Singapore is one of the gateways of the Asian financial market with a rich FinTech ecosystem. Global financial services companies have their Asian satellites operating from Singapore. AmEx, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and numerous other international financial organizations operate in Singapore. For a better understanding of Singaporean FinTech industry, we have looked at some examples of FinTech startups, investors, accelerators and conferences taking place in Singapore.
Compared by the index for financial center rating, in which a multitude of factors are integrated, Singapore and Hong Kong represent the most attractive spots in the region to enter the financial industry. Important areas of competitiveness are, among others, business environment, human capital, taxation and infrastructure. As demonstrated by the chart, Singapore and Hong Kong are the leading financial centers in Asia-Pacific region.
Data source: Statista.com
Speaking of the financial industry, there are around 200 banks with total assets of $2 trillion with operational headquarters in Singapore. IT procurement budgets of those banks reached $485 billion last year, according to the Asian business magazine Nikkei Asian Review. With global trends towards tight collaboration among traditional financial institutions and FinTech startups, Singaporean financial services providers also made a step forward nurturing incubation and FinTech ecosystem development. Global banking giants are building an innovation conveyor to ensure a leading position as a global financial market. Some of the examples are UBS, DBS Bank and Citigroup, which launched their innovation labs in Singapore.
Earlier this year, UBS set up a technology innovation lab in Singapore to meet the changing demands of wealth management clients and leverage on the multibillion potential future of virtual advising. Called EVOLVE – UBS Centre for Design Thinking and Innovation in Singapore, the lab is the first of its kind for UBS in APAC. The center will be focused on creating new innovative and user-centric products. It is the latest step in UBS’s digital journey after establishing innovation labs in Zurich and London. UBS is also rolling out its new digital service—the UBS Wealth Management app—in response to increasing client preferences for digital solutions in Asia.
Earlier in December, DBS, a leading financial services group in Asia with over 280 branches across 18 markets, announced that it will invest $7.1 million in initiatives that will support the development of the startup ecosystem in Singapore over the next five years. These initiatives include DBS-owned programs, partnerships with accelerators and other startup programs.
Citi's Global Transaction Services (GTS) launched the Citi Innovation Lab in Singapore that consists of a Client Experience Center and a Client Collaboration Center. It is the first such innovation lab for the bank's institutional clients in the Asia-Pacific region. Citi Innovation Lab uses new Web, mobile, supply chain and analytics technologies to engage Citi's institutional clients more innovatively and to create the most effective solutions and products for them. In the lab, Citi demonstrates its latest transaction banking solutions and clients can "test drive" them through live demonstrations with situation analysis and discussions with GTS' product experts.
Asian commerce giants like Alibaba and Tencent have also rolled out financial services in recent years, ranging from payments to fund products, loans and insurance.
In 2012, MasterCard launched an R&D innovation center in Singapore to enhance research and development through MasterCard Labs, Technologies Operations and a Chip Centre of Excellence (CCoE), covering the full range of upstream research, hardware and software solution development. The CCoE in Singapore was crucial for MasterCard to leverage the benefit of skilled engineers, access to latest innovation and the ability to service the rapid growth in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
Established financial institutions are actively exploring Singapore as a gateway to Asia-Pacific. Singapore is also a home for a wide range of FinTech startups, some of which are brought as examples in the following chart.
A variety of FinTech startups across sectors are building the Singaporean FinTech ecosystem. Among them are: ApexPeak (a nonbank capital provider offering early payments on receivables), BillPay (a free unified billing and payment service), Call Levels (real-time alert notification on current market prices in forex, commodities, equities and indices), Capital Match (provides short-term financing to SMEs), CoAssets (a business network for property investment and equity crowdfunding enthusiasts), CoinHako (a cryptocurrency wallet), CoinPip (uses blockchain technology to send money internationally quickly and easily to freelancers), Dragon Wealth (the world’s first app to enable investors to compare their portfolios across managers, portfolios, countries, and with other investors, giving investors greater control over their investments) and many others.
The rapid growth of opportunities in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region overall led various VCs to look into investing in the Singaporean FinTech ecosystem.
BlueHill Asset Management specializes in venture capital and private equity investments across strategic global markets. Based in Singapore, the management has been instrumental in raising funds of approximately S$470 million over the last four years.
