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Interview with Singapore FinTech Association-Part 1


In this newsletter, we continue our conversation with leaders of local FinTech ecosystem in the region. Our Managing Partner Edward Shen sat down with Reuben Lim, Chief Operating Officer of Singapore FinTech Association (SFA), to explore the FinTech landscape in Singapore and Southeast Asia


In Part 1 of our engaging interview with Reuben, we dive into the core of SFA's mission and the vibrant FinTech ecosystem in Singapore, including a comprehensive introduction to SFA and SFA’s role as a cross-industry, non-profit platform that fosters collaboration among participants and stakeholders within the FinTech world. With over 830 corporate members, including distinguished FinTech companies, SFA is dedicated to promoting engagement through various initiatives, events, and knowledge-sharing endeavors. Notably, Reuben underscores SFA's strong support from key regulatory bodies, reinforcing its commitment to championing the growth of the FinTech sector in Singapore.


In Part 2, we talk to Reuben to learn more about the future of FinTech in Southeast Asia and how SFA supports and accelerates its growth.

 

Now, let’s dive into Part 1 of the interview with Reuben.


Edward: Good to see you and thanks for taking time for this interview. Can you briefly introduce Singapore FinTech Association (SFA)?


Reuben: It’s my pleasure and thanks for having me.


Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) serves as a vital cross-industry, non-profit platform, fostering collaboration among all participants and stakeholders within the FinTech ecosystem.


SFA's mission is crystal clear: to promote engagement and business growth in the FinTech world through a repertoire of initiatives such as events, membership programs, knowledge-sharing, reports, and overseas business missions.


This internationally recognized non-profit trade body boasts a robust membership base of approximately 830 corporate members and another large base of individual members. Impressively, over 700 of these members are distinguished FinTech companies, while the remainder contributes to the diversity of Singapore's FinTech ecosystem.

What sets SFA apart is its unwavering support from key regulatory bodies, including the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Enterprise Singapore, a National Government Agency operating under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. These affiliations underscore SFA's dedication to championing the FinTech sector's growth in Singapore.

Edward: Can you describe the FinTech ecosystem in Singapore?


Reuben: The FinTech ecosystem in Singapore is a diverse landscape encompassing a wide array of players, characterized by its unique composition. Within the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA), two distinct categories emerge: licensed entities engaged in financial activities and non-licensed entities providing technical solutions, primarily catering to both local and international financial services institutions.

This ecosystem can be effectively categorized along two axes. Horizontally, it spans various business models, including B2B, B2C, and B2B2C, while also offering a wide variety of specialized products including InsurTech, RegTech, remittance, payments, WealthTech, digital finance, cybersecurity, web3, DeFi, blockchain, GreenTech such as, carbon credit exchange, and carbon reporting.

On the vertical axis, funding levels range from early-stage startups to publicly listed companies and established corporations. This comprehensive spectrum reflects the dynamism and breadth of Singapore's FinTech landscape.


Edward: Can you explain the structure of SFA and your role within the organizaiton?


Reuben: SFA's governance comprises two essential components. Firstly, we have the Executive Committee, often referred to as the board members. This distinguished group is comprised of 11 members, democratically elected by the SFA members every two years during our Annual General Meeting (AGM). The current Executive Committee is under the leadership of Mr. Shadab Taiyabi as President, with support from Ms. Khai Lin Sng as Vice President. Additionally, the Executive Committee is further bolstered by two other office bearers and seven additional members.


Besides Executive Committee, we have a full-time team, which consists of a total of 12 dedicated individuals, and I am leading this full-time team.

Furthermore, SFA operates with 10 subcommittees and 5 working groups. These subcommittees and working groups comprise members who work full-time with other companies but actively participate in SFA's initiatives. These members, representing their respective companies, contribute their expertise and insights to enhance the collaborative efforts within the FinTech ecosystem.

This organizational structure ensures that SFA can effectively and efficiently drive our mission forward, facilitating cooperation and innovation in the FinTech landscape.


Edward: How would you define FinTech in the context of Singapore’s financial landscape?

Reuben: In the context of Singapore's financial landscape, FinTech is a dynamic and enduring sector that combines finance and technology. It's important to understand that FinTech companies are fundamentally tech-driven, providing solutions that cater to financial needs. However, they operate within a regulated framework and require licenses in each country they serve.

FinTech solutions fall into two categories:


  1. Financial Solutions: These are tech-driven solutions designed to address financial needs. They are regulated and require licensing in each operating country.

  2. Technology Solutions for Financial Institutions: Examples include RegTech, which do not require licensing but necessitate a deep understanding of the financial sector and business needs to serve their specific requirements.


In essence, FinTech is firmly established in Singapore and poised for growth, bridging the worlds of finance and technology with innovative, regulated solutions.


Edward: There are a number of sub-sectors within FinTech and SFA has many sub-committee to promote each sub-sector. From your perspective, which sub-sector will have more opportunities in the near future? How does SFA support the growth of FinTech?


Reuben: Within the world of FinTech, opportunities abound across various sub-sectors. SFA strategically segments these sub-sectors to serve narrower aspects of the FinTech landscape, and our support for their growth revolves around three key pillars:


  1. Education and Outreach: We recognize that FinTech solutions often extend beyond the financial sector. Therefore, we collaborate with organizations and government agencies to introduce these solutions to a broader audience, including SMEs, retailers, and merchants. By working with industry associations and trade groups, we promote and advocate for these solutions.

  2. Advocacy: Each sub-sector within FinTech interacts with different regulatory aspects. SFA acts as a unified voice on behalf of these sub-sectors when engaging with regulators. This ensures that specific interests and concerns are effectively communicated to the appropriate regulatory teams, such as financial policy, cybersecurity, capital markets, and more.

  3. Tailored Support: Recognizing the distinct needs of each sub-sector, SFA leverages its position to develop programs and initiatives to address those needs. By understanding and identifying the unique requirements of these sub-communities, we can provide targeted support to foster their growth.


Furthermore, SFA administers specific grants exclusively for FinTech companies, while also promoting and raising awareness of government-administered grants available to all Singaporean enterprises. This comprehensive support framework underscores SFA's commitment to fostering growth, knowledge, and international expansion within the FinTech ecosystem.


Edward: Can you tell us more about the grants?

Reuben: SFA has been involved in administering grants to support FinTech companies. One such grant, the Business Growth Grant, was provided by MAS for FinTech companies to collaborate with Financial Institutions (FIs) on Proof of Concepts (POCs). SFA acts as the grant administrator for this program.

Another grant, known as the LEAD grant, is offered in partnership with Enterprise Singapore. This grant supports SFA members by providing opportunities to host booths at events like the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF).


SFA also collaborates with government agencies, such as the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF), to facilitate access to training grants. These grants, typically reserved for licensed FIs, are extended to FinTech companies certified by SFA.


Edward: Thank you Reuben for all the insights and we will wrap up for the first session of the interview with you. Next week, in Part 2 of the interview, we will discuss with you how SFA keeps track of the progress to achieve the goals and objectives, as well as the role of Singapore in the Asia Pacific FinTech landscape.


Compiled and edited by Christing Wei

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