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Review: Singapore Fintech Festival 24-Hour Virtual Event Wednesday 9 December

The Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) is the world’s largest and most inclusive fintech festival that brings together heads of state, financial and technology leaders, fintech founders, policymakers, investors and multilateral agencies. This year the festival will be running on 7-11 December with a unique hybrid format, combining a 24-hour online event with 30 hyper-local physical events in fintech hubs around the world.

With an array of hyper-local and dedicated events, still, the main draw for Day 3 on Wednesday 9th December was the Impact Summit, with a heavy focus on green finance and the environment, SMEs, blockchain, inclusion and an economic focus. Speakers included: the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt Hon Jacinda Adern, Jes Staley, the Group Chief Executive of Barclays and Mark Carney, the Former Governor of the Bank of England.

Addressing the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020, she said that “putting people and the planet first” made good sense for governments, economies and businesses even as the world increasingly moves online.

“Our digital future must prioritise the wellbeing of all people and be truly inclusive. It will be important to ensure that every single person and business has what they need to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital economy,” says Ardern, the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister in a century and a half. This includes, she says, women, rural communities, low socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities.

One of the key thoughts of the day came during ‘The Future of Finance is Green’, featuring Mark Carney – Vice Chair and Head of ESG and Impact Fund Investing and Former Governor of the Bank of England, Ravi Menon – Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore and moderated by James Crabtree – Assoc. Prof. of Practice, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Together they discussed the role of fintech in green finance with Carney summing up its potential. He said, “The objective is so that private finance or private financial decisions take climate change into account, just as they take creditworthiness or interest rate risk into account. Climate change is one of the determinants of risk and value. And so, setting that as an objective, you have to works backwards and thinks about what’s required in order for that to be the case.”

Menon suggested that with the acceleration of digital since the arrival of the pandemic, Singapore was moving closer to a green future. He said, “We need to harness the power of finance to help Asia become green and move towards a lower-carbon future. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the momentum and sustainability, on the whole, has remained very strong despite the pandemic.”

For Carney, fintech is one of the things he gets excited about. He said, “With Fintech, it’s that I don’t know what they’re going to come up, you know, you set out the problem and they will come up with the solutions. The degree of innovation is truly astounding. We’ve seen in the UK we see it in Singapore and we’ve seen it around the world and important thing is to knit it together.”

On the practicalities, Menon added, “We’ve seen a wealth management solution that incorporates climate change scenarios so that investors can model their wealth projections and financial goals depending on what they think the extent of global warming or mitigation efforts might be. The real problem that we need to solve is the availability and the quality of data, because without data a lot of these technologies are not going to work well. In fact, I would say, ESG data is the foundation of green finance. And today there are serious gaps in the data value chain, how this data is acquired, there’s a lack of transparency. And there’s a lack of trust, actually, to share this data. So the first step is to solve the data problem and see how we can use technology to solve this.”

Also today, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Magyar Nemzeti Bank (MNB) signed a Co-operation Agreement (CA) to strengthen cooperation in FinTech innovation between Singapore and Hungary.

The CA sets out a framework for FinTech collaboration between both countries. It will put in place a referral mechanism to help FinTech firms access each other’s markets. MAS and MNB  have also committed to exchange views on emerging market trends and developments in  FinTech, as well as regulatory issues on financial services innovation. The CA will also facilitate joint innovation projects between MAS and MNB.

Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS said, “The CA highlights the strengthening  FinTech partnership between MAS and MNB, and lays the foundation for us to harness FinTech for a smarter, more efficient and more inclusive financial sector in our respective countries. Our  bilateral collaboration in FinTech will help promote financial innovation and create new  opportunities for our countries, as well as in our regions.”

The signing of the CA took place at the World FinTech Festival in Budapest, held in partnership with the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020.

In the session “Inclusive Finance for SMEs“, Achim Steiner the Head of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shared valuable insights on how current crises create opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into key structural changes, introduce adoption of innovative technology solutions and improve SMEs’ access to financial and digital tools. He said, “Connectivity is critical when it comes to digital finance and a report by the UN Secretary General’s Task Force on digital financing of the Sustainable Development Goals, entitled The People’s Money points out how digital finance holds enormous potential to expand financial inclusion by empowering citizens as savers, investors, borrowers, lenders, and taxpayers.

“If we give people more choice over their money through digital finance we know that they will invest in critical areas like the green economy, boosting job creation and inclusion. Indeed, digital finance can drastically reduce poverty and inequalities in Kenya alone mean that some 200,000 households have been lifted out of poverty thanks to mobile money. The FinTech revolution is also helping SMEs across the world to access loans. At UNDP, we are helping countries to build for better from the panellists. A key part of our support will be working on digital disruption. Drawing on the UNDP digital strategy, our efforts will include engaging with digital payment and e-commerce systems, with a focus on supporting women-run SMEs, and closing the digital divide for marginalised populations.”

Also on Wednesday, Mastercard announced its three-way collaboration with MatchMove, a Singapore Banking-as-a-Service provider, and Tappy, a world-leading wearable payment integrator, to introduce network tokenization for custom wearables to become secure contactless payment devices.

This partnership will enable MatchMove Mastercard cardholders to easily and securely add their payment cards to a chip which can turn accessories, such as watch straps or keyrings, into payment-ready wearables.

Tokenization is the industry-leading security standard in electronic payments, as consumers in Asia and across the world migrate towards contactless payment in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. A global study conducted by Mastercard this year, found 91 per cent of respondents in Asia Pacific were using tap-and-go payments, while 75 per cent said they would keep using contactless after the pandemic is overdue to concerns about safety.

Author

  • Gina is a fintech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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