Key takeaways from Singapore FinTech Festival 2019
The fourth edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival 2019 (SFF) played host to 60,000 participants from 130 countries at the Singapore EXPO – its biggest year yet.
Having grown to be the world’s largest and most impactful FinTech Festival, a milestone event such as this proves the sector not only continues to grow, but thrive in this current era of digital transformation. In his opening plenary, Ravi Menon, Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), phrased the opportunity perfectly: “The merger between finance and technology holds so much more potential than what has already been accomplished.”
Over three days, the event saw a record 569 speakers, almost 1,000 exhibitors and 41 international pavilions. Close to 150 sessions deep-dived into set key themes for this year that covered central topics of concern to the industry today: Sustainable finance and its future; Investment and global market opportunities; Exponential technologies; and defining the future of digital currency.
Singapore has pushed hard to become the world’s most competitive nation in 2019, according to the World Economic Forum. At the same time, we’re not resting on our laurels. This year’s SFF provided the forum for delegates and visitors to get up close with how this smart nation is continuing to power innovation. After all, in the FinTech arena, ambitious technology companies care less about the location and more about staying close to the action.
Here are three main takeaways from the Festival that illustrate how Singapore will continue to take center stage in Asia’s digital future.
Singapore aspires to be a global leader in sustainability and green finance
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently said that “climate change is the ultimate global commons challenge.” The spotlight on sustainability has increased since the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 – the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Four years on though, no country is on track.
The universal call to action to protect the planet has exerted more pressure on government and organisations to pursue larger social and environmental purposes. In response, Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, announced that as part of the Green Finance initiative, Singapore will invest US$2 billion in green funds as part of MAS’ green action plan. The government has outlined three critical steps to make Singapore a leading centre for green finance in Asia and globally: 1) Building a solid financial system that is resilient to environment businesses; 2) Develop a market for green finance solutions; 3) Leverage innovation and technology in efforts to lead the industry in the direction of green finance and sustainability.
Sustainable finance is not its own sector – it sits horizontally as a consideration for all industries because its core goal is to drive a carbon-efficient economy by bringing innovation into the process. To maintain its standing as a leading international financial centre, Singapore will continue to support the formation of innovation and capital market solutions that address green financing needs in the region as well as partake in partnerships to grow green capabilities in Asia.
AI will be used as the launchpad for national transformation
The applications of AI are already present in our daily lives, such as AI chatbots and robo-advisors, but prepare for it to be deployed at a national scale over the next few years. At SFF, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced an inaugural roadmap that lays out Singapore’s plan to leverage AI to transform the local economy.
The new National AI Strategy has been described as the next step in Singapore’s Smart Nation journey, committing over $500 million to fund five national projects to start, at the same time building the enablers to sustain a vibrant AI ecosystem. For example, SELENA+ is an AI system that can detect three major eye conditions – including diabetic eye disease – from retinal photographs accurately and quickly. These solutions can be applied beyond Singapore, to the region and the world.
With this also comes the creation of a National AI Office that will govern the capacity for this strategy to launch – a ready workforce, openness and collaboration, and good governance. The Office will also be crucial to aligning efforts to making Singapore a leader in developing and deploying AI solutions by 2030.
Singapore continues to push the boundaries of FinTech as we know it
The SFF welcomed a slew of major market announcements, including major collaborations and new milestones. For example, the MAS proudly showcased the successful development of a blockchain-based prototype that enables payments to be carried out in different currencies on the same network. Developed in collaboration with JP Morgan and Temasek, the prototype network aims to improve cost efficiencies for businesses. The successful trial marks the latest development of Project Ubin, now in its fifth phase.
It’s no secret that the growth in FinTech remains unabated here in Singapore, as both investors and FinTech firms set their sights on the opportunities from ASEAN’s strong economic fundamentals. To help the former connect with the latter, the MAS, Deloitte and S&P Global Market Intelligence have collaborated to develop a new industry-wide research platform to increase the ease of doing business. The digital FinTech Research Platform is designed to help increase transparency, enhance investors’ confidence and accelerate decision making in the deployment of capital.
The mecca of innovation
As we enter into a new decade, there is no doubt that FinTech development will continue to drive our economic agenda owing to the strong foundation laid down by Singapore’s forward-looking government to foster growth and collaboration. As we head into 2020, Singapore’s North Star will continue to guide many around the world to bring Fintech innovation to the next frontier.