Why It Matters

Singapore's push to be fintech hub

Calling all financial technology firms: Forget Silicon Valley. Singapore is open for business.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced last week a generous new funding scheme to support anyone with a solid fintech idea they want to test while based in Singapore.

Fintech is all about managing money in the digital age. A firm with an online platform matching lenders and borrowers is a fintech firm. So is a start-up developing a mobile banking app for the visually impaired.

Under the scheme, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will fund up to half the cost of promising fintech "proof-of-concept" trials based here, or a maximum of $200,000 for each project.

The ideas being tried out should benefit not just an individual financial institution or start-up, but also the financial system at large, whether in Singapore or abroad, Mr Tharman said.

This is as clear a message as any to the global fintech community that Singapore is serious about being a hub for this rapidly growing sector. The scheme adds to other support programmes available to fintech players, such as Spring Singapore grants for Singapore start-ups matching $7 for every $3 raised, up to $50,000.

The National Research Foundation also has a scheme under which it will co-invest, together with a technology incubator, up to 85 per cent of an investment in a Singapore-based start-up.

Even before the launch of the latest scheme, Singapore already garnered global attention for the way it built a good ecosystem for fintech players. In February, consultancy EY ranked Singapore fourth as a global fintech hub, behind Britain, California - home of Silicon Valley - and New York. Just two months ago, Deloitte named Singapore the top global fintech hub, tied with London.

This is only the beginning. Last year, MAS committed to invest $225 million in fintech over five years. As the sector develops and MAS unveils more plans, things will only get more exciting.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore's push to be fintech hub'. Subscribe