Gerben Visser and the future of Asian Fintech

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In this in in-depth interview we caught up with Gerben Visser, who through Singapore Fintech Consortium is driving the development of Singapore as a regional fintech powerhouse. As one of the key supporters of the Future Bank Asia conference (20th-21st April, Singapore), we wanted to ask Gerben all about his vision for the future of financial innovation in Singapore and beyond:

How has fintech in Singapore evolved since you have been involved in the space?

Compared to the developed countries like US and UK, FinTech in Singapore is still embryonic, but it is growing tremendously. Singapore has a great infrastructure to build a vibrant FinTech sector – with great ecosystem consisting of legislators, financial institutions, regulators, investors and startups.

But over the past year, FinTech has been emerging from the ‘grass root’ start up ecosystems into receiving significant awareness and more recently obtained traction within both the financial services industry at large, as well as substantial attention from the government and regulatory agencies. There is also gradual recognition of the need to “bridge the gap”, particularly between larger corporations, the start-ups in the grassroots, and other organizations along the value chain.

Why do you think Singapore is ideally placed as a hub for fintech in Asia?

A crucial factor that points Singapore as a FinTech hub is the confluence of its emerging status as a technology hub and its place as one of the world’s leading financial center, home to many regional HQs of large banks and technology companies.

Moreover, the Singapore government is increasing its support to FinTech and entrepreneurs. For instance, MAS has set up a FinTech and Innovation group (FTIG) which will formulate and develop regulatory policies and development strategies.

Thirdly, Singapore is geographically located closer to the booming ASEAN region, providing closer access to opportunities arising from efforts to establish greater financial inclusion in the region through digital innovation.

Last but not least, Singapore has the privilege of having a glimpse into the future when we look at the more advanced economies in Europe and the US. Already, we are seeing the established banks in Singapore mirroring some of the strategies adopted overseas, such as establishing innovation centres, partnering with accelerators, establishing venture capital arms to acquire FinTech companies, and forming partnerships and deals with FinTech companies as well. The same can be said of the major technology companies and the usual suspects in the telecommunications industry. We anticipate further acceleration of such activities in the near future.

What are the three fintech trends that you are most excited about for Southeast Asia?

Firstly, FinTech has become a topic of strategic importance in the C-suite, having grown from a niche discussion to become a more relevant and mainstream movement.

Secondly, more financial institutions in Southeast Asia are mirroring western countries to develop innovation strategy, such as establishing innovation centers, partnering with accelerators and investing in FinTech companies. Major technology and telecommunication companies are also looking into the FinTech.

Thirdly, FinTech in Southeast Asia is propelled by a critical need to address pain points of “underbanking” in developing economies. Many FinTech companies are tackling issues in relation to financial inclusion.

How can regulators best support the evolution of fintech innovation?

From a regulatory perspective, the Singapore government is increasingly receptive in embracing discussions with market participants in the financial services industry and FinTech community.

Most regulators in advanced and developed jurisdications have started to become more proactively engaged with the broader stakeholders to implement in a more constructive and transparent ways the regulatory initiatives and frameworks.

More importantly, the need get up the knowledge curve of the ever faster developing FinTech trends and activities and anticipate accordingly is critical to all whom have a vested interest to implement FinTech solutions.

How is the Singapore Fintech Consortium helping fintech to grow?

The mission of the Singapore FinTech Consortium is to build Singapore’s FinTech ecosystem by promoting market interaction between participants. We aim to be the platform to offer a sustained resource for all players for the FinTech community in Singpore and Southeast Asia through our online and offline service offering.

We like to term our platform as a ‘demilitarized zone’, so that we can be an effective platform for our partners to engage with multiple stakeholders to find solutions to implement and promote best FinTech innovation practices in a collaborative, open and transparent manner.

Why are you and the consortium excited about supporting Future Bank Asia?

Future Bank Asia will provide the audience a comprehensive insight on the future strategies that banks should adopt with engaging conversations on emerging themes. It is a great initiative to connect banks, regulators and start-ups, which is truly aligned with our objective to foster the FinTech ecosystem in the region.

Gerben Visser is one of over 120 speakers joining us on 20th-21st April at Suntec Convention Centre for Future Bank Asia. To book your ticket CLICK HERE.

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