Singapore's willingness to try new ideas draws fintech firms here: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPORE – The willingness to experiment with new ideas combined with strong support from the Government and the availability of skilled talent in the country are among the reasons why financial technology (fintech) companies are drawn to Singapore.

Speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival on Wednesday (Nov 14), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung also outlined the Republic’s attributes that have made the five-day event the world’s largest fintech festival with some 40,000 participants from more than 100 countries attending.

Besides being at the crossroads of the world, he said Singapore is a great springboard to the region with 3,000 financial institutions, including every major global bank, located in the country.

Mr Ong, who is also on the board of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), added: “MAS has developed connections through a network of 25 FinTech Cooperation Agreements with counterparts in the United Kingdom, United States, Japan and many of our Asean neighbours.

“Through these agreements, you can better navigate the regulatory landscape of overseas markets.”

Big technology firms have set up shop in Singapore and worked on projects here, he said.

For instance, Google announced in August that it is working on a third facility in Singapore, to be located in Jurong West, as part of its Next Billion Users project.

Ride-hailing firm Grab has its global innovation hub at the National University of Singapore and e-commerce Alibaba’s research centre is located at the Nanyang Technological University.

MAS, Mr Ong said, is committed to support innovation here.

Among other things, Singapore has made sure its digital payment structure is open to a variety of players, from banks to telcos.

That decision led to the SGQR, a single QR code that combines multiple e-payment solutions into one.

It allows users to scan codes and transfer funds from up to 27 e-payment apps, a global first.

Mr Ong said Singapore did not go the way of a laissez faire regime that gave rise to closed-loop systems that do not encourage inter-operability and also stifles competition.

“We (wanted) to get it right because payment is fundamental. We all use payments, and we use it in every sector of the economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, MAS on Wednesday announced the creation of pre-defined regulatory sandboxes, known as Sandbox Express.

The initiative aims to help companies that intend to conduct regulated activities to embark on experiments more quickly, without having to go through the existing bespoke sandbox application and approval process.

The new programme will allow applications to be fast-tracked and granted within 21 days.

As a start, it will include sandboxes specifically prepared for insurance broking, recognised market operators and remittance businesses, said an MAS spokesman.

The proposed sandboxes are suitable for activities where the risks are generally low and could be reasonably contained within the specific pre-defined sandbox, MAS said.

Singapore’s central bank is seeking public consultation on the initiative from Nov 14 to Dec 13 this year.

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