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MAS launches S$125m support package for financial institutions and fintech firms

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Wednesday rolled out a S$125 million support package to help financial institutions and fintech firms amid the current economic slump. 

Funded by the Financial Sector Development Fund, about S$90 million will go towards supporting workforce training and manpower costs, and the remaining S$35 million, towards strengthening digitalisation and operational efforts, said the regulator in a statement. 

To encourage firms to make use of the current downtime in business activity to train their employees, MAS will launch the Training Allowance Grant (TAG) to provide allowances for courses accredited by the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF).

The allowance stands at S$10 per training hour for self-sponsored individuals. Financial institutions and fintech firms can also receive S$15 per training hour completed by their employees.

MAS and IBF will also increase course fee subsidies for Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents to 90 per cent (up from the current range of 50-70 per cent).  They can be employees sponsored by financial institutions or individuals outside the financial services sector.  Fintech companies can also tap on this subsidy for their local employees.

The subsidies will be disbursed in advance to alleviate any cash flow challenges that firms and individuals may face, said MAS. More than 400 IBF-accredited courses are currently available on e-learning channels. More are in the pipeline. 

In all, the TAG will supplement the Jobs Support Scheme, which was earlier announced by the Singapore government in the Resilience and Solidarity Budget packages, said MAS. 

The regulator said it will also double the salary support for financial institutions to hire fresh graduates or workers from other sectors who are Singapore citizens.

These workers will be placed in talent development programmes under the Finance Associate Management Scheme, which grooms Singaporeans for future specialist and management roles in the financial-services industry. 

Meanwhile, a Digital Acceleration Grant (DAG) will be set up to support digitalisation initiatives in smaller financial institutions and fintechs. Firms with not more than 200 employees are eligible. 

This grant will help these firms adopt digital solutions to strengthen "operational resilience", process efficiency, risk management and customer service, said MAS. This will include the use of digital tools and upgrading of systems that facilitate business continuity, such as document-collaboration solutions and virtual-conferencing systems. 

The DAG will comprise two tracks. The Institution Project track will support 80 per cent of qualifying expenses for the adoption of digital solutions, capped at S$120,000 per entity over the duration of the scheme. The Industry Pilot track supports collaborations among at least three smaller financial institutions to customise digital solutions within their institutions; it will co-fund 80 per cent of qualifying expenses, capped at S$100,000 per participating firm per project. 

To further help fintechs gain access to digital platforms and tools, MAS will provide all Singapore-based fintechs with six months of free access to API Exchange (APIX), an online global marketplace and sandbox for collaboration and sales. 

Through APIX, firms can integrate and test solutions via a cloud-based architecture, said the regulator. 

It will also work with the Singapore Fintech Association (SFA) to set up a new digital self-assessment framework for MAS’ outsourcing and Technology Risk Management (TRM) guidelines hosted on APIX. MAS said the self-assessment will help fintechs provide a "first-level assurance" to financial institutions about the quality of their solutions. 

"We have significantly enhanced existing initiatives and introduced new schemes to help our financial institutions and fintech firms not only navigate the current headwinds, but at the same time, build deeper competencies, skills, and networks, so that we can emerge stronger for the longer term," said Jacqueline Loh, MAS deputy managing director for markets and development.

"We encourage financial institutions, fintech firms and financial sector professionals to actively tap these opportunities," she added. 

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