How can the power of finance and technology be harnessed to create a greener world and, in particular, a greener financial system, Ravi Menon, the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), asked a packed house during the Singapore Fintech Festival’s opening ceremony.
“Fintech must have a larger purpose, must serve a larger good,” the central bank chief said, “One of the most important things that we can do to create a better world for the future is to be more sustainable. We need to make the world greener.”
With Menon’s call for innovation and sustainability, the bustling halls of the Singapore Expo opened up the celebration of world’s largest Fintech festival from November 11-13. Some 60,000 people from 130 countries gathered under one roof to get enthralled by the newest technologies and discoveries in the financial technology world.
This correspondent from Fintech took part in this festival and covered a number of sessions and talked with a number of entrepreneurs. Here is the takeaway of this year’s festival for our readers.
Green finance-the keyword
This year, the Singapore Fintech Festival was all about reimagining fintech for the future, with a main focus being put on green finance and sustainability.
The festival 2019 comes on the heels of the report, “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency”, by 11,258 scientists across 153 countries and a myriad of different disciplines. That report clearly and unequivocally labels climate change an emergency.
The speakers and policymakers there said financing Asia’s shift toward a greener future won’t come cheaply: Southeast Asia is estimated to need around $200 billion annually through 2030, while China would need $450 billion to $600 billion annually to reach its green policy goals.
One of the opening speakers, Singapore’s Education Minister and board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Ong Ye Kung, said Singapore had aimed to become a center for the issuance of green bonds. Citing an October speech of Jacqueline Loh, deputy managing director at the MAS, Kung said that Asia accounted for nearly $50 billion of green bond issuance in 2018 or around 30 percent of the global $168 billion issued.
At the festival the topics up for discussion included the catastrophic impacts of climate change — and how the financial industry can address them. Those topics ranged from how insurers would need to include climate change in their forecasts, to how fintechscould use technology to help measure the climate risks, assist with sustainable investment decisions and develop sustainable financing options.
MAS also rolled out the green finance action plan to strengthen green financing capabilities in Singapore. Green finance initiatives will ensure that financial services such as lending and borrowing, as well as investing, deliver both returns and environmentally positive outcomes, including dealing with climate change.
The launch of a two-billion-dollar Green Investments Programme was also announced. Essentially, the MAS will channel funds to public market investment strategies with a strong green focus, and with asset managers who are committed to deepening green finance activities and capabilities in Singapore.
Singapore’s National AI Strategy
In the festival, Singapore had unveiled five key national AI projects as part of the city state’s new national AI strategy.These projects cover border security, logistics, healthcare, education and estate management.
Among other projects, the government plans to deploy a fully automated immigration clearance system with facial and iris scanning by 2025. By 2022, an AI software system called Selena+ will become operational and will scan and analyze retinal photographs for signs of diabetic eye diseases.
In smart estates, AI-powered chatbots will be launched by 2022 for residents to report issues with municipal services, and in logistics, a common data platform will be developed by 2022 for the intelligent routing and scheduling of trucks.
As part of the National AI Strategy, Singapore has created a new National AI Office under the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office. The new office will be responsible for setting priorities and helping build a pipeline of AI talent. It will also facilitate the commercialization of AI research and act as a link between the private and public sectors.
MAS announces new milestone for Project Ubin
MAS in the festival announced that it had led the successful development of a blockchain-based prototype that enables payments to be carried out in different currencies on the same network.
The prototype network, developed by MAS in collaboration with JP Morgan and Temasek, aims to improve cost efficiencies for businesses and is currently undergoing industry testing to determine its ability to integrate with commercial blockchain applications.
The successful trial marks the latest development of Project Ubin, a collaborative project between MAS and industry partners that explores the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).Project Ubin is now in its fifth phase.
Singapore has cemented itself as a fintech world leader
What Singapore lacks in landmass, they certainly make up for it with their fintech industry. There’s a reason why about 43 percent of fintechs in Southeast Asia choose Singapore as their home. Singapore is the leading country in Southeast Asia in terms of total fintech investment dollars as well as consumer adoption.
While regulation can often be a hindrance in the financial services industry, Singapore understands the fine line between preserving financial stability and giving companies sufficient room to innovate. And when it comes to open banking, for example? Singapore is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to API implementation for banks and fintechs.
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