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Businesses to join PayNow next year; fintech sandbox applications to be expedited

FROM next year, the PayNow system can be used for more than just splitting a lunch bill with a friend - it can also be used to pay merchants.

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung made this announcement, among others, on Monday evening at a dinner to welcome speakers here for the week-long Singapore Fintech Festival.

Mr Ong, who is also a Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) board member, said that the PayNow system, which allows individuals to transfer funds to each other via online or mobile banking using just mobile numbers, will be extended to businesses "around the middle of next year".

Businesses will be able to link their Unique Entity Numbers (UENs) to their bank accounts. This will allow businesses to pay each other, or receive payments from customers, through their UENs.

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In another move to foster innovation in the fintech space, Mr Ong said, MAS will expedite the application assessment for its fintech regulatory sandbox so that firms can test and launch their innovative solutions faster.

MAS will also further loosen the regulatory boundaries for sandbox cases where the risks do not outweigh the potential benefits of the solution to consumers, he added.

MAS launched the sandbox to allow firms to experiment in innovative solutions within a safe and controlled environment.

So far, Mr Ong said, MAS has received more than 30 applications to "play in the sandbox".

"It turns out that about half of these applications did not require the sandbox. Many did not need any regulatory exemption, and MAS told them to go ahead and launch their solutions. That is really encouraging and a positive reflection of our regulatory framework, because innovation thrives most when enterprising people can commence business easily," he said.

Next, through the Payments Council that was formed in August, the MAS will set nation-wide common QR specifications for e-payments - the "SGQR" - which will be progressively rolled out across the island, Mr Ong said.

"So in the very near future, when you walk into a shop that accepts QR code payments, you should only see SGQR with all the acceptance marks underneath it. If your payment method is accepted by the merchant, you just need to use your smartphone to scan and pay to that one SGQR."

Mr Ong added that Singapore is also striving for e-payments interconnectivity with other countries. The largest merchant acquirer in Singapore, Nets, will establish a framework to enable cross-border payment linkages with the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).

This means that from the middle of next year, anyone who holds a Nets card in Singapore can make online purchases on any NPCI e-commerce merchant website in India.

Nets is also working with NPCI to allow Nets payments at all 2.8 million RuPay point of sale terminals in India. Conversely, a RuPay customer can use his RuPay card or RuPay-enrolled mobile phone to pay at any Nets acceptance point in Singapore.