The future of financial tech... is now

Twenty-three financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors as Singapore kicked off the FinTech Festival yesterday.
Twenty-three financial institutions opened their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors as Singapore kicked off the FinTech Festival yesterday. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Robot greeter and an Internet-of-Things sensor among innovations showcased at world's largest fintech event

DBS Bank offered exciting glimpses of the future at its newly launched financial technology (fintech) facility yesterday.

Among the innovations and prototypes the bank showcased were:

  • A heat map tracking usage patterns of ATMs, credit cards and bank branches across Singapore;
  • A polite robot greeter to help confused bank customers; and
  • A 3D visualisation of future banking services integrated into a smart vehicle.

The bank was just one of 23 financial institutions opening their fintech labs and innovation centres to visitors as Singapore kicked off the inaugural FinTech Festival.

The "Lab Crawl" marked the first day of the week-long festival. Some 11,000 participants from more than 50 countries are registered for the festival, making this the world's biggest fintech event so far.

At DBS' fintech facility - dubbed Asia X - at one-north, the bank is hoping to create an agile space for employees and start-ups to explore fintech innovations, said DBS Group Holdings chief executive Piyush Gupta.

DBS is known as a heavy hitter in the tech space, having spent $5 billion in the past six years on IT and innovations. The bank is particularly keen to enhance its abilities in areas such as online and paperless customer engagement. It is also part of an upcoming industry trial involving the use of blockchain for interbank settlement, Mr Gupta told reporters at Asia X.

Blockchain is a type of digital ledger with encryption that limits data tampering. The trial will be part of a collaboration between blockchain specialist firm R3 and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Blockchain and other solutions such as application programing interface - which makes creating application for existing software easier - and electronic payment systems are being looked at by MAS as it pushes to transform Singapore into a smart financial hub.

Other financial institutions in town also had plenty to show at yesterday's Lab Crawl.

Aviva exhibited the first open application programming interface (API) by an insurance carrier in Singapore and a Facebook chatbot, among other innovations, at its Digital Garage in Armenian Street.

Although Aviva also runs digital garages in London and Toronto, Singapore has the advantage of being the hub of Asia, and the country can attract ground-breaking innovations and start-ups interested in servicing the region's demographic needs, group chief digital officer Andrew Brem told The Straits Times.

Standard Chartered's eXellerator Lab in turn showed how an Internet-of-Things sensor can enhance operations at the bank.

Other Lab Crawl participants included Allianz, Google, KPMG, MasterCard, OCBC and United Overseas Bank.

After a busy start that got participants buzzing, the FinTech Festival will move on to Hackcelerator today, a demo day showing market-ready solutions from 20 teams selected from more than 650 submissions.

VIDEO: Watch a personal robot greet visitors at the FinTech Festival. http://str.sg/4gCD

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'The future of financial tech... is now'. Print Edition | Subscribe