Treasury Today Asia January/February 2018

Published: Jan 2018



Singapore to drive pan-ASEAN digital agenda

Singapore is taking digitisation seriously. This was evident at its recent fintech festival, which saw over 25,000 attendees from all over the world descend on the city-state to take part in a week of festivities designed to push forward the future of financial services.

At the festival, Ravi Menon, Managing Director at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) outlined the pillars of Singapore’s strategy to become a ‘Smart Financial Centre’. Core to this is the creation of an ‘open API economy’ that will allow financial institutions, corporates and fintechs to build a digital financial ecosystem using standardised APIs.

Spreading the message

As well as its ambitions to become a ‘Smart Financial Centre’, Singapore is also keen to spread its digital ambitions to neighbouring countries in the ASEAN region. This was made clear in November, when Singapore officially took over the chairmanship of ASEAN at the 31st ASEAN summit.

At the summit, Singaporean officials announced that ‘resilience and innovation’, with a particular focus on the digital economy and eCommerce, were to be key themes of the country’s chairmanship. “We can find new ways to manage and harness digital technologies, and equip our citizens with skills and capabilities and keep ASEAN a vibrant and dynamic place for our people to live, work and play,” said Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

At the core of Singapore’s plans is the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN), a joint project of the MAS, IFC and ASEAN Bankers Association (ABA). AFIN is designed to provide an integrated platform for collaboration between ASEAN banks, microfinance institutions, non-banking financial institutions (NBFI) and regional fintechs. The overall aim is to make ASEAN’s regulators comfortable with and adopt this new technology, for the benefit of the whole region.

Corporate encouragement

Singapore’s desire to digitise will surely come as good news to the corporate treasury community, given the city-state’s status as the region’s leading location for treasury centres.

Also, its ambitious plans to encourage other countries in ASEAN to digitise at a similar pace will give encouragement to businesses trying to expand their operations in the region. The hope is that this will remove barriers to this growth, namely inefficiency brought on by paper-based processes. This will enable businesses in ASEAN to realise their full potential in the market.

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