Top-dollar billings with insurtech, capital markets, Asean innovation and AI at the Singapore FinTech Festival

This year’s Singapore FinTech festival saw a record number of capital-raising strategies and deal-making platforms. New partnerships and product solutions were also unveiled across China, Switzerland, India, Canada and Indonesia among others.

At the festival which saw representatives from governments, mature financial institutions and nimble, emerging start-ups, Artificial Intelligence and the unbridled potential of the Asean bloc were also high-ranking topics piquing the interest of the ecosystem. A Global Investors Summit also reined focus on the relationship between India, China and Asean. Some of the in-depth analysis zoomed in on investment capital-raising strategies and investing for impact.

Artificial Intelligence is a substantial force to be reckoned with

Artificial Intelligence, across Asia, has given industries a facelift by incorporating the technology into them. Be it product delivery or market entry strategy, Artificial Intelligence looks set to revolutionise the industry by storm.

Jessica Tan, deputy group CEO and chief operation officer of Ping An Insurance (Group), Company of China Ltd, said that AI technology is of paramount importance at the Chinese-listed insurance group.
Robotics is one area of advancement that sees steady adoption. At Ping An, robots have been trained to become equipped to handle customer queries and internalise product knowledge with specific inputs.
Facial recognition, long predicted by tech giants, is another significant aspect of AI says Helen Liang, managing partner of FoundersX Ventures. The tool is widely used in security customs, traffic control and banking systems.

Without the ability to see through knowledge transfer and initiate learning systems, AI’s full value will not be possible, says Steven White, a professor at the department of innovation, entrepreneurship and strategy at Tsinghua University. White adds that the two industries to see the largest innovations introduced include the education and healthcare sectors.

The wealth of untapped opportunity in Asean

Asean evidently has a host of desired qualities that make it suitable for FinTech adoption and innovation. These include the mobile penetration and engagement, regional digitisation of platforms and adoption of digital payments and digital currencies.

Dennis Khoo, head of regional digital bank and digital banking at UOB, said that in Asean, there needs to be more responsiveness and tactical execution to meet the needs of the growing mobile-savvy population, of which at least 60% are below 35 years old — this translates to 400 million customers.

Many of Asean’s FinTech markets enjoy accelerated globalisation and digitisation of platforms. Chartsiri Sophonpanich, president of Bangkok Bank PCL, pointed out that in Thailand, digital banking has helped made rural areas more digitally connected and witnessed a new urban user experience around consumer banking.

Justo A. Ortiz, chairman of the board of the Union Bank of Philippines, said that in the Philippines, the focus is on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), where fintech provides a value proposition in the area of onboarding, alternative credit scoring and financing on a limited scale.

John Lepore, a general counsel on policy and advocacy at Mastercard, says one of the next steps in technology is the development of prepaid and virtual cards through a partnership between Mastercard and Grab. The cards allowed individuals without bank accounts to top up their Grab accounts without much fuss as well as for small merchants to engage in digital transactions.

Tanyapong Thamavaranukupt, president of Ascend Money Co Ltd, expects digital payment adoption to further increase but when it comes to the channels of payment, adoption will depend largely on factors such as penetration of technologies like smartphones as well as the availability of data services. His belief is that as digital payments grow, digital lending will be a smooth transition alongside payments companies leveraging data that is suitable for underwriting.

Insurtech is seeing huge disruption with blockchain

Experts in a panel discussion argue that blockchain will be a subtle yet fast-moving way to provide a holistic customer experience. The key lies in interpreting massive data types to create plans that are compatible with customer preferences. Drones will also be a formidable tool to develop underwriting and pricing policies.

Chris Wei, executive chairman of Aviva Asia Pte Ltd, said the insurtech sector will need to do more to create a more seamless and expansive customer experience. Tech giants, should not be regarded as threats, but instead as ways to develop more insights into the market.

Capital markets have unprecedented potential to grow with blockchain

According to Oliver Wyman, the capital markets industry is plagued with high levels of concentration including a monopoly by major players, conservative attitudes towards new technology and stringent regulation. The primary challenges of adoption include uncertainty with taxing the digital economy and creating jobs that are inclusive and may not require too much upskilling. Apart from job-related concerns, striking balances with information regulation and cybersecurity are also obstacles that hinder blockchain from being integrated into the capital markets.

Blockchain disruption requires a strong foundation, new platforms and constant evaluation

Through identifying key inefficiencies and creating scalable platforms, players in the blockchain and FinTech space can drive more open paths. These include spearheading new industries that capitalise on the innovative capabilities of start-ups as well as more holistic consumer experiences.