Singapore FinTech Festival 2018

Fintech advances add up to a bright new financial future, says MAS chief

Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon envisages a world where a person can get an instant and complete picture of where they stand with regards to cash, tax and other money-related matters.
Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon envisages a world where a person can get an instant and complete picture of where they stand with regards to cash, tax and other money-related matters.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE - The vision of a financial sector where a person can get an instant and complete picture of where they stand with regards to cash, tax and other money-related matters was outlined by the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Monday (Nov 12).

Mr Ravi Menon said such a new world would mean a person would have a personal financial dashboard that pulls data from their banks, insurers and brokers.

It would also contain tax liabilities and mortgages and provide advice based on milestones in that person's life.

"This is the financial sector we want to create, customised (to) our needs, invisible to our eyes, and an absolute delight," said Mr Menon.

He told the Singapore Fintech Festival that creating such a future meant marshalling necessary ingredients like common standards, inclusive collaboration and a free flow of ideas, knowledge and people.

"Innovation and technology are key to realising this future, but they are not enough," Mr Menon added. What is necessary is to grow a fintech, or financial technology, ecosystem that includes platforms for innovation and good data governance standards.

One initiative involved the MAS working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority to roll out a global services marketplace for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Business Sans Borders, as it is called, aims to connect SMEs on a platform where they can explore collaborative ways to digitise their business processes and lower costs, said Mr Menon.

"It will (also) allow solution providers to more effectively reach out to SMEs (that) tend to be highly dispersed and sometimes hard to reach," he added.

The initiative will start with a proof-of-concept in 2019 with features such as a sandbox where start-ups and established players can experiment and build solutions.

It will also have an app store where SMEs can access services, including finance, logistics and human resources.

Another feature is an artificial intelligence engine that matches suppliers with buyers for products and services across the region.

The MAS has also been trying to reap the benefits of technology by working with the industry to develop principles to guide data usage in financial services. These were released on Monday.

Mr Menon said: "Data must be used in a responsible, transparent and ethical manner. We must be able to explain the results of data-driven algorithms. We cannot hide behind the black box."

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told media at the festival that fintech should lower the costs of engaging customers and will allow for greater financial inclusion as banks can reach out to the unbanked population.

Mr Heng noted: "Fintech... has opened up many new possibilities. Lowering costs allows banks to serve even more customers even more efficiently and allows them to expand services even wider."

The five-day festival, which was first held in 2016, has drawn about 40,000 participants from more than 100 countries, making the event the biggest annual gathering of the global fintech community, according to the MAS.