Singapore Fintech Festival Leads The World In Scale

Singapore is a global leader in fintech innovation.

The 2019 Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF), held from November 11 to 15 at the Singapore EXPO convention center, marked the third year of what has become the world’s biggest annual fintech gathering.

Featuring more than 400 speakers, 900 exhibitors, 41 international pavilions and approximately 60,000 participants from 130 countries, the SFF allows companies, public agencies and regulators to promote their latest fintech initiatives while networking with investors, customers and collaborators.

“SFF has solidified its position at the epicenter of global innovation in the fintech space” says Mark Leahy, head of Fixed Income at the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and an enthusiastic fintech investor. Leahy asserts that SFF’s unmatched blend of startups, larger tech companies, vendors and a broad range of public-sector and regulatory bodies, combined with the sheer scale of the event, have made it unmissable.

Fintech innovators are increasingly offering scalable cloud-based banking infrastructure. Mambu, for example, offers a turnkey soup-to-nuts banking solution for new digital banks that want to buy plug-and-play technology tailored to their product set and market focus.

“Mambu provides a uniquely low cost and scalable platform for new and established [banking] license holders to scale up operations with a minimum of in-house effort” says Myles Bertrand, managing director of Mambu in Asia-Pacific. Mambu has more than 200 clients in 55 countries, including challengers such as OakNorth Bank in the UK, New10 in the Netherlands, N26 in Germany, Space Bank in Georgia, and Wenance in Argentina.

Lloyd’s & Partners AG (not to be confused with the UK-based bank) offers a pop-up private bank which leverages the fact that Switzerland—uniquely—allows banks to hold and trade cryptocurrencies as well as traditional fiat-based products. “This is proving to have mega-appeal for young rich Asians who typically hold multiple assets, including a range of cryptos,” says Lucas Landolt, Lloyd’s & Partners head of operations.

It isn’t clear whether other jurisdictions will follow suit, and how regulators in London and New York, for example, will choose to respond. Given the rapid growth of the newly wealthy in Asia, many will be asking whether traditional private banking has a future unless it embraces crypto.

Exhibitors at the festival included many new lenders, such as CreditMate, which is geared toward the SME segment; as well as aggregators like Lendingpot, which links more than 40 potential lenders to SME clients. Their presence underlines the confusing range of borrowing options now available to SMEs looking for expansion funding—or simply to plug a weak balance sheet.

New lenders don’t expect to meet their clients in person. Given the rise of digital-only relationships, companies such as Factoro are becoming critical to effective borrower KYC (know your customer) processes, linking social media and other data sources with predictive modeling. In Factoro’s case, it adds automated emotional and behavior analysis to track key personality and reliability traits. “We think emotional tech is the future of virtual lenders,” says Armodio Luigi Corrado, the company’s Ho Chi Minh City–based CEO.

“These events are often about networking opportunities, as well as speakers burnishing their LinkedIn profiles,” says SGX’s Leahy. “SFF moves beyond that by connecting startups with funding and partners, and by catalyzing policymakers into meaningful action.”