This week sees the return of the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF). Now in its 6th year, the festival is being broadcast to a global audience from 8 to 12 November 2021, as well as holding a number of in-person talks and sessions.
Laying claim to the title of the world’s largest FinTech event, this week provides a unique opportunity for the global FinTech, innovation and business communities to connect, collaborate and network, and features more than 350 sessions, over 700 speakers, over 260 exhibitors, and 14 international pavilions, with another 60,000 streaming the event ‘live’.
With Day Two of the SFF all wrapped up, we can take a look around at some of the major highlights across the different sessions.
Session Highlights from Day Two
Giving today’s opening remarks at SFF 2021 was Ravi Menon, Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). He delivered a wide-ranging speech, entitled “The Future of Money, Finance, and the Internet”. Addressing such fundamental concepts in a limited timeframe was a clearly not a simple task, but Mr Menon gave a passionate talk, touching on many important issues, including the questions concerning the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies (in various forms), especially by governmental institutions.
Whilst pointing that MAS ‘frowns’ on cryptocurrencies or tokens as an investment asset (for retail investors), he explained that they were of the view that “blockchains and crypto tokens can bring many potential benefits.” One example given was that of the use of crypto tokens to facilitate cheaper and faster cross-border payments and trade finance. He then pivoted to the discussion of stablecoins, which have caught MAS’s interest due to the “lack of stability and credible backing” of most crypto tokens, and explained the benefits and pitfalls of them, as MAS sees it.
Following this, he brought up the topic of Central Bank Digital Currencies, or CBDCs, stating that MAS sees value in Wholesale CBDCs – which are restricted to use within the banking system and are akin to the reserves commercial banks place with the central bank today – although this is perhaps something more for the future.
How DeFi, NFTs and DAOs are building a value exchange layer for Web 3.0
One of the most anticipated events at SFF 2021 was a panel featuring Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, in discussion with Real Vision co-founder and CEO Raoul Pal. Ethereum’s creator discussed DeFi adoption and shared his view on why he expects Ethereum’s ‘killer ecosystem’ to grow over the next few years.
He explained that what they are trying to do is, “Building the value exchange layer of the Internet” and that “Trust in those platforms is continuing to increase and that by itself is going to make people more and more comfortable over time.”
He also took some time to comment on the future of the crypto ecosystem – viewing it as neither financial nor non-financial, but ‘mixed financial’: “It’s projects that are not just about money in nature, but that still benefit a lot from being directly plugged into this kind of massive value layer that we’ve created with the Ethereum and the greater crypto ecosystem.”
On a final point, and tying into the overall theme of SFF 2021, Buterin said that one-way countries can navigate the transition to Web 3.0, was to be supportive of good projects that are being developed locally. “Singapore is in a potentially good position to do a lot of that. It’s already a financial hub, it’s already a legal registration hub,” said Buterin, adding that the country could be a great choice for people who want to work on projects that involve NFTs backed by some kind of legal property rights.
Latest Company Announcements
Now, let’s have a look at some of the most interesting announcements by the companies in attendance at SFF 2021.
First up, we have an announcement from The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), that they will be introducing three enhancements to its FinTech Regulatory Sandbox framework, with the intended purpose of further catalysing financial innovation and FinTech adoption.
With Sandbox Plus, MAS will make three enhancements to provide more effective one-stop assistance for firms looking to introduce innovative products and services that are regulated by MAS. Sandbox Plus will take effect on 1 January 2022.
Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS, said, “FinTech is reshaping financial services at a rapid pace. Sandbox Plus reflects MAS’ ongoing commitment to support promising technology innovation to take root in Singapore by providing innovators with more effective one-stop support. We hope this will further catalyse new business models with innovative technology in aspiring financial institutions, bringing greater benefits to consumers and the industry.”
Secondly, we have Cabital, a leading digital assets institution, who announced to SFF 2021 that it seeks to apply for formal approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) under the Payment Services Act 2019 to provide digital payment token services as a Major Payment Institution.
Securing regulatory approval under the Payment Services Act will enable Cabital to directly support customers to trade in digital payment tokens legally in Singapore.
Raymond Hsu, Cabital’s Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, said “When Cabital secures formal regulatory approval from MAS, we will be in a great position to support customers in tapping into the growth of cryptocurrencies as a new and exciting asset class across Singapore.”
The SEPA announcement came after Cabital’s recent successful $4 million seed round that was led by SIG, Dragonfly, and GSR, increasing our valuation to $40 million. That followed Cabital’s recent successful angel round where the company raised $3 million.
Finally, we have another update from MAS, who announced the three winners of the inaugural Global Veritas1 Challenge 2021. The winners, selected from a pool of ten finalists, successfully addressed key challenges in validating the fairness of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for specific banking use cases.
This year’s Challenge focused on four use cases, namely (i) product marketing; (ii) risk, compliance and fraud monitoring; (iii) loan origination and know-your-customer (KYC); and (iv) credit scoring and profiling.
The winners were selected during the Global Veritas Challenge Demo Day 2 held on 20 October 2021, where finalists pitched their innovations to a judging panel. The finalists came from six countries in Asia, North America and Europe and were shortlisted from 74 submissions. Each winner received a cash prize of S$50,000. The top three teams were:
Cylynx Pte Ltd, focusing on Risk, Compliance and Fraud Monitoring, and who aimed to Integrate fairness into AIDA model development and live production monitoring for fraud detection.
Visa Inc., specialising in Product Marketing, and with the stated aim of providing financial institutions with a set of standardised reusable components for screening and mitigating unwanted biases in marketing propensity models.
TruEra Inc. and Demyst Data Ltd. taking on the challenge of Credit Scoring and Profiling and aiming to mitigate the effects of bias in credit scoring due to biases in training data or issues with the AIDA model.
Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer of MAS, said, “We are very encouraged by the creative solutions of the winners and finalists of this year’s Global Veritas Challenge. Responsible AI is essential to fostering trust amongst relevant stakeholders including users of AI solutions and recipients of AI-driven decisions. The solutions allow financial institutions to harness the tremendous benefits of AI in their operations while guarding against its risks. We look forward to seeing more innovative solutions in future editions of the Challenge. MAS would also like to thank Accenture for their support in organising this year’s Challenge.”
Still to Come…
Two days down, and one left to go for the main portion of Singapore Fintech Week. Looking ahead to the rest of the week, we have another packed day of in-person events, panels and talks on Wednesday, before SFF switches to a hybrid format for the final two days – which will be an opportunity to highlight some of the less talked about areas of the fintech world.