Looking to boost local fintech sector

MAS managing director Ravi Menon speaking to an audience at the launch of Looking Glass @ MAS. The facility, which is in the MAS building, will allow financial institutions and start-ups to experiment with fintech and facilitate consultations between
MAS managing director Ravi Menon speaking to an audience at the launch of Looking Glass @ MAS. The facility, which is in the MAS building, will allow financial institutions and start-ups to experiment with fintech and facilitate consultations between the industry and regulators.PHOTO: MONETARY AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE

MAS recommends a mix of talent, funding and effective mentorship to create right ecosystem

Singapore's fintech scene needs a stronger pipeline of talent, mentorship and funding to catch up with leading ecosystems like New York and Silicon Valley, said Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon.

Mr Menon added that the regulator "will review some of the regulatory requirements placed on venture capitalists", to encourage more such investors to set up in Singapore and boost the funding pool for fintech start-ups.

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the MAS' fintech innovation lab, which is called Looking Glass @ MAS. The facility, which is in the MAS building, aims to allow financial institutions and start-ups to experiment with fintech and facilitate consultations between the industry and regulators.

WIDENING LOCAL TALENT POOL

We want to maximise the number of Singaporeans able to take the good jobs that are going to be created.That means intervening upstream, working with polytechnics and universities to make sure we have a strong talent pipeline.

MONETARY AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE MANAGING DIRECTOR RAVI MENON

Calling the space "an experiment", Mr Menon said it will not duplicate what is already being done at other labs and accelerators, which usually focus on early-stage companies. Instead, the MAS facility will be a venue for later-stage companies to testbed their products and work with financial institutions, lawyers, regulators and others in the industry.

Mr Menon also pointed to stumbling blocks hindering the development of a more vibrant fintech ecosystem, such as the shortage of funding and talent. "The innovation and technology will happen," he noted, adding that the key issue is "whether there are Singaporeans able to take those jobs".

Singapore must balance the need to remain open to tech talent from around the region, with the need to develop expertise locally.

"We want to maximise the number of Singaporeans able to take the good jobs that are going to be created. That means intervening upstream, working with polytechnics and universities to make sure we have a strong talent pipeline," he added. In addition, while the venture capital (VC) industry has been expanding rapidly, there are also many start-ups with new ideas that need funding.

Beyond funding, however, Singapore is also lagging behind fintech hubs like New York and Silicon Valley when it comes to having a pool of experienced mentors and investors, said Mr Menon.

Others in the industry said fintech has strong potential here but there are still issues to be ironed out.

Ms Cynthia Siantar, the co-founder of financial market live alerts app Call Levels, said fintech is a niche sector and not as accessible to potential investors as e-commerce or social platforms.

"The general lack of understanding, of the asset and the wealth management industry, reduces the pool of VCs who understand the value of businesses like ours," she said.

Mr Christopher Quek, the managing partner of Tri5 Ventures, said there is still an industrywide lack of programmers to support start-up entrepreneurs. "It is more pronounced in fintech as the industry needs more specialised and experienced programmers," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Looking to boost local fintech sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe