awards 2018. Lastly, Global FinTech Hackcelerator that showcased cutting-edge technology of the future.

It is no doubt that the Singapore Fintech Festival 2018 has become the fiesta of the year with positive feedback from the exhibitors.

Zoe Fang, Analyst of AMTD Group, said, “While exhibiting at Singapore Fintech Festival, we were able to meet executives and students from around the region, and many meaningful conversations on the outlook of FinTech was struck. We are hoping to come back again next year.”

Ian Simpson, Chair of the Crypto Valley Association (CVA) Communications Working Group, said,

“We see many similarities between Switzerland and Singapore with a strong focus on banking, innovation, and blockchain technology. The quality of attendees and exhibitors reflected the fact that Singapore is a hub for Southeast Asia, much like Switzerland as a blockchain hub the heart of Europe. Most importantly, at the festival, there was a high level of energy and a desire to learn across the board.”

The main takeaway — the implementation of digital assets and blockchain will boost financial inclusion and improve lives

SAP, one of the founders of Sustainability Assurance & Innovation Alliance (SUSTAIN) is developing the Sustainable Palm Oil Blockchain Network (SPOBN) to improve the lives of agriculture in the supply chain.

James Veale, VP of Agri-Business from SAP told Block Asia:

“The biggest challenge in palm oil sustainability is traceability. We already know which palm fresh fruit bunch (FFB) farmers have registered sustainable blocks, we know all the touch points along the supply chain from the farm gate to mill to end customer. The challenge we find is that all the information that makes up the traceability record sits in multiple siloed systems across the supply chain. This makes it hard to have a complete picture of FFB provenance and hence prove palm oil sustainability credentials.

To ensure traceability, SPOBN which uses the distributed ledger of blockchain to track traceability across the entire supply network, from farm gate to consumer.

With an initial rollout planned for the second quarter of 2019, SAP and our partners are excited by this initiative which use the power of blockchain to bring a step change to palm oil sustainability.”

Furthermore, Christine Lagarde has mentioned that the banks were not in a rush to serve the unbank and digital assets ‘offers great promise, through its ability to reach people and businesses in remote and marginalised regions.’ Therefore, we can look forward to financial inclusion as one of the primary outcomes from FinTech.

The successful conclusion of the event could be summed up with a quote by Christine Lagarde:

“Technology will change, and so must we. Lest we remain the last leaf on a dead branch, the others have decided to fly with the wind. Singapore knows this. You know this. It is the true spirit of the Fintech Festival — opening doors to new digital futures; hoisting sails to the winds of change.”

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Originally published at on Dec 4, 2018.

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