Commentary: Two small countries can be big players on the financial services stage

Commentary: Two small countries can be big players on the financial services stage

Collaboration between Singapore and New Zealand in the technology space will make both nations big players in the financial services world, says one observer.

Singapore night skyline
The value of fintech investment in Singapore increased significantly in the second quarter of 2017, compared to a year ago, despite fewer deals being completed. (Photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: The technological revolution over the last few years has undeniably disrupted many industries – and the financial services sector is not excluded. 

At this intersection of finance and technology lies the fintech phenomenon, which has seen many new businesses enter the market to provide products and services that aim to make the lives of customers easier.

Today, however, fintech is more than that. As leading players in the financial services sector look to become more competitive with the introduction of industry-changing solutions, there is an increasing demand for more advanced products and services that go beyond meeting customer demands.

To stay ahead of the curve in a prominent finance hub like Singapore, it is no surprise that local banks and financial institutions are increasingly collaborating with international businesses to harness innovative and revolutionary fintech solutions.

New Zealand, a country that shares common characteristics and values with Singapore, is part of that collaborative network. As two small and advanced economies in Asia Pacific, New Zealand and Singapore share a similar worldview. 

Our economies are outwardly focused and complementary, and we are strong proponents of regional economic integration. Both countries also rank at the top of the pack globally for ease of doing business, and for being the least corrupt.

More importantly, New Zealand recognises that to bring our tech solutions to the world stage, collaboration is key.

PROVEN TRACK RECORD FOR COLLABORATION

These complementary skills are at play in the technology space.

Over the years, New Zealand’s technology sector has seen rapid growth – it is now the country’s third largest and fastest growing export sector. 

In the past year alone, 200 of our largest technology exporters grew their overseas trade by 12.4 per cent, reaching a value of over S$7 billion. 

Today, technology industry players continue to look outside our borders for opportunities to expand further.

Meanwhile, Singapore, with its conducive business environment and government’s push to create a robust fintech ecosystem, has proven to be a springboard for technology companies looking to meet the challenges of the country and the wider region.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung at the Singapore Fintech Festival
Singapore's Education Minister Ong Ye Kung speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival on Nov 14, 2018. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

The country’s "sandbox" initiative also allows for fintech players and start-ups to experiment with and test potential fintech solutions in a risk-free environment. This is coupled with a strong legal framework in Singapore. 

There are regulations on payments and guidelines on secure cloud computing, which are continually assessed and evaluated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Furthermore, Singapore’s established industry experience and executional business capability complements the creative solutions and technology expertise coming from New Zealand in areas like insurtech, cybersecurity and data systems.

In fact, some New Zealand companies have already established their presence as trusted partners in the Singapore financial services landscape, providing creative solutions that help to improve efficiency, increase transparency and generate growth in tandem with local companies.

For example, Auckland-based company 9 Spokes have been working with OCBC in Singapore to deliver a version of its market-leading small-business insights tool tailored to the bank’s customers. 

The OCBC Dashboard, launching at the Singapore FinTech Festival, will allow SMEs to monitor their internal operations and track performance in real-time, helping them make more informed business decisions.

OCBC Bank Singapore
The OCBC logo outside one of its branches in Singapore. (File photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

Another Auckland company, Delta Insurance, opened its Singapore office in 2017, and was the first local company in Singapore to offer cyber security insurance. 

With cybercrime estimated to cost Singapore over S$2 billion each year, Delta has created a holistic Cyber Risk Management solution to help clients in the financial services industry and elsewhere manage and mitigate these risks for their business. 

READ: Cybersecurity is the next economic battleground, a commentary

On the evidence of successful partnerships like this, many more New Zealand companies are targeting Singapore for expansion, and they are creating solutions tailored to the specific needs of businesses in Singapore and the region.

This year, a total of 12 New Zealand technology companies are participating at the Singapore FinTech Festival to both showcase their technological expertise and creativity, and create more collaborative partnerships with key players in financial services.

As part of the festival, two of these companies, Valocity and Eightwire, have also reached the final stage of the Global Fintech Hackcelerator competition, tackling some of the most pressing issues facing the financial services world today.

READ: A safer online playground powered by hackers, a commentary

Through its first-of-its kind cloud-based mortgage lending and valuation platform in New Zealand, Valocity has enabled banks to streamline the entire mortgage lending process. This enables banks to deliver a more seamless, transparent and relevant customer experience while at the same time managing risk and regulatory compliance.

FILE PHOTO: A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas
A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, US on July 29, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo)

Meanwhile, Eightwire’s technology allows for financial services companies to share data between systems autonomously and securely. Their technology runs in a secrecy security model that has government certification for national security data, which also means that the company’s customers know that their personal information meets strict privacy requirements for aggregation.

As part of the competition, the two companies have worked with local corporate sponsors and industry mentors to develop and refine their solutions for contextualised problem statements. 

EXCITING TIMES AHEAD

It is competitions like the Global Fintech Hackelerator that highlight the significance of collaborative fintech partnerships between countries like Singapore and New Zealand.

As the industry continues to develop further with more emerging technologies set to come into play, the need to collaborate cannot be ignored. 

I look forward to more collaborations between Singapore and New Zealand in the creation of fintech solutions that will bring positive outcomes and sustained growth to both our countries and the wider region.

Hayley Horan is New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner to Singapore.

Source: CNA/nr(sl)

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