A unique combination of significant contemporary issues comes together as the latest iteration of the Singapore Fintech Festival kicked off this week.
Four key themes that are driving the financial ecosystem forward will be predominantly featured throughout the event.
The topics are sustainability; finance and tech; future of finance; investment and global markets opportunities; and exponential technologies.
Billed as the world’s largest dedicated financial technology gathering, the event has matured quickly since its 2016 inception.
It is testament to the foresight and hard work of the Singapore regulator that the technology gathering is now a magnet for industry innovators, influencers, royalty and political heavyweights.
Last year, Indian Premier Narendra Modi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Christine Lagarde, the now-President of the European Central Bank, added to their “fintech cred” by making appearances at the event.
A core element of this year’s event sure to draw significant interest will feature issues on sustainable finance, investment opportunities and challenges in climate change. Tech solutions for climate and disaster risks will also be covered in this thematic section.
Asia is seen as a laggard in adapting to and adopting ESG sustainable finance and impact investing measures. Conversely when it comes to financial technology, Asia is recognized as the leader in many areas.
Coupling the two could see Asian countries leapfrog their global peers as both the demand and the wealth to back innovative ventures lie within Asia itself.
This powerful combination is underpinned by a transfer of wealth and mindset on environmental issues is in fact beginning to swing the ESG pendulum towards Asia.
The Asset met recently with Damien Pang, deputy chief fintech officer and head, FinTech Infrastructure Office, Fintech Ecosystem Office, at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the festival’s principal backer.
According to Pang there is now a blurring of lines in how technology is bringing together a diverse range of businesses and services including in ESG and sustainable finance.
“If you take healthcare and insurance for example, by applying technology you bring about much better customer experience and products. You create new economic opportunities and at the end of the day it should make everyone's life better,” says Pang.
Due to recent regulatory changes, family offices from Asia and other regions are selecting Singapore as their Asian business hub.
The move is creating a virtuous circle with these entities being keen investors in both fintech startups and across sustainable finance operations.
“With technology and innovation coming together and with the channeling of capital towards these parties, everyone is playing a part,” Pang says.
The founding of the Singapore Fintech Festival has also led to serious business applications that have spread well beyond the city-state.
On cyber-security, an issue that is always at the core of MAS’ fintech push, and one that Singapore with its global wealth hub status takes seriously, Pang points out that connections formed at the first fintech festival led eventually to greatly expanded cyber-security linkages.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and the Singapore financial overseer established an Asia-Pacific regional intelligence and analysis centre to encourage regional sharing and analysis of cybersecurity information within the financial services sector. The Singapore-based intelligence centre began operations in the first half of 2017.
The stakes are high as the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia recently projected that the digital economy in the Asean region will increase to an estimated US$200 billion in the next decade.