Highlights from the Singapore Fintech Festival 

Highlights from the Singapore Fintech Festival 

Photo: Singapore Fintech Festival

The 8th edition of the Singapore Fintech Festival was an eye-opening experience.  The 3-day event brought together 60,000 enthusiasts, leaders and industry players in policy, finance and technology. They discussed trends, solutions, evolving regulatory landscapes and the latest innovations. This year, there were 850 speakers, 480 sessions and 200 exhibitors from 130 countries. 

One of the highlights for many is the payment linkages between Singapore–Malaysia and Malaysia–Indonesia.            

Singapore and Malaysia have connected their real-time payment systems that enable Malaysians and Singaporeans to send cross-border remittances using recipients’ mobile numbers or virtual payment addresses. Separately, the Singapore-Indonesia agreement will benefit travellers and micro and small-sized operators of the countries. 

These collaborations continue to boost payment connectivity among ASEAN countries and promote local currencies for cross-border settlements.

At the event, I also saw a public sector willing to work with the private sector to meet the needs of people to make a better society. Decision makers continue to emphasise giving options to consumers, which is a win-win for everyone.

Here are my top recaps of the Singapore Fintech Festival, in no particular order.

1. International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva said the world needs to pick up speed when exploring and developing central bank digital currencies.

“I have 4 main messages. First, countries did set sail. Many are investigating CBDCs and are developing regulations to guide digital money developments. Second, we have not yet reached land. There is so much more space for innovation and so much uncertainty over use cases. Third, this is not the time to turn back. The public sector should keep preparing to deploy CBDCs and related payment platforms in the future. Fourth, these platforms should be designed from the start to facilitate cross-border payments, including with CBDCs.”

Reaction: Her endorsement and plea for working CBDCs bodes well for the future of cross-border payments and digital currencies.

2. Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon said fintech is about solving real-world problems, improving people’s lives, promoting a more inclusive society and securing a sustainable planet for the future. 

Reaction: I couldn’t agree more. Fintech has transformed the way I think about transactions and connectivity, and there’s no reason to think it’s not going to be even better in the future. 

3. Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam said large language models are going to disrupt and take over jobs much faster than previous technologies. Nevertheless, he said the integration of artificial intelligence into the workforce does not mean that people are going to lose their jobs, but instead jobs are going to change fundamentally.

“In healthcare, for instance, human judgment and decision-making is still needed in matters of life and death, but AI can be used as a tool in diagnosis and treatment.”

Reaction: This hits hard. Being a writer, the arrival of ChatGPT and AI tools changed the game. But what the Singaporean president said is also true. ChatGPT is great when I need to do preliminary research and cook up a quick framework, but it is no substitute for intention, brand values and nuances. What humans can bring to the table is fundamentally different from the AI, and the relationship can be symbiotic instead of disruptive. 

4. World Bank President Ajay Banga said digital highways start from people owning a digital identity, but stressed that both security and privacy should not be compromised.

“That is one of the hardest things to do because people either forget that hiding from the law is an unacceptable social contract or think losing their privacy is an acceptable social contact. Not understanding that will set back the growth of digitalisation. Everyone deserves a digital identity with privacy, but this conservation gets lost in the real world.”

Reaction: I agree that ensuring privacy, security and progress might be too much to ask for the current systems. Progress comes at a price, and I think it's just a matter of whether we are willing to stomach that price of acceptance.

Final thoughts

Another interesting development is the use of biometrics in payments. During the event, Mastercard inked an MoU with NEC Corporation to bring the Mastercard Checkout Programme to the Asia Pacific region. This programme will allow consumers to use biometrics to pay for goods and services through face recognition, skipping the need to unlock a phone or insert a PIN.  

I, for one, can’t wait to pay for hamburgers with my face.

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Pei Ying

Written by

Pei Ying

Senior Writer of Tranglo

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