6th SKBI Annual Conference discusses Fintech and Financial Inclusion

By the SMU Corporate Communications team

More than 300 professionals from the financial industry, financial innovators, investors, regulators and academia attended the 6th Annual SKBI Conference jointly organised by the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics (SKBI) at Singapore Management University and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and supported by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the United Overseas Bank on 18-19 August 2016 at the Mochtar Riady Auditorium.

Themed "Fintech and Financial Inclusion", the conference aimed to explore the growing use of financial technologies and how they can contribute to financial inclusion. Expert speakers from around the world working in the area of technology and inclusion delivered their insights through keynote speeches and in-depth panel discussions.

In his Opening Remarks, Mr Piyush Gupta, Chairman of SKBI Advisory Board and CEO of DBS Group said that with Singapore’s strong public-private sector ties, the country is uniquely poised to be a living lab for Fintech. He noted that societies will have to grapple with issues of data privacy, data security and data access, and there is no better country than Singapore to pull these pieces together.

Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) and Co-Chairman of the Committee on the Future Economy said in his Opening Speech that Fintech is a critical differentiator for Singapore to remain a leading financial hub in the region. “Our finance and insurance sector has been a key growth contributor in recent years, and the future outlook for this sector will be driven in part by the growth of Fintech. Hence, we want Singapore to be a leading global Fintech hub.”

He said that Singapore has sought to strike an optimal regulatory balance between ensuring the financial system’s safety and stability, and providing an environment conducive for Fintech innovation. “This is one of the main reasons why Singapore’s FinTech scene has been so vibrant, with the number of Fintech start-ups in Singapore more than doubling, from around 140 in 2015 to more than 290 today.”

Minister Iswaran added that besides a sound regulatory environment, the Government will also support Singapore companies in the adoption of Fintech, particularly e-payments, which confer on our SMEs significant productivity gains through the digitisation of business processes and greater efficiency of e-payments.

He urged industry participants to collaborate with each other in building Singapore’s Fintech ecosystem. One key way to collaborate is in sharing their latest research, insights and ideas. “Open innovation and collaboration even among competitors has become a defining feature of many sectors today. Even more so, in an industry as wide-ranging and multi-disciplinary as Fintech. The bringing together of fresh perspectives can catalyse cross-sector collaboration and strengthen the overall ecosystem.”

[Caption: Mr Chen Long, Chief Strategy Officer of Ant Financial, spoke on the development of Fintech in China in recent years.]

Mr Chen Long, Chief Strategy Officer of Ant Financial, delivered the Keynote Speech “From Fintech to Finlife: the future of Fintech and Inclusive Finance" in which he shared the development of Fintech in China in recent years. This was followed by a series of panel discussions by prominent experts in the Fintech and Financial Inclusion space including IMF, Interruptiv, Plug & Play FinTech and Stanford University who shared their insights on topics including Technology for Fintech, Potential Challenges for Fintech, and Developments in Blockchain Technology.

[Caption: SKBI Advisory Board member Professor David Lee (extreme right) moderated a panel discussion on ‘Financial Technology and Inclusion’.]

[Caption: Mr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Education, was the guest-of-honour at the conference dinner.]

The first day of the conference concluded with a conference dinner featuring a speech by Mr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Education.

[Caption: MAS managing director Mr Ravi Menon outlined the four key strategies to create an e-payments society in Singapore.]

In his Keynote Speech on Day 2 of the conference, Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of Monetary Authority of Singapore, unveiled the vision to make Singapore an electronic payments society that spurs continuous innovation in payments technology; gives consumers maximum convenience and confidence in making payments; enables firms to increase productivity through payments integrated with business processes; and where swift, simple, and secure payments is a reality for everyone.

He outlined the four key strategies to create an e-payments society in Singapore:

· streamlined regulation which are targeted, activity based and risk appropriate;

· inclusive governance framework that brings together different stakeholders to guide the development of Singapore’s payments landscape in a coherent way;

· interoperable infrastructure to enable swift, simple, and secure electronic payments for everyone;

· pervasive digitization to help businesses to digitise their processes and integrate them with electronic payments solutions, so as to maximise productivity and efficiency gains.

Mr Menon said that of all the developments in Fintech, it is in payments where the gains in financial inclusion are potentially strongest, as everyone needs to use payment services to participate in the economy and society. He concluded that an e-payments society “will be inclusive, innovative, and perhaps, even inspiring.”

[Caption: SKBI research fellow Dr Ernie Teo (extreme left) was a panel member in the discussion ‘Smart Nation, Sharing Economy, and e-Residency’.]

Panel discussions on Day 2 explored topics such as Smart Nation, Sharing Economy, and e-Residency, and Virtual Currencies and Payment Systems by experts from various organisations including European Central Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, Microsoft and Indian School of Business.

The day ended with a roundtable discussion on policy challenges by representatives from Reserve Bank of India, Central Bank of the Philippines, Monetary Authority of Singapore, and University of Nairobi. The session was moderated by Mr Rhee Changyong, Director of Asia and Pacific Department, IMF.