When the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) was launched five years ago by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), observers would have been forgiven for wondering what an SFF could accomplish? And what is FinTech’s purpose?

Now in its fifth year, FinTech’s purpose, and the goals and accomplishments of the various SFFs is clear: It has enhanced Singapore’s hub status, created jobs, and works as an enabler of economic growth.

“Today, Singapore is consistently ranked among the top FinTech hubs globally. We have more than 1,000 FinTechs in Singapore and 40 innovation labs in Singapore that form a critical part of our broader FinTech ecosystem. The innovation labs have created about 500 high-value jobs, of which more than half have been taken up by locals,” says Jacqueline Loh, deputy managing director, MAS, whose interview we feature on Pages 8 and 9.

In addition, FinTech has created some 10,000 jobs in Singapore. As FinTech solutions increase, demand for tech-related job roles is expected to increase. New job roles from UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) to data analytics, machine learning and cybersecurity will continue to increase in a more digitally-focused economy and digitally-enabled financial sector.

Despite the current challenging macroeconomic conditions, FinTech will continue to help the creation of new job roles in the job market. Many of these FinTech firms and innovation hubs are still hiring, as seen on the jobs portal of Singapore FinTech Association.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that this year, a physical event was out of the question, with borders closed. “Fortunately, the second important element of skipping a year was never an option, as the team strongly believed that the Fintech Festival is needed now more than ever, to help create valuable connections and drive business activities, drive collaborations, to support pandemic recovery, and importantly embrace valuable opportunities for the global economy and for the global community,” says Loh.

Among the beneficiaries of FinTech is United Overseas Bank’s digital-only bank TMRW that was launched in Thailand in February 2019 and in Indonesia earlier this year. TMRW is making use of AI, machine learning, data analytics and joint ventures and alliances with FinTechs for its digital-only bank model.

FinTech firm Personetics powers TMRW’s insight engine, which transforms transaction data into meaningful insights, presented within the TMRW app as “Insight Cards” based on the bank’s understanding of their needs. On Valentine’s Day this year, TMRW sent its customers a personalised “love note”, generated from their transaction patterns in the past year and thanking them for their support. These notes highlighted behavioural patterns unique to the customers, such as TMRW advocates who interact with the app regularly, value-seekers looking for the best deal and disciplined bill payers.

“The business model of our digital bank continues to focus on deepening customer engagement with every interaction so that our customers continue to find value in banking with TMRW for the long term,” says Kevin Lam, head of TMRW digital group at UOB.

SEE: AMTD aims to bring connectivity to FinTech community by expanding in Singapore

In Indonesia, TMRW taps Avatec’s AI-driven credit assessment engine, using alternative data and machine learning to assess the creditworthiness of customers during the onboarding phase. “Using this engine, we have the ability to offer loans to a wider base of customers who previously would not have had access to credit and we see this as a key driver for TMRW’s business,” says Lam. AI has also helped TMRW to sign up customers from areas where UOB has no physical branch, in places like Medan and Makassar in Indonesia.

Another interesting case study is Japanese behemoth Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (SMBC) which was an early adopter of digital solutions and because of its presence in Indonesia. SMBC owns 92.43% of PT Bank BTPN Tbk (Bank TPTN). Although SMBC mostly operates as a corporate bank outside of Japan, BTPN is a full commercial bank with retail banking facilities. In fact, BTPN has a digital-only bank in Indonesia, Jenius.

Jenius uses simple application features such as Jenius QR for contactless transactions and Moneytory for better cash flow organisation as consumers bank from home. “Jenius aims to be part of the digital lifestyle of the consumer, to serve as an enabler for their dayto-day tasks to be done more efficiently, starting with the basics of performing banking transactions remotely, and then going beyond. At first, Jenius started only providing regular banking services, but this has since evolved, as it now can be used for contactless and cashless payments, securing loans, and even for personal financial management. This is just the tip of the iceberg and we have more to look forward to,” says Nagatomo Masayuki, head of Asia Innovation Centre, at SMBC.

Elsewhere, Calvin Choi, chairman and CEO of AMTD Group, has been a major sponsor and supporter of the SFF. He is building AMTD into a financial conglomerate engaging in investment banking, asset management, digital intelligence and marketing, insurance risk solutions, professional advisory services, real estate, education, and strategic investments, and may eventually relocate to Singapore from Hong Kong.

Insurance companies are also making use of insurance technology or InsurTech. Prudential launched a digital health and wellness app, Pulse, in April this year, during Singapore’s “circuit breaker”. Pulse offers a suite of health features. One of the features serves to prevent, protect and postpone the onset of chronic diseases in its users. Pulse has an AI-powered symptom checker and interactive platform which provides users with a better understanding of the symptoms customers may be experiencing. The app also offers body mass index assessment and can direct customers to healthcare professionals.

Next year, Pulse will introduce Ruby, an AI-powered chatbot that can assess users’ financial needs and educate them on how best to plan their finances.

SEE: Singapore FinTech Festival x SWITCH 2020 to feature digital and physical experiences over week-long event

More immediately, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat will give the opening address to this year’s SFF2020. The festival will feature an array of well-known names such as Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, Prime Minister Jacintha Adern of New Zealand, the Winklevoss twins of Bitcoin fame, and Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum. The festival will run for 24 hours a day from Dec 7 to Dec 11. So please get your digital passes to tune in.

Here’s wishing all our readers a happy and fruitful SFF2020.

From The Edge Singapore