2020 was a prolific year for Singapore’s FinTech start-ups as FinTech investment reached US$346 million, representing 6.2% of all that was raised in Asia.
Singapore holds immense potential for FinTech to thrive backed up by its solid technology and innovation roots, sophisticated and educated citizens, strong financial background, unparalleled infrastructure as well as progressive, liberal and cohesive government regulations.
In 2021 and beyond, FinTech is bound to accelerate growth on account of digitalization of financial services primarily driven by Blockchain, AI and cryptocurrency.
- Market Overview
- Key Market Metrics
- Top Market Opportunities
- Market Drivers
- Market Restraints
- Technology Trends
- Regulatory Trends
- Other Key Market Trends
- Market Size and Forecast
- Market Outlook
- Technology Roadmap
- Competitive Landscape
- Key Market Players
- Strategic Conclusions
FinTech, short for Financial Technology includes a huge range of products, technologies and business models that are changing the face of financial services industries. It refers to everything from cashless payments, to crowd funding platforms, to robo advisors to virtual currencies. The global investment in the Fintech sector has added upto nearly $100 billion since 2010.
In 2020 alone, FinTech global investment surged upto to 20% and start-ups focusing on payments and lending technologies received majority of the funds. The traditional banking services which has long dominated the financial service scene is now being disrupted with the advent of FinTech players who are responding with smarter solutions to cater to the same financial needs of the customers.
FinTech is a digital forum where diverse players such as: traditional Financial Institutions, technology firms, start-ups, infrastructure operators, e-commerce as well as telecommunications firms compete to satisfy needs of the discerning customers. Even though in general FinTech represents financial products and services enabled by technology, it also represents a huge digital territory where the lines between Financial service and non-Financial service providers are blurred.
FinTech is a thriving industry in Singapore with an increasing number of companies seeking new opportunities to collaborate, connect and co-create. In 2020, as per Findexable’s Global Fintech Index, Singapore was ranked as the top Fintech city in Asia considering it is home to over 40% FinTech across South East Asia. Singapore’s Fintech industry was duly propagated back in 2017, when Singaporean FinTech start-ups investment amplified to US$229 million while the rest of the FinTech start-ups across Asia was dwindling.
This investment was primarily sourced by government subsidies, grants, angel investors, venture capital, corporate venture divisions as well as Singapore’s FinTech association. Additionally, Singapore hosts FinTech Festival every year to gather the global FinTech community to discuss the future of the sector which augments the country’s commitment to this sector.
Over the years, Singapore has built itself a reputation as the FinTech hub of the world. With GDP of US$52,960, Singapore has a ultra-high-speed fibre infrastructure along with mobile subscription penetration beyond 100% which are the key reasons for the development of Fintech in the country. Besides this, Singaporean government also has been a consistent supporter of the sector as this sector is a core part of the country mission to become a Smart Nation. This initiative was announced back in 2014 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to keep Singapore at the forefront of the digital transformation.
In light of its smart nation initiative, the Singaporean government has set up their regulatory structure such that FinTech industry could grow and prosper. For instance, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced a $125 Million support package for the financial and FinTech sectors to deal with the immediate challenges from COVID-19.
MAS has also launched a $6 Million MAS-SFA-AMTD FinTech Solidarity Grant to help Singapore-based FinTechs sustain operations, retain staff, and offset POC costs. Besides this, MAS has also arranged FinTech and Innovation Group to transcend from digital payment structure from banks to telcos. The Singaporean government also offers grants and mentorships to start-ups, accelerators and incubators in the FinTech entities which include:
- Start Singapore Accelerator (for FinTech incubators and accelerators)
- Start-up Singapore Equity
- Start-up Singapore Founder
- Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI)
2020 was a prolific year for Singapore’s FinTech start-ups with FinTech investment of US$346 million, of which 6.2% was raised in Asia, as per the Singapore FinTech Report published in 2021. The FinTech sector in Singapore continues to mature with several consolidation and acquisition pacts being rolled out including; the purchase of robo-advisory FinTech Bento by Grab, and the merger of Insurtech player Singlife with Aviva Singapore.
