SINGAPORE (Nov 12): Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon revealed Monday that the Asean Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) will launch an API Exchange, or APIX, later this week to enhance financial inclusion across the region as well as globally.

Spearheaded by MAS, the Asean Bankers Association, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, AFIN attempts to bring banks and fintech firms together to develop solutions to penetrate large unbanked populations.

According to Menon, one-third of the world’s 1.7 billion unbanked adults come from just four countries in Asia – China, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

“It is a shame that in this day and age, so many do not have access to a bank account, secure and efficient means of payment, or insurance protection,” Menon says at the opening of the three-day Singapore FinTech Festival 2018 on Nov 12.

The way Menon explains it, this problem in financial inclusion is two-fold: banks face high costs in reaching out to customers in remote villages, while fintech firms lack the resources to scale and penetrate new markets.

“This is where AFIN comes in, to bring banks and fintech firms together to develop solutions to penetrate these hard-to-reach markets,” he adds.

To be launched by AFIN on Wednesday, APIX will be the world’s first cross-border, open architecture platform. It will act as both an online fintech marketplace as well as a fintech sandbox.

As a marketplace, it will enable [financial institutions] to discover and connect with fintech firms through APIs on a globally curated platform,” Menon says. “As a sandbox, it provides a platform for FIs and fintech firms to collaborate and experiment on solutions in a contained environment.”

The third edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival this year is expected to bring together 250 speakers, 450 exhibitors, 16 international pavilions and close to 40,000 participants.

This year, the event sees a greater Asean focus, alongside Singapore’s chairmanship of Asean. It also coincides with the city-state’s hosting of the 33rd Asean Summit from Nov 11-15.

For the first time, a new zone that is specially dedicated to Asean start-ups has been set up at the Singapore FinTech Festival.

An expanded Global Investor Summit, which will run on Nov 13-14, will also showcase the best of next-generation Asean start-ups and growth enterprises, specially curated for the investment and enterprise communities.

In addition, the FinTech Awards, which recognise innovative fintech solutions that have been implemented by fintech companies, financial institutions and technology companies, will see a greater emphasis on Asean this year.

FinTech Award nominees include winners of the Asean PitchFest as well as Asean companies in the SME and Open categories.

The visual elements of the Singapore FinTech Festival 2018 are inspired by the unique cultures and designs of Asean. The specially commissioned Asean-themed Batik Motif stitches together national flowers of all 10 Asean countries.