IMJ Investment Partners started investing in startups in Japan and Silicon Valley since January 2012. In the summer of 2012, IMJ started preparing investment activities in Southeast Asia and founded a new company in Singapore in February 2013. IMJ currently is working on venture investment/support activities mainly in Southeast Asia and Japan.
Digital Media Partners is a venture capital firm focused on emerging markets that have recently joined the global digital transformation process. Digital Media Partners believe that the arrival of high connectivity, processing power and interactivity results in an explosion of digital services, some of which are very much like those seen elsewhere before, and some unique to their locale.
Monk’s Hill Ventures is a partnership of seasoned entrepreneurs who have built and backed global companies based both in Silicon Valley and Asia. Monk’s Hill Ventures invests in top entrepreneurs in post-seed companies in Southeast Asia. Typically, MHV invests in companies that already have had at least US$500k to US$1.5m of seed/angel funding, and have demonstrated significant progress in building a viable product (probably 1\~2 years of operations) with some level of repeatability in the sales cycle.
Golden Gate Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm investing across Southeast Asia. Since 2011, the firm has invested in over 25 companies across more than seven countries in Asia. The firm invests in Internet & mobile startups across many sectors, including e-commerce, payments, marketplaces, mobile applications and SaaS platforms. Singaporean FinTech startups TradeGecko, Codapay, Semantics3, MoneySmart and others are a part of GGV’s portfolio.
IncubAsia Ventures has established a reputable ecosystem of affiliations and strategic customer relationships with digital media companies, telcos, large MNCs, venture capital firms, venture arms and government institutions. IAV offers venture acceleration, which depend on the company’s stage in the lifecycle, service offering and the scale opportunities. IncubAsia Ventures guides early-stage tech companies to commercialize their innovation, product or service and in doing so, become more appealing to potential investors if capital raising is part of their growth strategy. P2P lending startup LendLink is a part of IAV’s portfolio.
Intel Capital is interested in seed or growth-stage FinTech startups to take them to the next level. Intel Capital has invested more than $11.4 billion in over 1,400 companies in 57 countries. In that time frame, over 210 portfolio companies have gone public on various exchanges around the world and more than 360 were acquired or participated in a merger.
Fenox Venture Capital is a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm founded by a team of seasoned entrepreneurs and international business leaders. Fenox VC works with emerging technology companies worldwide and specializes in assisting entrepreneurs in North America achieve global expansion in Asian, European and Middle Eastern markets. Fenox VC seeks to work with world-class management and technical teams that are targeting disruptive opportunities in IT, health IT, consumer Internet, cloud, big data, mobile, social, payment systems and next-generation technologies. Fenox provides early-stage and final-round funding and will also co-lead, follow and partner with other angel syndicates and venture funds.
Infocomm Investments Pte. Ltd. (IIPL) builds and invests in Singapore and global infocomm technology startups. Managing more than US$200 million, IIPL accelerates the development of startups in their formative phase, and invests further as they move towards growth and expansion. Through its investments, partnerships with stakeholders across private and public sectors, and global reach, IIPL plays an important role in building a vibrant and sustainable ecosystem in Singapore for startups. IIPL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore. FinTech startups accelerator Startupbootcamp is among FinTech companies in IIPL’s portfolio.
Jungle Ventures is an entrepreneur-backed venture firm focused on funding and helping startups scale across the Asia-Pacific region. Based in Singapore, Jungle Ventures invests and helps build tech category leaders in Asia. Fastacash, Momoe and Abra are FinTech startups in the payments sector from Jungle Ventures’ portfolio.
FinTech incubators, accelerators and events
There is a range of conferences and events dedicated to FinTech, exploration of opportunities in the sector and discovering innovative startups and bright entrepreneurs. Here are some examples of the conferences, incubators and accelerators that are hosted in Singapore.
Singapore FinTech Consortium is a cross-industry initiative, structured as a commercial venture. It is a platform-neutral organization designed to facilitate collaboration between all market participants and stakeholders in the FinTech ecosystem. The consortium believes that innovation is key to maintain and accelerate Singapore’s global leading position in finance. A wide range of services is offered to investors and FinTech startups including deal origination, due diligence, acceleration and industry trends analysis.