Singapore Fintech industry is diverse and accordingly so are its Fintech companies. The major category of Fintechs in Singapore include: Insur Tech, RegTech and data analytics, Payments and remittances, Lending and credit, Wealth management and capital markets. Of all the categories of FinTechs in Singapore, Digital payments and remittances leads the way with 23%, and this is likely to ring true for the year 2021 as well with an investment worth US$11,200 million.
In 2020, MAS has taken great stride to modernise Singapore payment infrastructure with a primary focus on interoperability and real-time transactions. Some of the highlights include:
- Since February 2021, eligible non-bank financial institutions in Singapore would have direct access to PayNow and FAST through a new API payment gateway. This means customers using e-wallet could make funds transfers between bank accounts and across different e-wallets.
- MAS has also announced that the linkage between Singapore’s PayNow system with Thailand’s PayPrompt, will go live by mid-2021, which makes cross-border payments cheaper and faster.
Key Market Metrics
|Market Revenues (2020, USD)||More than $150 billion|
|Market Growth Rate (2020-2025, %)||70-75% annually|
|Number of Companies in the market||1000+ Fintechs in Singapore alone|
Top Market Opportunities
Singapore has solid financial standing, supreme physical and digital infrastructure, favourable network of investors, and complimentary government regulations which makes Singapore a perfect destination for FinTech to thrive.
Fintech are filling the void for people who do not have access to financial services. Too many people are unbanked and have no credit facilities in south-east Asia. This poses good opportunity for Fintech companies in Singapore to expand into these uncharted territories. Fintech adoption rates are especially high in China and India; more than half the consumers are using the services such as money transfers, financial planning, borrowing and insurance.
Singapore also serves as a gateway for FinTech companies to penetrate emerging economies especially in ASEAN region. In 2020 alone, there was more than 490 new FinTech start-ups established in Singapore. These start ups can have access to over 625 million people in the region which is far more superior than that of USA (319 million) and the EU (504 million).
FinTechs can grow from strength to strength if it continues to ally with Financial institutions, E-Commerce players, and Data providers without considering them as a threat. The Financial institutions could support FinTech in getting access to customers and financial services infrastructure. Similarly, E-commerce players could also provide FinTechs with greater access given their advanced customer ecosystems. On the other hand, data providers could provide alternative data that FinTechs can use to develop more innovative and effective products for their partners and customers.
Singapore is already a sophisticated and developed financial hub. It is also considered as the Switzerland of Asia as more and more people are getting well educated/ informed on money management industry and financial industry. The Singaporean government is also supportive of the overall Fintech start-up ecosystem. Some of the primary reasons as to why Singapore’s aspiration to become a leader in Fintech space is turning into reality are as explained along the following lines:
Fintech investment ecosystem in Singapore
The investment made by venture capitalists and private equity have had an instrumental difference in making Singapore a global FinTech powerhouse. Between 2015-2019, roughly 65% of the FinTech funding in Southeast Asia was directed to businesses in Singapore, which is four times more than the funding received by the next-largest market.
Besides Singapore, other largest neighbouring markets include Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Although the FinTech landscape in Singapore seems promising, compared to Silicon Valley it is still in nascent stage as the majority of the FinTech-focused investors in the region only participate in early-stage funding. Almost, 70% of Singapore FinTech investments are in Seed and Series A rounds.
On the other hand, many multinational companies particularly from United States and China are also tempted to invest after realising the growth prospects in the region. Examples include American multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Visa, AIA, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook investing in Gojek and its financial services business, and Chinese financial services player Ant Financial investing in several e-wallet FinTechs throughout the Southeast Asia.
Singapore’s FinTech investor scene is progressive. However, if more initiatives such as favourable tax incentives or localised VCs are maintained then more foreign offices, would set up offices in Singapore.
Liberal and cohesive regulation for Fintech
Singapore’s regulatory system has come a long way and currently hosts several initiatives favourable for Fintech ecosystem in Singapore. The country houses more than 40 innovation lab, 100 plus incubators centres that supports start-ups by providing working spaces, mentorship and funding.
