Fintechs in S'pore draw majority of funding in region: Report

Strong investor interest, mature scene make the nation attractive

Fintech firms here have continued to attract the lion's share of global funding among Asean countries, cementing Singapore's status as the sector's regional hub.

A new report out yesterday noted that funding into the Asean region has increased more than 30-fold since 2014 to hit US$1.14 billion (S$1.6 billion) as of Sept 30.

"While other Asean countries have accelerated the development of their domestic fintech (financial technology) sector, it is Singapore, with its more mature scene, that continues to attract the most funding within Asean," added the report by United Overseas Bank (UOB), PwC and the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA).

It added that 51 per cent of the total funding so far this year has gone into Singapore, which is home to 45 per cent of Asean fintech firms.

Funding for Singapore-based fintechs was the most evenly distributed, with insurance technology, payments and personal finance leading the way - a sign of the country's push to encourage innovation across different areas.

The report noted that the diversified funding indicates that Singapore's fintech landscape is more mature than those of other Asean markets, where operators are largely focused on payment-related solutions.

Ms Janet Young, head of group channels and digitalisation at UOB, said: "Singapore's favourable regulatory and business environment, strong investor interest and maturing fintech sector continue to make it an attractive base for firms looking to tap Asean's growth potential."

The report also found that fintech firms in Asean are generally optimistic about their funding needs, with almost half of those surveyed confident of raising more than US$10 million for their next finance round.

Ms Wong Wanyi, fintech leader at PwC Singapore, noted that this optimism is not surprising, given the region's potential and the liberalisation of the industry through digital banking licences.

"The increasing penetration of mobile devices coupled with the capabilities of new innovative technologies have made fintech firms a key driver in this evolving Asean financial services landscape, providing an experience that is easier, faster and more convenient," she added.

"That being said, the fintech scene is very competitive, so fintech firms should be focused and have a clear value proposition. Scaling up should be at the right pace and for the right reason."

  • 51%

    Percentage of total funding so far this year that has gone into Singapore, which is home to 45 per cent of Asean fintech firms.

The report also noted that talent remains a challenge, with 58 per cent of fintech firms surveyed indicating that this was hindering regional expansion plans.

SFA president Chia Hock Lai said: "Fintech firms need to consider if there is suitable and abundant expertise at the loca-tion they have chosen to scale their business.

"Given the long time it takes to hire the right talent, firms must plan ahead when it comes to expanding their workforce and business in a new market. One way that some firms overcome this challenge is to hire local talent at least six months ahead of their expansion into a new market."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2019, with the headline 'Fintechs in S'pore draw majority of funding in region: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe