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More funds for fintech trials as financial industry evolves
THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will set aside more funds to support experiments in financial technology (fintech), Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced on Thursday.
The latest funding support, which boosts the number of grants available to drive innovative ideas in the financial industry, takes the form of a grant of up to S$200,000 per fintech project, and capped at 50 per cent of the costs for trials.
The grant aims to support ideas that benefit - not just an individual financial institution or start-up - but the financial system at large, in Singapore or abroad.
"We are already seeing successes, and we want to provide a fertile ground for more new ideas and solutions to keep cropping up," said Mr Tharman, who was the guest of honour at a prize presentation ceremony for fintech companies.
He noted that this comes on top of existing funding schemes: At it is, Spring Singapore provides Singaporean start-ups matching grants of S$7 for every S$3 raised, up to S$50,000; the National Research Foundation, together with a technology incubator, will invest up to 85 per cent in a Singapore-based start-up.
The funding boost comes as Mr Tharman sounded a note of optimism about the impact of technology on jobs in the financial sector:
"We are often caught up in speculation as to which jobs technology will destroy and what kinds of new jobs it will create. The likelihood is that many jobs will remain - but most jobs will be transformed, requiring new skills and capabilities to make the most of the new technologies.
"Not all of us can be entrepreneurs. But we all have to build the skills and expertise necessary to power the digital economy. The financial sector, in particular, has to build new capabilities."
Demand is growing, for example, for skills in data analytics, in building digital and mobile-user interfaces, and in applications development, he said. These come on top of core finance skills.
"Take, for example, bank relationship managers who provide wealth-management advisory services. They are unlikely to be completely replaced by robo-advisers.
"But relationship managers will increasingly use data-analytics tools to analyse client profiles and offer better, customised financial solutions."
The government will continue to facilitate the building of skills needed in the new world of finance across the education spectrum. It is working with the polytechnics to raise the number of fintech internships and joint projects with the fintech community.
Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School will launch in Singapore a new executive-education programme focused on financial innovation.
Singapore has also attracted US-based Byte Academy to set up shop. It has joined the Infocomm Media Development Authority's Tech Immersion and Placement Programme, under which it will offer intensive courses on fintech and data science aimed at non-ICT (information and communications technology) professionals to meet the software and programming needs of the industry.
Mr Tharman said: "We cannot talk about expertise without talking about learning. And learning, unlearning and re-learning is what the game is about in the economy that we are creating together.
"We need to learn more about the things we do not know, and to constantly update our knowledge in familiar areas - in every job, from the CEOs to the fresh entrants from school."
The MAS presented awards to 10 fintech companies for their innovations. These include behavioral biometrics firm BioCatch, and fraud-detection company CashRun.