Besides this, the regulatory sandbox was also augmented with Sandbox Express, back in 2019, for faster market testing of innovative financial services. Other initiatives include industry FinTech sandbox called the API Exchange (APIX) platform under the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) to help market players connect, design, collaborate and deploy digital solutions.
Access to customers and partners
In spite of not having a large market, Singapore’s central position within Southeast Asia equips it with easy access to customer and regional alliances. Considering this, many MNCs which has links with Fintech scene has set up their headquarters in Singapore. Because of the strategic location and Fintech favourable scene in Singapore, it is relatively easier for FinTechs to get a validation in Singapore and then expand to other neighbouring countries. PolicyPal has taken this approach and started in Singapore, before expanding to Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
The three main institution types with which FinTechs would like to partner are financial institutions, e-Commerce players, and data providers all of which bring different strengths that together accelerate financial innovation for customers. For instance, the Singapore FinTech Association has also partnered with more than 60 FinTech or Tech related organisations in over 40 countries. This offers more than 850 corporate members a platform to expand overseas. In 2019 alone, SFA had lead 7 overseas trade missions to countries such as UK, Kenya, Cambodia and China (Suzhou).
The Singaporean government is committed to cultivate Fintech talents by stressing tech and coding education and offering subsidies for training for the same. In view of this fact, the government has also facilitated to develop talents in the artificial and intelligence and data analytics (AIDA) programme, by subsiding the expenses employers incur to engage specialists to train the local talent pool.
In South East Asia, the remit of majority of financial services licenses is still limited to one country. So, FinTechs which are seeking to expand must restructure their system of partners and reapply for licenses many times. This constrains expansion due to both cost implications and time delays to get to market. In Singapore, the most wide-spread form of collaboration with FinTech companies is joint partnership, which indicates that financial service firms are not ready to go all in and invest fully in FinTech.
For Singapore to strengthen its position as a regional FinTech hub, the country should focus on easing these frictions, thereby supporting both the Singapore’s and Southeast Asia ecosystem. For this, Singapore could leverage ASEAN economic corridor to fast-track license applications for FinTech growth.
Fintech is based on the concept of peer-to peer lending platforms, where individuals borrow and lend without going through a bank. Compared to traditional bank these services might not be required to set aside much money as customer can default their loan. This can be risky for both Fintech companies and consumers.
The content marketing and smart marketing is also weak for FinTech. Besides this, another main hurdle is the fact that majority of the FinTech start-ups do not have proper understanding of compliance and legal points even if they are well informed of it inside Singapore, there are complications expanding to other countries as Singapore is surrounded by countries with different regulations. So, regulatory uncertainty and differences in business models are considered one of the many challenges FinTechs in Singapore have to confront when they decide to expand overseas.
Data privacy and IT security is another major concern; as more financial services go digital cyber attacks become a bigger risk.
As the customer’s financial needs evolve, FinTech are switching to more agile and lean methods of product development and innovation. As per the Singapore FinTech report, published in 2021, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency dominates the Singapore’s FinTech scene. Out of the 430 FinTech start-ups in Singapore, 19% operate in the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency vertical, making it the biggest segment, ahead of payments (16%), Investments and wealthtech (14%), and Regtech (11%).
The Singapore Blockchain Ecosystem Report 2020, revealed that, Singapore is investing in Blockchain technology in a big way. In 2020, Singapore launched a $12 million Blockchain Innovation Program with the aim to speed up the adoption of the technology. It is doing so by engaging more than 75 different companies to conceptualize 17 Blockchain projects relating to trade, logistics and supply chain within 2022.
In 2020, Singapore was ranked as the second easiest place in the world to do business for reasons such as ease of business establishment, foreign equity ownership, tax frameworks, and contract enforcement, including IP protection. These factors resulted in nearly 55% of MNCs to establish their regional headquarters for Asia in Singapore.
Likewise, in 2019, the Payment Service Act (PSA) was implemented necessitating cryptocurrency businesses to obtain a license from MAS to comply with anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations. This legislation has been praised for providing regulatory clarity on the emerging asset class and industry to potentially lure companies into Singapore.
