Singapore’s fintech industry continued its momentum in 2020 due to new regulations, fintech initiatives by regulators themselves and the launch of the city-state’s first digital banks. This emerges from the Singapore Fintech Report 2021, which was created by Fintech News Singapore in collaboration with Alibaba Cloud.
The Singapore Fintech Report 2021 published in January 2021, which can be downloaded here, takes a look at the state of the fintech industry in Singapore and highlights the most important developments that were made in 2020 and that will shape the industry for the coming year.
According to the report, 2020 was a fertile year for Singapore’s fintech startups, which continued to grow and attract funding. Fintech investments in Singapore were $ 346 million in 2020, which is 6.2% of all investments made in Asia.
The sector continued to mature and consolidate with several acquisition deals taking place last year including Grab’s acquisition of robo-advisory fintech Bento and the merger of insurtech player Singlife with Aviva Singapore.
This year four licenses for digital banking were also issued. Two digital wholesale banking licenses were given to the Ant Group, and a consortium made up of Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management and two full digital banking licenses were given to the Grab Singtel consortium and technology giant Sea.
These four digital banks will not have traditional stationary branches, but will market their services and work almost exclusively online. They are expected to shake up the banking industry by deploying cutting-edge technology to help financially marginalized populations. The digital banks in Singapore are expected to start operating in early 2022.
In 2020, Singapore showed its commitment to open banking with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG), who launched the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFindex). The infrastructure uses Singapore’s National Digital Identity (SingPass) to enable citizens to obtain their financial information from various financial institutions and government agencies.
SGFinDex enables Singaporeans to consolidate all of their finances through financial planning services provided by financial institutions as well as MyMoneySense, a free digital financial planning service provided by the Singapore government.
Singapore Fintech Report 2021: Blockchain takes center stage
One fintech industry that has grown in importance in Singapore is blockchain and cryptocurrency, which now dominate the local fintech scene.
Of the 430 fintech startups identified in Singapore, 19% are in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries. This makes it the largest segment ahead of Payments (16%), Investments and Wealthtech (14%) and Regtech (11%).
In 2020, the city-state supported the sector with the start of a new blockchain research program worth S $ 12 million. The Singapore blockchain innovation program aims to accelerate the development and adoption of the technology. Almost 75 companies will design 17 blockchain projects in sectors starting with trade and logistics as well as the supply chain over the next three years.
This year, the Payment Service Act (PSA) also came into force, requiring cryptocurrency companies to obtain a license from MAS to comply with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing (AML / CFT) regulations. The new legislation in Singapore has been praised for the clarity of regulations related to the emerging asset class and industry and could potentially entice companies in the area to locate in the city-state.
Singapore Fintech Report 2021: Overview of MAS modernization efforts
In payments, Singapore continued to modernize its payments infrastructure in 2020, with an emphasis on interoperability and real-time transactions.
MAS announced in November 2020 that from February 2021, eligible non-bank financial institutions in Singapore will have direct access to PayNow and FAST, the country’s retail payment platforms, via a new API payment gateway.
From the customer’s point of view, this means that e-wallet users will soon be able to transfer funds between bank accounts and across different e-wallets. Currently, most e-wallets can only be topped up using credit or debit cards, and money cannot be transferred between e-wallets.
Singapore has also worked with neighboring countries to connect retail payment infrastructures. In December 2020, MAS announced that the connection between Singapore and Thailand’s national faster payment systems will officially go live in mid-2021. The project, which has been in the works for three years, will connect Singapore’s PayNow system with PayPrompt in Thailand to make cross-border payments cheaper and faster.
Ravi Menon, chief executive of MAS, said the regulator is keen to work with other central banks in the region to expand the link across Southeast Asia.
Singapore Fintech Startup Map 2020
Download the full Singapore Fintech Report 2021 here