In the latest move to compete with Hong Kong as a financial technology hub, the Monetary Authority of Singapore yesterday announced the opening of a fintech lab that aims to bring in industry experts to consult with start-ups on legal, regulatory and business matters as well as provide a place to network and offer training sessions.
“MAS has been encouraging financial institutions to anchor their innovation labs in Singapore. [We] are pleased to open our own FinTech Innovation Lab, underscoring MAS’ commitment to promoting a culture of innovation in the financial sector.”
Yet the attempt to nurture a “culture of innovation” is in sharp contrast to a government policy to restrict the internet. Singapore intends to cut off web access for public servants as a defense against potential cyberattack, according to a Reuters report.
Ben Desjardins, director of security solutions at network security firm Radware, was one of several technology experts quoted in the report who were critical. He called it "one of the more extreme measures I can recall by a large public organisation to combat cyber security risks".
Many governments around the world have been subjected to cyber-attacks, but unlike Singapore, the solution has been to build a sophisticated defense.
China/Hong Kong fintech lead
Both Singapore and Hong Kong continue to make announcements about government support for fintech. This year, Singapore signed separate agreements with the UK and Australia to develop cross-border fintech development. Not to be outdone, Hong Kong’s regulator set up a fintech advisory group to promote development.
However, in terms of investment capital, a recent study by Accenture shows that Hong Kong has attracted nearly 5x more fintech investment ($135m) than Singapore ($35m).
Hong Kong and China together pulled in $9bn, according to the study. The top 10 investments in Asia-Pacific fintech ventures occurred in China and Hong Kong, accounting for 90% of overall Asia-Pacific investments and valued at $8.75bn, the firm said.
“China’s established companies, rather than nascent startups, are at the forefront of the fintech trend in the region,” said Beat Monnerat, the firm’s senior managing director of financial services in Asia-Pacific.
“Fintech companies with major backers such as Alibaba and JD.com are focused on providing positive end-to-end customer experiences, which includes payments and lending. This is transforming China’s financial services industry and is consistent with the global ‘fourth industrial revolution’, which is bringing innovation from non-traditional competitors to the financial services industry.”