Coronavirus: $6m grant to support Singapore fintech firms

Economists have said internships may be deferred or rescinded in the current crisis. PHOTO: ST FILE

Financial technology companies in Singapore can turn to a $6 million fund to help pay for their day-to-day expenses, including the salaries of undergraduate interns.

Set up to encourage innovation as well, the FinTech Solidarity Grant aims to be a shot in the arm for the industry during the ongoing public health crisis.

It complements the $125 million support package for the financial services and fintech sectors announced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) last month.

A survey by the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) unveiled last month reported that about half of the 67 respondents said they had been hit significantly by the economic fallout of Covid-19.

The grant, announced yesterday, intends to help ease their pain. Funding it are MAS and investment banking firm AMTD Group and its foundation.

There are two components to the grant, and applications for both will open next Monday and close on Dec 31 next year, said MAS, SFA and AMTD in a statement.

The first is a business sustenance grant for eligible firms to get up to $20,000 to pay for salaries, rent and daily capital expenditures in the short term.

The second is a business growth grant, which will hand out $40,000 to firms that show proof of concept - which demonstrates a plan is workable - with financial institutions on the API Exchange (Apix) platform. Apix was launched in 2018 to help groups connect with one another and design experiments collaboratively.

With each subsequent proof of concept, a firm will get $10,000, capped at $80,000. The business growth grant also provides up to $1,000 a month for the salaries of undergraduate interns, an offer the organisers hope will coax the firms to "continue to offer internships and develop the local fintech talent pipeline". Assuming an average internship duration of three to five months, the grant will support around 120 interns in the sector.

Economists have said internships may be deferred or rescinded in the current crisis, as the immediate focus of most companies is to cut losses and stay in business. Fresh graduates' job search this year is also expected to take longer than before.

SFA's president Chia Hock Lai said the grant will "help save jobs while making our fintech firms competitive for the post Covid-19 economic recovery world".

MAS chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty noted that Covid-19 has led to a surge of interest in the region for financial technology, with more people needing remote digital services.

"Fintech firms have a great opportunity to step up actively during this period to provide these solutions... By conducting their proof of concept on Apix, financial institutions and fintech firms will not need to set up test infrastructure for integration.

"This will help accelerate project development while still working remotely."

AMTD's chairman and chief executive Calvin Choi said his company sees the need for the private sector to team up with fintech firms in this period.

"This is an important moment in time to overcome challenges while identifying every opportunity and client servicing angle," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: $6m grant to support Singapore fintech firms. Subscribe