Asia Fintech

The #FinTech4SDG Payoff

Bankers and founders alike have made FinTech for Sustainability a foundation for getting rich quick – while protecting the planet. Our own pages have reported on Standard Chartered’s $75bn commitment towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN’s own task forces have been trying to figure out ways to get FinTech money in the hands of start-ups that focus on social, environmental and labour issues. FinTech can raise a lot of money for SDGs – as well as the FinTech start-ups, intrapreneured ventures and even formal I-bank led FinTech start-ups. The $300 trillion figure gets bandied around quite a bit. Could a FinTech start up really attract so much money — and for such a good cause?

Our research finds that only $50 billion to $125 billion could come from a ‘FinTech Dividend. Unlike the claiming trillions, these rewards can go to FinTech firms who know how to play the policy game. Such a dividend could come from FinTech platforms getting subsidized loans — like several banks have vowed to give. Such a divided will not come from the vapid, one line recommendations made by the UN and World Bank.

In this paper, FinTech greenfields and remittances alone represent multi-billion dollar opportunities. Some FinTech initiatives actually compete – rather than support- private FinTech, making private Fintech investing for the SDGs a risk… and an opportunity. If you can get the Asian Development Bank, IFC, or European Investment Bank to fund your company, you are sailing. If not, you compete against firms that do receive this kind of patronage.

Instead of policy pronouncements (from the UN and local governments like the US) we need legal reform. A clear position by a body by the Finacial Stability Board (or FSB, the closest thing we have to a global rulemaker) would help. Yet, the FSB clearly wants to see what shakes out of the financial system — not in guiding it. Country law can vary like night and day. In Taiwan’s case, their official FinTech law consists of a few pages of general guidelines (following the Chinese law-writing approach). In Mexico, their FinTech law spands hundreds of pages – clearly movatied by the American school of law writing. Yet, neither method seems better – as measured by pulling in FinTech assets, FinTech focused on SDGs, or on sustainable development more generally. We do not know what encourages productive and profitable FinTech4SDGs.

Yet, given UN waste, membership waste, and little support, we know that SDGs could – at a max – receive only about 3%-13% of their funding from FinTechs. Making such a number higher will rely on deregulation for so many — which keeps investment (even by government agencies) at a mere $200 billion. The UN won’t invent the next, great FinTech to help fund the SDGs. Start ups in remittances and digital wallet-style credit — whether on a blockchain…or not — have also raised billions. These areas should get both public and private support.

But $50 million is better than nothing. If you put a ‘SDG spin’ on your start up, you are more likely to get funding, and impress your socially-conscious peers, workers and younger siblings.


For the research, see:

Dr. Bryane Michael currently works for the University of Hong Kong. He worked on financial law and economics at the World Bank and OECD in the 1990s, EU and Oxford for the past 20 years, and continues work with the Hong Kong government on financial law reform.


Authored by Bryane Michael, University of Hong Kong



  • Dr. Bryane Michael (FSRA) researches how to make FinTech law more profitable for their host jurisdictions - at the University of Hong Kong. His project also includes developing an investible FinTech4SDG index for institutional investors (as a Series 7 and 66 securities advisor) and pilot programammes for 2 countries.

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