Singapore sets up research institute to boost fintech capabilities

Slated to begin operations by year-end, the Asian Institute of Digital Finance will aim to link up research, education, and entrepreneurship and pool expertise across several areas including payments, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

A new research institute in Singapore will be established to help link up research, education, and entrepreneurship and boost the country's capabilities in fintech. Slated to begin operations by year-end, the new facility will look to pool expertise across several areas, including payments, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The new Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF) will be jointly established by industry regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), National Research Foundation (NRF), and National University of Singapore (NUS). The institute will be located at the local university, said the organisations in a joint statement Tuesday. NRF is a department parked under the Prime Minister's Office. 

A Master's programme and scholarships will be offered by the AIDF to students looking to pursue research at the doctoral level. Training also will be provided to pos-doctoral fellows in digital finance and fintech. 

Through such efforts, the institute aimed to develop capabilities needed to support digital financial services across Asia as well as gather expertise in finance, technology, and other disciplines essential to the integration of technology and financial services. These would include financial advisory and wealth management, retail and corporate banking, digital architecture, big data, tokenisation, AI and machine learning, and UX design. 

"AIDF will pursue foundational and inter-disciplinary research projects covering fundamental digital infrastructure, performance optimisation of business processes, and advanced application development research on cyber, fraud, and anti-money laundering challenges. The institute will also develop financial services to meet sustainability and resiliency needs," it said.

These could encompass research focus areas such as digital assets and ledger technology, green finance technology, and next-generation financial services on 5G networks

To drive entrepreneurship in the sector, the institute would establish a "fincubator" programme to facilitate ideas and projects and offer support for students and entrepreneurs with "market-ready" products and services. These could focus on, amongst others, applied research for commercialisation, incubation of financial applications to address unaddressed needs in digital financial, and boosting connections with investor community to fuel research commercialisation. 

AIDF will be helmed by Duan Jin-Chuan, who is the NUS Business School's Jardine Cycle & Carriage Professor of Finance, and supported by a steering group that will offer guidance on curriculum and help align the institute's research direction with market priorities in Singapore and the region. This steering committee will comprise Ho Teck Hua, who is senior deputy president and provost at NUS; Sopnendu Mohanty, MAS' chief fintech officer; and other professionals from the financial and technology industries.

Menon said: "Through applied research and active collaboration with industry, AIDF will help to build strong capabilities in digital finance and fintech...[it] will facilitate the expansion of knowledge and skills amongst fintech leaders in the region and support the digitalisation of economies in Asean and beyond."

NRF CEO Low Teck Seng added that the institute would build up research capabilities in Singapore's fintech sector and help commercialise "high-impact research ideas" to deliver practical products and services for the market. "It will leverage NUS' regional and global networks involving local and foreign universities and research institutes to generate and testbed fintech solutions for the Asian markets. More importantly, AIDF will also groom next-generation fintech leaders that will strengthen Singapore's smart nation core," Low said.


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