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FinTech in Singapore: what you need to know

By Jonas Thürig, Head of Tenity Asia

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by Tenity
| 12/03/2024 14:00:00

Singapore is one of East Asia’s most important financial hubs. And, in recent years, it has become a vibrant and exciting centre for FinTech too.

What sets Singapore apart from other global FinTech hubs? How did it become so important? And why should you set up a business—or partner with a FinTech—in Singapore yourself?

As Tenity’s Head of Asia, I have been leading Tenity’s Singapore hub since we set it up in 2020. Based on my experience running multiple startup accelerators, working with local corporates, and investing in local startups, I want to share some of the key facts and trends you should know about FinTech in Singapore.

In this guide, I will cover:

  • Key statistics about FinTech in Singapore
  • The history of FinTech in Singapore
  • Why Singapore is a great place for FinTech
  • The future of FinTech in Singapore
  • Some well-known FinTech startups in Singapore
  • Tenity’s role in Singapore’s FinTech ecosystem

Key statistics about FinTech in Singapore
As an introduction to the ecosystem in general, here are some general statistics about FinTech in Singapore:

In 2023, the FinTech industry in Singapore secured a total investment of US$2.20 billion, covering mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and venture capital transactions. This figure marks a significant drop of 68% from the US$4.4 billion collected in 2022.

As of October 2023, there are a total of 1,600 FinTech firms in Singapore. The nation’s primary strengths (measured by number of companies) are in:

  • Payments: 31% (496 companies)
  • FinTech infrastructure providers: 18% (288 companies)
  • Regulatory tech: 17% (272 companies)

Other useful statistics include the following:

What is the history of FinTech in Singapore?
Since its days as a British colony, Singapore has been one of Southeast Asia’s most important financial hubs.

After its independence in 1965, the Singaporean government has actively encouraged the growth of the financial sector. For instance, it set up the Asian Dollar Market in 1968, deliberately so that Singapore could act as a bridge between US and European markets. Plus, in 2015, the government launched the Smart Nation initiative, to digitise the financial functions of the state.

Over the years since then, Singapore has been recognised as one of the three leading financial centres in the world, after New York and London. And thanks to its particular strength in asset management, it has been named by Deloitte as the sixth-largest wealth management centre on the planet.

Just as the state encouraged the growth of Singapore’s financial services, it also supported its role as a financial technology hub, primarily through the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Since 2015, MAS has implemented multiple initiatives to support FinTech growth.

For instance, MAS has issued digital banking licences to non-bank organisations to encourage them to provide innovative and customer-centric financial services, challenging traditional banks. MAS has also issued grants, introduced funding schemes, and set up collaborations between regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders to encourage clean and responsible FinTech innovation.

At the same time, Singapore has held FinTech events, innovation labs, and other initiatives to celebrate and inspire the FinTech community. For instance, the Singapore FinTech Festival is the largest FinTech festival in the world. In 2023, 66,000 participants attended from 150 countries and regions, cementing Singapore’s role at the heart of the global financial industry.

What makes Singapore a great place for FinTech?
The history of Singapore shows just how important financial services have been to the nation. But what makes it a great place for a FinTech business today? To my mind, there are three key factors that make Singapore stand out.

  1. Singapore’s state gives strong support to FinTech
    One of the unique aspects of Singapore’s FinTech ecosystem is that the government plays an active role in making it as productive a place as possible for entrepreneurs, investors, and other players.

    A key way in which it does this is by providing grants for innovation. For example, the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) 3.0 scheme, launched in 2023 by MAS, supports projects that encourage the adoption of new technologies.

    The FTSI includes a special track for ESG projects, offering 50% support for financial institutions to deploy and scale technology solutions to obtain quality ESG data. Similarly, the FTSI will provide 30% funding for projects that encourage the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

    FinTech can also benefit from low taxation, an incentive the government has used to support the ecosystem further. For instance, startups can access tax exemption schemes that mean that their first US$100,000 is completely tax-free, and the next US$200,000 of income is only liable for 50% tax.