Sibos Conference 2015 in Singapore is an annual conference, exhibition and networking event organized by SWIFT for the financial industry. Started as a banking operations seminar in 1978, Sibos has grown into the premier business forum for the global financial community to debate and collaborate in the areas of payments, securities, cash management and trade. Sibos 2009 was held in Hong Kong, and this year, Sibos came to Singapore. A new location is chosen every year.
FinTech Innovating Business Asia by Inspira: Inspira's experience with vertical industry conferences includes FinTech, multichannel financial services, mobile and online payments, omnichannel retail and O2O, e-commerce, healthtech, digital enterprise, advanced manufacturing and next-gen-connected electric vehicles. Areas of technology expertise include data analytics, cybersecurity and risk management, cloud services, Internet of things (IoT), electronics and sensors, robotics and 3D printing. The Singaporean agenda included topics like “Impact of innovative and disruptive FinTech on financial business and operations,” “Enhancing customer engagement through smart online and mobile financial services,” “Future direction and best practices in alternative lending and equity crowdfunding,” “Cyber security challenges and priorities for e-banking” and other interesting topics.
InnoTribe Singapore Showcase: Launched in 2009, Innotribe was created to identify emerging trends in financial services innovation and generate discussions about how these trends could impact the industry going forward. Bringing together innovators, bank representatives, investors and leading financial institutions, Innotribe has adopted a proactive approach to innovation and FinTech. It provides a platform to understand the dynamics behind technology changes and focuses on the opportunities for transformation rather than the threats to current market practices. Innotribe Singapore Showcase brought together some of the most interesting and promising FinTech startups to identify the winners who will present at Sibos. Among FinTech startups showcasing their solutions were BitSpark, CoinSimple, Gatecoin, Jewel Paymentech and others. Trustingsocial, Jewel Paymentech and Bitspark won the right to present at Sibos along with Codapay and goSwiff. Next Bank Asia is the event’s main partner.
Next Bank Singapore Meetup: Being very active in the Asian region, especially in Singapore, Next Bank Asia organizes numerous Meetups to discuss the intersection of banking, design and technology in creative spaces, with inspiring people.
Startupbootcamp FinTech Accelerator in Singapore is a leading accelerator focused on financial innovation, providing funding, mentorship and office space in the heart of the city along with access to a global network of investors and VCs, for up to 10 selected FinTech startups. Over three months, the selected startups collaborate with 200\+ mentors, partners, and investors to build world-class FinTech products, with the ultimate goal of becoming industry-leading companies. Startupbootcamp FinTech Singapore is offering extensive mentorship from 200\+ entrepreneurs, investors, and partners, access to top markets in Europe, US and APAC, 3\+1 months free office space, SGD25,000 in cash per team, exposure to 200\+ Angels & VCs, invitation to Startupbootcamp global alumni network and growth program. In return, the accelerator asks for 6% equity.
Rockstart, “The Global Startup Machine,” helps startups be more successful in their first 1,000 days through funding and mentorship (Rockstart Accelerator and Rockstart Impact), community and office space (Rockstart Spaces), relevant startup events (Rockstart Answers) and more.
Life.SREDA II is a $100M fund that was launched in November 2014 with a focus on A, B and C round investments. Target markets: Southeast Asia, Latin America, US. The fund focuses on FinTech startups working in mobile payments, P2P transfers, remittances, mPOS and online acquiring sectors along with online lending, scoring, P2P lending, mobile banks, e-wallets payment services for HoReCa, mobile cash registers for retailers PFM, PFP services. Originally from Russia, Life.SREDA VC is a FinTech investment firm that has launched a FinTech-focused accelerator labeled InpirAsia.
TFC-PNP Program is another example. Led by The Co-Foundry (TCF), a Singaporean accelerator, and Plug and Play (PNP), a global accelerator based in Silicon Valley, the program is supported by global FX trading platform leader, OANDA Asia-Pacific and Singapore VC/PE firm, BlueHill Asset Management. Highly flexible and bespoke, this program is focused on FinTech startups exploring the option to kick-start their initiatives in Singapore or Silicon Valley; or for those who are keen to leverage the program's network to accelerate growth in Asia.