Fintech key to Singapore staying a leading financial hub: Iswaran

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S. Iswaran speaking at an event on May 31, 2016.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S. Iswaran speaking at an event on May 31, 2016.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Financial technology, or fintech, is a crucial differentiator for Singapore to remain a leading financial hub in the region.

That is why the Republic has been exploring ways to establish a position of leadership in this space, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said on Thursday (Aug 18).

Mr Iswaran, who was speaking at a conference on fintech and financial inclusion at the Singapore Management University, said this involves being a leader in fintech regulation, creating a vibrant and nurturing fintech ecosystem and developing the right skills and talents to meet the constantly evolving needs of the fintech industry.

Singapore has sought to be at the forefront of regulatory thinking on fintech, Mr Iswaran said, striving to maintain an optimal balance between ensuring the stability and security of the financial system with providing an environment that is conducive for fintech innovation.

At the same time, the Government will support Singapore companies in the adoption of fintech, particularly electronic payments, or e-payments, which helps small and medium-sized enterprises raise productivity, he added.

"Such digitisation requires certain levels of investments that may not yield immediate dividends," he noted.

However, adopting e-payments will help businesses participate more actively in e-commerce.

"The Singapore Government also hopes to be able to take the lead in developing a regional e-payments strategy, so that companies can tap on the region's growing middle class and large consumer base through e-commerce."

It will do so by helping Singapore merchants establish strategic partnerships with major payment players with the potential to reach out to a wide network of ASEAN cities.

The Government will also support the development of payment solutions for the unbanked in the region.

While the Government works to build a conducive environment for fintech, industry players also play an important role in building the ecosystem by collaborating with each other, Mr Iswaran said.

"Our fintech industry will be enhanced by the cross-fertilisation of ideas, coordinated implementation and testing and a smooth route-to-market by bringing together the strengths of an entire ecosystem of industry participants, including technology providers, finance players, start-ups, investors and researchers."

Finally, Mr Iswaran said Singapore must nurture a strong pool of talent, comprising people with cross-disciplinary expertise who can drive innovation in the fintech industry.

"We are therefore looking into creating schemes to promote the development of multi-disciplinary skills though the school curriculum, work placement programmes and mid-career retraining opportunities."