8th SKBI Annual Conference discusses charting a roadmap toward a new data regime for the digital economy

By the SMU Corporate Communications team

“In this digital era, data play an integral role in businesses. In the finance industry for instance, as customers seek fast, convenient and integrated solutions, financial services have evolved and moved beyond pure banking to incorporate other services such as financial planning and travel bookings. Banks are partnering with providers of value added products and services and providing banking products and services through platforms created by non-banks. Such trends result in financial inclusion, efficiency and innovation. And the proliferation of data and the development of data tools will definitely bring about many economic benefits.


“However, the increasing need to capture, share and use data would also call for reform in the entire ecosystem covering legal, policy, regulatory and institutional adjustments. In this conference, we hope to identify the most critical building blocks of such an enabling regional ecosystem and the roadmap to put these building blocks in place,” said Professor Gerard George, Dean and Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business in his welcome address.


It is with this in mind that the Sim Kee Boon Institute for Financial Economics (SKBI) at Singapore Management University (SMU), together with APEC Business Advisory Council, Asia-Pacific Financial Forum, and International Finance Corporation of World Bank Group, co-organised the 8th annual conference on 20-21 June 2018 to create a roadmap that can show the way forward to reform this ecosystem. The roadmap will be presented to the APEC Finance Ministers for their consideration and endorsement. The conference is supported by Deutsche Bank, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore Business Federation, and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA).


Some 220 local and overseas participants from the finance and banking industry, government agencies, businesses and academia attended the two-day conference.


Professor Ekkehart Boehmer, Academic Director of SKBI and and Keppel Professor of Finance at SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business, said in his introductory remarks that this is the 10th year of SKBI since the Institute was incepted in 2008 as the think-tank within SMU that spearheads cutting-edge research in financial markets that is driven by industry and societal needs in Singapore and the region. “SKBI is now set up to encourage multidisciplinary research in five fundamental pillars, namely Financial Innovation, Financial Inclusion, Capital Markets, Asset Management and Corporate Finance,” said Prof Boehmer.


In addition to SMU faculty, SKBI also works closely with external partners such as DBS and the MAS and has collaborations with overseas academic institutions such as Humboldt University in Berlin. “We believe that independent research by institutions like SKBI provides impartial views, insights, references and useful information for policy makers, investors, companies, practitioners and individuals,” added Prof Boehmer.




In his keynote speech on “Trust and Progressive Data Protection for Innovation", Mr Yeong Zee Kin, Assistant Chief Executive (Data Innovation and Protection Group) of Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore and Deputy Commissioner of Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), cited how artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics have changed the manner in which personal data is generated and used. He further emphasised on the importance of trust in data sharing and use, and shared aspects of PDPC’s direction towards pro-innovation regulations, such as the proposed enhancements to the current consent-based data protection regime, as well as PDPC’s initiatives for responsible AI use.


These initiatives included the formation of an Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data, which brings together companies, representatives of consumer interest, and technology providers to discuss on issues pertaining to the use of AI and other emerging technologies. The Council also serves as a barometer for companies to determine the consumer acceptance levels for technologies.


Besides the Council, PDPC also released a discussion paper promoting an accountability-based framework for AI and personal data. The paper describes general ethical principles, namely fairness, transparency, and explainability, and also studies governance structures within an organisation, such as risk identification mechanisms, risk management features, as well as consumer communication and customer relationship management.


To support the work of the Council, PDPC partnered the Singapore Management University (SMU) to establish a Research Programme on the Governance of AI and Data Use. The programme will advance discourse in ethical, legal, policy, and governance issues where AI is concerned, and is intended to provide a platform for stakeholder engagement and promote Singapore’s thought leadership on this front.


Mr Yeong highlighted that emerging technologies such as AI, data science and analytics are still new, and the market utilisation of these technologies has not settled. He said the appropriate way to approach this issue would be “to work with the industry to introduce structures and frameworks for conversations, and to have a common language and definition to reduce misunderstandings, so that issues can be identified more quickly. Platforms and forums should also be provided, where the right stakeholders, such as technology providers, user companies, and consumers who purchase or use these companies’ products, can come together to have conversations. These conversations will ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction, and at a pace that everyone is ready for.”


From left to right: Mr David Hardoon (Chief Data Officer, Data Analytics Group, Monetary Authority of Singapore), Mr Jianshu Weng (Senior Analytics Specialist, Digital and Smart Analytics, Swiss Re Asia Pte Ltd), Mr Zhijian Liu (General Counsel, JD Finance), Mr John Henry Ott (Director, Bain & Co. Inc) discussed The Evolving Data Industry and Technology Landscape at a panel moderated by Mr Patrick D Walker (Director of Research, PERC).


The first day of the conference saw five panels addressing the key developments in the landscape of the data industry, how stakeholders are responding to these new trends and the regulatory approaches. On the second day, discussants shared their insights on topics such as cross border data access, trust, ethics and standards in relation to the use of data.


At a panel discussion on The Evolving Data Landscape, Mr David Hardoon, Chief Data Officer, Data Analytics Group, MAS, commented that from the regulatory perspective, in addition to their basic responsibility of ensuring stability and handling risks, regulators also have to understand the impact on the existing eco-system – how industries are fundamentally changing, and invent and reinvent themselves in the area of dealing with data. He opined that the insatiable thirst for data nowadays also begets responsibility. Regulation and governance needs to go hand in hand with innovation. He concluded that the reality of the data landscape is that it is constantly changing, and raised the question of how a regulator would have to change together with it, instead of the traditional approach of just reacting to what has happened.


The conference materials and gallery may be accessed here.


[Featured photo: Mr Yeong Zee Kin, Assistant Chief Executive (Data Innovation and Protection Group) of Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore and Deputy Commissioner of Personal Data Protection Commission, delivered the keynote speech.]