    This way, the Singapore government is encouraging businesses to innovate and adopt new technologies. Unlike other financial hubs around the world, Singapore takes a top-down approach to encourage incumbents to work alongside startups.

    Singapore also does a great job of attracting top global talent. For example, the government recently rolled out a new visa specifically for the tech sector to attract highly skilled workers in the industry.

  2. Singapore is a convenient place to access Southeast Asia’s market

    Singapore might be a small city-state with just over five million people, but it is the gateway to the whole region of Southeast Asia, an area with over 660 million people and some of the most promising growth prospects in the world, according to the IMF.

    This region presents a huge opportunity for finance firms. Southeast Asia has a high proportion of people who are underinsured, underbanked, and underserved by financial products more generally. Yet at the same time, it has a population that is highly technology savvy, with a significant mobile penetration rate.

    That is why many businesses use Singapore as a base to expand into the rest of Southeast Asia, including countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Alongside the financial benefits of setting up in Singapore that I discussed above, it is also a convenient place to live and do business.

    Direct-to-consumer FinTech can benefit from its proximity to the wider region. And thanks to its position as a thriving business hub, Singapore itself is a huge B2B market, too.

  3. Singapore is a clean, well-regulated, and reputed place to do business
    Another factor that makes Singapore stand out is its reputation for being a highly regulated and ethical place to do business.

    This reputation has been one of the reasons why Singapore has been at the forefront of the global RegTech (“regulatory technology”) industry. Over the years, this technology has been used to weed out financial malpractice, and the local FinTech sector as a whole has benefited from its strengths.

    This emphasis on regulation has been far from obstructive for FinTech brands. MAS has explicitly said that regulation should not obstruct innovation. To that end, it monitors innovative offerings and evaluates continually whether further regulation is actually needed. In fact, as part of the FinTech Regulatory Sandbox, MAS often relaxes specific regulations, so that FinTech can innovate better and faster.

    Overall, in the context of such regulation, it is a powerful stamp of quality for a FinTech to have a licence to operate in Singapore at all.

What is the future of FinTech in Singapore?
In the years ahead, we expect Singapore to grow as a global hub of finance and innovation.

Southeast Asia, in general, is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing region, contributing a massive 70% of world growth, according to the IMF. In its role as a gateway to the region, Singapore has never been in a better position.

While 2023 saw reduced funding for FinTech across the region, recovery is expected in 2024. What is more, many FinTech that started in Singapore are now maturing and scaling. For instance, Nium has announced its intention to go public in the US by 2025 — a move that follows in the footsteps of Singapore’s MoneyHero.

At the same time, MAS and the Singapore authorities want to continue building the state into a global finance hub. Yet it is not just the state, as there are now many investors, VC funds, and angel investors who are active in the nation too.

Overall, while it may retain its reputation for wealth management, it is likely that Singapore will see major growth across many fields relevant to FinTech.

What are some well-known FinTech startups in Singapore?
Some of the best FinTech brands include:

  • YouTrip offers multi-currency wallets for consumers and business accounts with corporate cards for SMEs. It raised US$50 million in October of 2023.
  • Aspire offers payment accounts, multi-currency management, payables and receivables management, with the goal to become the financial operating system for SMEs. In February of 2023, it raised an oversubscribed US$100 million Series C round.
  • FOMO Pay provides digital payment solutions to businesses and financial institutions, including online, mobile, and cross-border payments. It has raised US$13.5 million in equity funding led by Jump Crypto in 2022.
  • Coda Payments is a provider of monetisation solutions for digital products and services, enabling content publishers to unlock revenue for games, apps, and services. It has raised US$715 million in funding and is valued at US$2.5 billion.
  • Advance Intelligence Group is an AI-driven technology company that leverages innovative tech and partnerships to offer a range of financial services. It has raised US$536 million in funding and is valued at US$2 billion.
  • Nium is a service provider of embedded finance solutions that serve banks, payment providers, and businesses. The company has raised funds of US$264 million.
  • Bolttech is an insurtech startup that offers a range of insurance products and services. It has raised US$180 million in funding.
  • Thunes is a B2B payment services company that provides cross-border payment solutions. It has raised US$60 million in funding.

Tenity: our role in Singapore’s FinTech ecosystem
Tenity was founded in Switzerland in 2015, to help financial incumbents link up with startups that could solve their innovation challenges.

In 2020, we opened our Singapore hub—the headquarters of all our Asian operations—which I lead. There are three main services that we offer banks and FinTech startups.

1. We act as matchmakers between financial institutions and FinTech startups
At Tenity, we work at the intersection of FinTech and corporate innovation. We help financial institutions learn about and collaborate with startups. At the same time, we help startups benefit from exposure to, partnerships with, and funding from these corporations.

Ultimately, we see ourselves as matchmakers, linking FinTech expertise together in a local ecosystem. In practical terms, that means we:

  • Run our own incubation programmes. As of February 2024, we are currently hosting our sixth batch of FinTech incubators in Singapore—and we are receiving applications for our seventh.
  • Create exclusive tailored accelerators for corporates. We have organised dedicated accelerator programs for the likes of Franklin Templeton, Dai-ichi Life Group, and Seoul FinTech Labs.
  • Run FinTech networking events. For example, we organise and host Lunch and Learns, InvestFest events, and demo days.
  • Invest in FinTech startups. Via our own VC fund, we provide investment to the most promising startups.

In everything we do, we are exclusively focused on FinTech and financial services. This enables us to gain deeper expertise in the FinTech industry. Plus, it means that we can build a close network of relevant stakeholders. For instance, we have a local network of 250 startups, alongside our ecosystem of investors, incumbents, and more.

2. We invest in early-stage FinTech startups via our fund

One of the key aspects that sets us apart from other accelerator organisers or innovation partners is that we have our own venture fund. When a startup joins one of our programmes in Singapore, we exchange SGD70k for 2.5% equity, which becomes part of our investment fund.

For startups, this brings some important benefits. They will get access to 200+ mentors, an investor network, resources and coaches that offer guidance on raising money, hiring, business models and finding product-market fit.

There are benefits for corporate partners too. They can choose to invest in our fund, get exposure to potentially strategically relevant startups and receive a financial ROI. Corporates that invest in our fund automatically invest in 300+ startups across Switzerland, Singapore, and Estonia, increasing the chances of a substantial return.

With this fund, we can attract super-early startups from across Asia, who can then access the funds, support, and mentoring they need to grow. This way, we are helping to foster the next generation of startups and attract top talent in Singapore—while delivering an ROI for investors.

3. We help corporates solve their innovation challenges
We believe that the best innovation comes from startups. That is why a big part of what we do is helping corporations solve their innovation challenges by partnering with startups.

Whatever stage a corporation is at with its innovation, Tenity can help. We help corporates learn about innovation, collaborate and invest in startups. We are a central player in everything related to innovation in FinTech, and we have extensive experience in helping corporates develop innovative products and kickstart their digital transformation.

At the same time, we can help to guide a corporate’s innovation strategy in its entirety. For example, we regularly work with incumbents to explore up-and-coming themes in the FinTech space so they can get a deeper understanding of opportunities that are relevant to them.

FinTech in Singapore: A regulated, supported ecosystem for FinTech startups
Singapore is a great place for a FinTech company if you are looking for international talent and peers, a strong regulatory framework, and additional government incentives. As we have seen, it is particularly strong in wealth management, digital assets and RegTech.

At Tenity, we play a crucial role in this ecosystem, by helping incumbents solve their innovation challenges and providing startups with the funding they need.

Reach out to us at Tenity to learn more about how we can help you.

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