Singapore puts fintech in spotlight with AI investment, global partnerships

Monetary Authority of Singapore sets aside S$27 million to drive the adoption of artificial intelligence in the financial sector and inks global partnerships to facilitate fintech innovation.

Singapore has announced a slew of initiatives aimed at driving the development and adoption of new technologies in the financial sector, including a S$27 million (US$19.85 million) investment in artificial intelligence (AI).

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said the monies would go towards a new AI and Data Analytics (AIDA) grant to facilitate the deployment of these technologies amongst financial institutions operating in the country.

These organisations would be able to tap the grant to subsidise up to 50 percent of the cost of projects that used AI and data analytics to glean insights and and support their decision-making process. These could include techniques such as machine learning, natural language processing or text analytics, and neural networks.

Applicants would need to demonstrate the impact of such initiatives on their workforce and develop relevant training programmes, which could include equipping their employees with new analytics skillsets.

Research institutions also could tap the AIDA grant to co-fund up to 70 percent of AI or data analytics projects that involved applications for the local financial sector. These research initiatives must include efforts to transfer knowledge to the local community as well as share their learnings.

MAS Chief Data Officer David Hardoon said: "Data analytics can help to enhance processes, unlock stronger insights, and facilitate better decision making. People are at the crux of this transformation... We must take proactive steps to equip our people with the skills they will need for new roles and tasks that they may have to take on."

Global partnerships to boost data-sharing, fintech development

The industry regulator this week also inked an agreement with the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) to collaborate on fintech projects and better understand each party's regulatory regime.

Under the agreement, both regulators would be able to refer fintech companies to the other and provide the support to help these organisations understand local legislations. The two authorities also would explore the possibility of joint fintech projects and exchange information on market trends and their impact on regulation.

KNF Chairman Marek Chrzanowski said: "Poland has a unique economic microclimate conducive to financial innovation, with a relatively large market and access to other markets due to its membership in the European Union. Mutual information sharing on financial innovations between KNF and MAS will enable us to better understand and monitor all technological changes in the financial market."

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In a separate announcement, MAS said it was collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab as part of efforts to beef up Singapore's fintech talent pool. Industry professionals and researchers from Singapore would be able to work alongside MIT researchers as well as participate in pilots for fintech projects.

MAS noted that the country's financial sector had been trialling Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and developed prototypes on interbank payments, securities settlement, insurance claims processing, trade, and trade finance.

It added that the partnership with MIT underscored the increasing impact of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology on the financial industry.

MIT Media Lab's director of digital currency initiative, Neha Narula, said these two segments posed "a dramatic change" to existing regulatory frameworks, with the potential to "reform" the global financial system involving peer-to-peer transactions without traditional financial intermediation.

MAS this week also announced a new facility, jointly set up with the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), to support data-sharing efforts between the latter's 49 members across nine Asia-Pacific markets. These included Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The Singapore-based operations aimed to better arm the 49 financial institutions with the resources to combat cybercrime.

MAS Chief Fintech OFficer Sopnendu Mohanty said: "Against the backdrop of increasingly complex and sophisticated cyber attacks, it is even more important for countries to stay engaged, foster stronger relationships, and exchange information and expertise freely. The centre's operations and the regional intelligence reports it produces will help Asia-Pacific countries deal better with cross-border cybercrimes."

The local facility would provide 24 by 7 support with threat information, actionable insights, and the necessary tools to respond to threat incidents. FS-ISAC members also would have access to monthly threat calls focused on the region, webinars on hot topics, cybersecurity training, and summits.

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