Singapore has recently shown its burgeoning prowess in the fintech industry, as three global banks have confirmed that they will be opening innovation labs in the city state. This week also marks the start of the Singapore Fintech Festival, where the largest up-and-coming startups are displaying their products to interested partners.
Westpac, one of the Australian Big Four banks, wants to create a space to facilitate the movement of Australian fintechs into Asian markets. Calling its new venture Westpac co.lab, the bank said in a statement that this move will allow for ‘leading positioning’ from Australia as both its fintech scene and Singapore’s continue to thrive and develop.
Michael Correa, Westpac’s General Manager for the Asia-Pacific, said that the bank is ‘seeing an exciting dynamic’ involving those ‘looking for opportunities to enter or expand in Asia.’ Correa believes that interested Australian fintechs can ‘leverage Singapore’s vibrant fintech ecosystem and leading regulatory landscape as well as the incredible pool of talent.’ He commended the city state’s aim to develop further in this sector to become a world leader.
The Bank of China is the second bank to launch a lab in Singapore this week with the intent of delivering more research and development initiatives with a worldwide perspective in mind. Its BOC Innovation Lab is also set to house artificial intelligence schemes and have greater input into blockchain, cloud technology and big data.
The BOC Innovation Lab will offer an interesting touch for visitors, as its service staffer will be a robot that can identify customers and clients based on facial recognition technology.
Deutsche Bank also decided to debut a lab in Singapore at the behest of its wealth management arm. It will look to work with startups to springboard new ideas fit for the Asia-Pacific markets.
Werner Steinmueller, the bank’s Asia-Pacific CEO, said that banks have a clear need to be transparent about their dealings as open collaboration for new technology becomes more popular. By keeping processes secret, banks can easily fall behind, according to Steinmueller.
He told reporters that he believes in ‘a new openness in banking where you have to take everyone seriously and move fast.’
Speaking about why Deutsche Bank chose Singapore as its new lab’s base, he said: ‘We are very excited about the potential for partnerships here. Startups want to work with us because we have scale, a global banking network and established infrastructure.’
This move is not a new one for Deutsche Bank, given that it has already opened several innovation labs across the globe. However, unlike those in other locations, this lab will actually be in the bank’s Singapore branch, and bank employees will serve as lab staff.
These major announcements mark yet another step in Singapore’s aims to become much more integrated into world markets, especially with developing technologies. With its changing demographics in terms of an aging population, it has decided to fully invest in its younger generation by providing skills and capabilities that will base a strong economy around technology and finance in the future. Moves such as these should become the norm for other countries rather than outliers.