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Big Brother of big data among hackcelerator winners

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"Banks have put in rules, but the rules are not working," said Aida's CEO Tan Geok Leng, who was the chief technology officer at IDA Singapore for 10 years, and was last a senior research fellow at A*STAR.


THREE fintechs (financial technology firms) looking at various problems posed by the financial industry have won S$50,000 each from a global fintech hackcelerator as part of the Singapore FinTech Festival.

One of them is Singapore-based Aida Technologies, which uses predictive analytics to track behaviour patterns for risk management at banks. These can include surveillance of traders, used to determine if these traders are taking on risky bets that would hurt the bank - as traders have done in recent times.

The startup can also use big data to track the social and business relationships of the traders, as well as transaction volume - to find out if any fishy behaviour is going on.

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"Banks have put in rules, but the rules are not working," said Aida's CEO Tan Geok Leng, who was the chief technology officer at IDA Singapore for 10 years, and was last a senior research fellow at A*STAR.

He told The Business Times that the startup with less than 10 staff will soon close its first round of funding for a seven-figure sum.

Aida is joined by Thailand's Beacon Interface, which uses voice commands to help the blind navigate mobile banking independently.

The third startup is Singapore- based FitSense, which helps health and life insurance companies to personalise products and services by using app and device data.

The three startups beat 16 other participants for the prize. All in, the 19 participants were chosen for the hackcelerator (a portmanteau of hackathon and accelerator) for their products that are deemed ready for the marketplace. This means the solutions should have gone beyond early testing and experiments, and can soon be commercialised.

Many of the fintechs play at the intersection of machine learning and big data. US-based Thinknum scraps large amounts of data off websites to create alternative methods of assessing a company. For example, it can scrap data on discounts offered on lululemon apparel over a period of time to find out if demand has slipped.

Several of the fintechs are also tackling problems to do with fraud and compliance, and are using blockchain technology to try to find solutions. For example, Singapore-based startup Tradle is using blockchain technology to power authentication of documents.

Others are tackling problems faced by millennials in saving and investing for the future. US-based Dobot (or the robot for your dough) is an app that would allow millennials to set goals for spending and investments.

Capital Preferences from New Zealand creates a risk profile based on investors' goals and preferences, to create metrics for users to make decisions about investments.

The teams were evaluated by top executives from the financial industry, and sieved from a pool of 655 global submissions from about 50 countries. Of these, 70 per cent of the submissions came from Asia Pacific. Singapore alone is home to more than 300 fintech startups.

The startups had to chip away one of the 100 problem statements that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) provided. These statements were taken from banks, after some tedious extraction by MAS, recalled the regulator's chief fintech officer Sopnendu Mohanty.

He said MAS wants to support new experiments, and help startups access funds. But even as the city-state opens its doors to fintechs, Mr Mohanty was frank in referring to the "valley of death", with startups failing about 98 per cent of the time.

In fact, the hackcelerator was meant to have 20 participating start- ups, but one had to drop out due to internal issues, he said. "Startups are very fragile. Keep that in mind."