Regulatory enablers for FinTech in Singapore
Other Key Market Trends
Fintech trends in 2021
- Change in mind-set: Opting for digital only banks
Between the period of 2017-2022, digital-only banks surge is likely to cause a 36% drop in the number of people who visit the bank physically. In 2019, a survey by Visa estimated 65% of people in Singapore prefers using a digital-only bank, where as 84% are interested in the digital services of the existing bank. It is the result of the change in mind-set of the people as Fintech offers more convenience in financial transaction.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
RPA utilizes robots or digital software to automate the tasks otherwise performed by humans. Financial service industry has already implemented RPA to cut costs and automate various back-end office processes such as security checks, customer on boarding, account maintenance and closing, trial balancing, credit card, mortgage processing, and many more.
Blockchain technology has enabled several peer to peer financial platforms to conduct monetary interactions in a decentralized manner. FIs along with FinTechs have already intensified their investments in the Blockchain to reduce expenses and enhance internal procedures.
Reg-Tech with the help of Big Data and Machine Learning technology can offer critical data on money laundering activities thus decreasing the risk associated with compliance. Additionally, Reg-Tech can also reduce administrative overhead, ensure financial stability, and protect customers.
- Biometric security systems
As of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are limiting the use of cash and other contact based transactions. Considering this, biometric identification solutions are witnessing impressive adoption rate not just in Singapore but across the world.
The industry experts predict that open banking market is expected to reach $43.15 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 24.4% by the year 2026. This will drive the growth of global open banking market.
- Artificial Intelligence and machine learning
FIs across the world are seeking to incorporate AI in their operations. As per the Autonomous research, by engaging AI, FIs operational expenses is likely to reduce 22% by the year 2030 which can save up $1 trillion.
- Acceleration in financial inclusion
FinTech is providing access to the unbanked and other regions with limited access financial services. This trend will improve financial inclusion by making access to financial services easy, fast, and convenient for people in that region.
The incumbents’ banks and financial institutions are working with FinTechs to co-innovate and prosper together.
FinTechs are becoming more pervasive as they are getting more customer trust. This will help FinTechs get more traction with the end users they are serving. For this, transparency needs to escalate and fees should gradually get lower with having an easier access to financial products.
Each year, the FinTech revolution is gaining tremendous traction and in 2021 it’s all set to further disrupt the traditional financial industry.
Market Size and Forecast
FinTech is changing the Financial Services (FS) industry from the outside in. PWC estimates within the next 3-5 years, cumulative investment in FinTech globally could exceed US$150 billion. The FinTech industry holds immense potential of growth as the traditional boundary demarking financial institutions, technology firms, e-commerce and telecom companies is getting blurred.
The pandemic lead Fintech funding in Asia drop to US$2.4 billion in the second quarter of 2020 from $3.13 billion in the first. However, funding landscape was less volatile in Singapore as investments rebounded to $371 million in the second quarter of 2020.
As per a report by Singapore FinTech Association published in 2020, investment in B2B and B2C FinTechs has improved five fold in just five years between 2015-2020. FinTechs now are operating at scale with valuations of over $100 million.
Singapore has established itself as the FinTech hub of South East Asia with 52% market share. Presently, there are more than 490 FinTech start-ups in the country and the top players are in payment, lending and investment sector. Singapore has always been the favourite destination of MNCs and financial institutions because its roots are embedded at the forefront of technology and innovation.
In order to appeal to more FinTechs in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is continuously streamlining regulations favouring Fintech’s growth. While FinTech business models has been evolving endlessly, the Covid 19 crisis has further accelerated its adoption at a faster pace. In light of this, traditional banks and other e-commerce platforms are venturing into Fintech to move towards digital transformation.
While FS organisations acts like intermediaries in the financial system, their traditional product and process functions are being replaced by new business models of FinTech. Fintech can handle both the felt in front- and back-office operations of FIs seamlessly.
FinTech is offering fresh choices of automated advisory, analysis of data, managing portfolios, leveraging mobile technology and many more. By integrating the different strengths of Blockchain, machine learning, cryptocurrency as well as artificial intelligence, Fintech has now emerged as a powerful disruptive force in terms of financial services. The overall impact of all these changes has improved operational capabilities and reduced the net cost base of the industry.
Singapore holds 20% of FinTech start-ups in the world. FinTechs and financial institutions were considered as rivals earlier, but now as both sides realized that collaboration and not competition is the way forward they have collaborated on each other’s strengths. Given the profound influence of technology on all sects, the traditional FIs also cannot afford to ignore FinTech and its disruptive impact in the financial industry.
Furthermore, competition in the B2C space has also intensified, with FinTechs, banks, and consumer ecosystems all targeting the same consumer base. Majority of the FinTech prefer going B2B rather B2C as B2C models requires large amounts of funding to scale and would involve going up against competitors with large amounts of capital on hand.
Key Market Players
Some of the key market players in Singapore’s FinTech scene are as follows:
It is digital asset management firm founded in 2018 which engage in trading, advisory, asset management specializing in cryptocurrency and digital assets. In 2019, the company raised $7 million in Seed Financing round led by Polychain Capital.
It is a financial technology firm that delivers CPF, SRS, and cash saving advisory. Recentlym in April 2021, the company raised $172 million to fuel its expansion plans in Asia.
It was founded in the year 2018 as a trade and trade finance FinTech company. The company launched Kratos, a digital marketplace which enable commodity traders to trade and capitalize funds from lenders online.
It is AI powered instalment payment extension mobile internet platform that converts users monthly fixed bills commitment such as rental, office, retail, home and installment payment and other types of bills into cash on cloud.
Validus capital was established in 2015 in Singapore, intended to unite accredited individual, institutional lenders as well as SMEs. It holds a Capital Markets Services Licence by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and its Indonesian counterpart Batumbu has received OJK registration back in 2019.
It is a peer-to-peer currency exchange platform that facilitates faster, easier and cheaper cross-border payments. This platform lets currency exchange and transfer at the mid-market exchange rate that assures a secure transaction. Entities and individuals can receive/ transact funds to more than 160 countries thus reducing foreign exchange costs and complexity.
Everex is powered by Blockchain for cross-border money transfers. It plans to incorporate Blockchain Stablecoin-powered SME cooperative banking for international traders and online merchants, and also deliver same-day settlements for their cooperative members. For retail consumers, the company offers Stablecoin backed debit cards that allows up to 10% cashback via card linking loyalty merchant programs. Its key market is in US, EU, UK as well as Asia.
It is a data-driven venture firm that leverages Artifical intelligence and machine learning to ascertain early-stage opportunities in accelerators and investors, worldwide. Hatcher+ delivers optimised returns for venture investors using algorithms, real time monitoring and customisable technology.
It is a digital management platform that delivers tailored financial reviews and action plans which provides financial assurance to its users. It primarily addresses challenges faced by consumers when purchasing insurance. Its mobile application alerts overlapping or missing coverage and recommends the insurance that is in best interest of the customers.
Fintech is more than a buzzword, it’s a big business opportunity. For FinTechs to keep growing in Singapore there should be continuous upgrade in regulation and infrastructure which allows FinTech to undertake regional strategies with greater ease. Although Singapore’s regulations are working in favour of FinTech, the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the industry is a reminder that regulation must be re-examined constantly.
Also, while Singapore leads the way in developing standards to regulate various initiatives, such as data privacy, there is a greater need to improve harmonisation in systematizing standards to establish forums for FinTech regulation under the ASEAN umbrella.
All in all, as the world is progressing towards digital transformation, the FinTech industry in Singapore also needs to continuously evolve.
- AFIN: ASEAN Financial Innovation Network
- AI: Artificial Intelligence
- AIDA: Artificial and Intelligence and Data Analytics
- ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations
- CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
- FIs: Financial Institutions
- FS: Financial Services
- GDP: Gross Domestic Product
- IFC: International Finance Corporation
- IP: Intellectual Property
- MAS: Monetary Authority of Singapore
- MNCs: Multinational Corporations
- NFIs: National Financial Inclusion
- SG: Singapore
- SFA: Singapore Fintech Association
- USA: United States of America
- VCs: Venture Capital