Singapore’s push for fintech supremacy

By Keith Sonia | 18 November 2016

As the Singapore FinTech Festival comes to an end, Singapore has quite loudly announced itself as committed to long-term investment in the fintech sector.

The event drew more than 10,000 participants from about 50 countries, making it the largest ever event of its kind.

The festival, staged by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), attracted global giants like Microsoft, Citi and PayPal among others, while showcasing the efforts of local Singaporean banks like DBS, whose opening of a new innovation centre coincided with the event.

The week-long event comes not long after members of Singapore’s government highlighted reforms designed to attract the interest of venture capital required to infuse the burgeoning industry in the country.

Singapore’s deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who chairs the MAS, noted the push for reforms to Reuters: “MAS is looking to significantly simplify and shorten the authorisation process for new VC managers,” he said.

“Further, to the extent that there are contractual safeguards to provide sufficient protection to a VC’s sophisticated investor base, MAS is also looking to exempt VC managers from business conduct requirements that are currently applied to asset managers in general.”

To this aim, MAS managing director Ravi Menon told assembled guests at the FinTech Festival that the MAS has set aside nearly 750m SGD ($530m) to help build the fintech industry over the next five years.

The reform announcements were made at the launch of a partnership with R3, an innovator of blockchain technology, which unveiled a new fintech research and development facility for Singapore. The partnership between R3 and the MAS has also brought forth Singapore’s attempt at digital currency, which the MAS will use for interbank payments through blockchain tech designed by their partners.

In trying to allow technology to flourish within Singapore, Menon highlighted the continued goal of building sustainable infrastructure to help expand the industry, and announced new guidelines for a regulatory sandbox that will allow firms that do business in Singapore to test their technology before putting it to market. Menon pointed out that the sandbox set up by MAS would allow firms to work out the kinks of their technology and to do it cheaply, without any dramatic repercussions.

It’s clear that Singapore is putting its full weight behind the fintech industry in a country that has a lively ecosystem, seeing the development of some 300 start-ups and attracting the business of 20 global banking entities. In eventually introducing legislation that is likely to bring in more capital, while also committing significant funds for the infrastructure necessary for the ecosystem to flourish, Singapore is certainly doing all it can to compete with London, New York, Hong Kong and other fintech hubs.

By Keith Sonia

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