17 Jun 2016

The Business Times

By JACQUELYN CHEOK

Singapore

FINTECH (or financial technology) continues to win favour among governments worldwide, with Singapore and Australia becoming the latest countries to pledge to jointly foster and bridge their fintech ecosystems.

On Thursday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) inked a partnership to help fintech companies from their respective countries scale into each other's markets.

The MAS said the Innovation Functions Cooperation Agreement signed by both regulators will enable companies to expedite initial discussions and receive advice on the required licences in each other's markets, thus reducing "regulatory uncertainty and time to market".

Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at the MAS, noted that Singapore's vibrant fintech ecosystem - reinforced by sound infrastructure and a growing talent pool - supports companies looking to use the Republic as a gateway to Asia.

He added that MAS was looking forward to partnering ASIC in joint innovation projects on the application of key technologies such as digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers, big data and API (application-programming interface).

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft pointed out that innovations in financial services are not confined by national borders. "ASIC is committed to encouraging innovation that has the potential to benefit financial consumers and investors."

Since ASIC launched its Innovation Hub last year to help fintech startups navigate Australia's regulatory system, it has reportedly processed a surge in requests, particularly in the robo-advice, crowdfunding, payments, marketplace lending and blockchain sectors.

Mr Medcraft said: "It is very exciting ... Clearly, some business ideas will want to scale up internationally. We believe this agreement with the MAS will help break down barriers to entry both here and in Singapore."

The agreement with ASIC is the second fintech cooperation agreement the MAS has signed with a partner country; the first was the Regulatory Cooperation Agreement inked last month with the UK through its Financial Conduct Authority.

On Wednesday, Singapore and South Korea signed a similar agreement - via the Singapore FinTech Consortium and Fintech Center of Korea - to boost the growth of fintech services in the two countries.

Patrick Grove, chief executive of investment firm Catcha Group, told The Business Times: "It's great that governments are now finally working together to support entrepreneurial companies, particularly in fintech!"

The Singapore-born serial entrepreneur explained that for the last 15 years, most Internet entrepreneurs have been operating with "close-to-zero government support". Today, several of Catcha's portfolio companies (such as iCarAsia and Ensogo) are listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, investors of which are widely perceived to be savvy about technology and Internet stocks.

Leong Kok Keong, financial services head at KPMG Singapore, added: "For a small but vibrant fintech community, this could be significant as it extends Singapore's talent pool and reach. The ultimate aim is to achieve greater ideation and innovation as we find new ways of doing business."

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission