100 'challenges' for fintech firms

Sopnendu Mohanty and MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon.
Sopnendu Mohanty and MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

When it comes to finance, it seems there are plenty of people who think it could be improved.

In March, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) asked the global financial technology, or fintech, community and members of the public to identify the financial problems they felt could be solved with technology. The result: 100 "problem statements" that the MAS is now inviting fintech firms from around the world to tackle.

The authority's chief fintech officer, Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, announced these problem statements during an MAS conference on globalising fintech yesterday.

The event, which was attended by representatives of fintech start- ups and traditional financial institutions, was marked by a distinctively laid-back atmosphere.

MAS staff, including managing director Ravi Menon, wore T-shirts; techno music and flashing strobe lights made an appearance.

Mr Mohanty said the problem statements were all crowdsourced, with no input or moderation by the MAS. "We did not regulate them," he quipped.

They fall into 11 broad categories, such as payments, trade finance, financial literacy and insurance.

Under the financial literacy category, for example, one problem statement notes that consumers still lack guidance on how to better manage their finances.

The challenge: Develop a comprehensive personal financial management tool that would enable consumers to understand the fundamentals of personal finance and the benefits of sound financial management in exchange for instant gratification.

Fintech firms have until the end of July to submit their ideas and proposed solutions to any of these challenges.

In August, 20 teams will be shortlisted by an international panel of experts for the grand finals of the Global FinTech Hackcelerator.

These teams will then work with mentors and receive technical support to develop their ideas and build a working prototype of their solutions. They will present these prototypes at a demo day during the Singapore FinTech Festival in November. Up to three teams will be named winners.

The Hackcelerator and FinTech Festival are part of MAS' efforts to develop a future-ready financial industry. As Mr Menon said during a dialogue session at the event yesterday: "For Singapore's financial sector to succeed in the future... for us to stay (among the top five financial hubs globally), to grow, we need a lot of innovation and especially technology-enabled innovation."

He also highlighted MAS' progressive approach towards regulating fintech innovations. For example, banks can launch innovative ideas without first seeking an MAS endorsement once they are satisfied with their own due diligence.

Where regulatory compliance is unclear, banks can launch innovative products within controlled boundaries, or "sandboxes".

Yasmine Yahya

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline '100 'challenges' for fintech firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe