Why Southeast Asia is riding the cusp of fintech's next wave

The region is the place to be to take advantage of the sector's growing potential as Singapore Fintech Festival showcases.

Singapore Fintech Festival drew participants from more than 110 countries.
Singapore Fintech Festival drew participants from more than 110 countries. Photo Credit: SG Fintech Festival

The Singapore Fintech Festival, organised by the Monetary Authority Singapore (MAS) and Elevandi, drew to a close last week, showcasing the latest developments and innovation in the fintech space.

Judging by the amount of interest in the event, with more than 850 expert speakers and over 250 hours of content across the week-long programme, and thousands of participants from more than 110 countries and 2,000 organisations, alongside 450 exhibitors and 25 international pavilions, fintech is big business.

On the scale of the event, Amanda Wick, founder of The Association for Women in Cryptocurrency, who served as a moderator for one of the panel sessions enthused: "Singapore FinTech Festival was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. So many people, amazing panels, booths for days, and so many networking opportunities."

"This year, Singapore Fintech Festival 2022 saw not just a great number of knowledgeable and influential speakers from around the world, but also a focus on green fintechs, ESG impact investing, and quality data and disclosures," Marianne Tan, VP of Innovation Lab and Partnerships, UOB, shared. "The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)' ESG green impact zone also featured several of our greentechs from The Greentech Accelerator Programme - Pantas, CO2 Connect (CO2X) Pte Ltd, UPCYDE and Resync."

According to Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer of MAS and chairman of Elevandi Board, "the industry is on the cusp of moving into three areas – Web3, digital assets, and an ESG-[environmental, social, and corporate governance]focused economy.”

According to an October report from Deloitte's Southeast Asian Innovation team, fintech is booming in the region, with the fastest-growing categories being digital payments and digital lending. It's a view shared by UNSW Business School in Sydney, which published an analysis in September saying that despite limited access to traditional banking services, the adoption of smartphones and the growth of e-commerce have led to an increase in the use of digital financial services in Southeast Asia.

For developed countries, this could translate into developments in automating accounting and payroll, digital document management and authentication, and ensuring cybersecurity and compliance. For developing nations, the main growth areas would likely be fintech firms focused on consumer payment, credit and online retail banking.

Barney Tan, head of school and a professor in the School of Information Systems and Technology Management at UNSW Business School says: “Developmental areas where we see a lot of activity include enterprise blockchain, decentralised finance, and robotic process automation applications.”

Future fintech

There are already a host of fintech-themed events to take advantage of in 2023, taking place across Asia.

These include Blockchain Fest in Singapore from 16 to 17 February, Fintech Festival Thailand, taking place from 23 to 25 February and 2023 Innovative Finance Expo in Kuala Lumpur from 19-23 April. Events in 2024 are already earmarked too, with Money 20/20 coming to Bangkok from 23 to 25 April.

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