Deal smooths path for expanding Singapore, Australian financial technology firms

SINGAPORE - Innovative financial technology (fintech) firms in Singapore looking to do business in Australia will find it easier to get the process under way thanks to a new agreement between the countries' financial regulators.

The same will go for Australian fintech firms keen to enter the Singapore market.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) on Thursday signed a so-called innovation functions co-operation agreement.

The deal will enable innovative fintech companies in Singapore and Australia to establish initial discussions in each other's market faster and receive advice on required licences, thus helping to reduce regulatory uncertainty and time to market.

Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, MAS chief fintech officer, said: "This agreement between the MAS and Asic would create opportunities for fintech businesses from Singapore and Australia to grow and expand into each other's markets.

"Singapore has a vibrant fintech ecosystem, reinforced by sound infrastructure and a growing talent pool, to support companies intending to use Singapore as a gateway to other markets in Asia," he said.

"MAS is also looking forward to partner Asic in joint innovation projects on the application of key technologies such as digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers, big data, and application programming interfaces (API)," he said.

Asic chairman Greg Medcraft said: "We recognised that innovation in financial services isn't confined by national borders.

"Asic is committed to encouraging innovation that has the potential to benefit financial consumers and investors," he said.

"Since Asic launched its Innovation Hub last year, we have seen a surge in requests by fintech start-ups seeking assistance about how to navigate the regulatory requirements.

"In particular we have dealt with robo or digital advice, crowd sourced equity funding, payments, marketplace lending and blockchain business models.

"It is very exciting to observe and clearly some business ideas will want to scale up internationally. We believe this agreement with the MAS will help break down barriers to entry both here and in Singapore."

In a joint statement, MAS and Asic said that to qualify for the support offered by the agreement, businesses will need to meet the eligibility criteria of their home regulator.

Once referred by the regulator, and ahead of applying for licence to operate in the new market, a dedicated team or contact person will help them to understand the regulatory framework in the market they wish to join, and how it applies to them.

Asic and MAS have also committed to exploring joint innovation projects together, and to share information on emerging market trends and their impact on regulation, they said.