A decade ago, it was all about the Wall Street high life; with front-office banking in the limelight, and technology taking a middle row. Who knew the day would come where a new ruler would emerge: Fintech. Today, it’s about the engineers, the programmers, the system crunchers; far less about the people in suits and suave hair. When you talk about finance now, people think “fintech” and “disruption technology”; far less about trading and investment banking. But beyond these conversations, do you realise just how much fintech has taken over our lives?
Let’s take a look at the little red dot, also known as Singapore. The idea of fintech has breached past the “adult” status, having been incorporated into children’s education as early as 7 years old. Basic coding syllabus are being developed for primary, secondary and junior-college students, to pave a way for Singapore in an age where coding is going to be (or rather, already is) a very crucial language to understand. Validated by Ms Ayesha Khanna, CEO of data science and artificial intelligence firm, Addo, explaining that “the use of technology will underpin the development of every single industry: banking, transport, telecoms and so on”.
On top of just the understanding of computational logic, is an emphasis on fintech, especially in areas such as blockchain technology which (as we know it) has been taking the world by storm. For example, we have a story of an 8-year-old Singaporean boy, Seth Yee, who was enrolled in Wooranna Park Primary in Victoria, because of the school’s syllabus on Bitcoin technology (i.e. blockchain). In fact, more than just facilitating an educational offering, the school has built a centre called “Blockchain Headquarters”, where students can learn about the process of raising funds for cryptocurrencies and simulate their own kickstarter campaign.
I’m sure you have heard about how fintech companies have been disrupting many institutional functions, such as payments, investments, lending, financial management, amongst many others. For example, Singaporean fintech company, SingX, just raised US$4.5M to run operations to disrupt the remittance space in Malaysia and Hong Kong, by offering a platform that bypasses the cumbersome processes and costs of the bank. If you think that is impressive, then think again. Beyond disrupting the finance world and trailblazing the education system, there are companies like Spriggy – a mobile app that provides children 8-years-old and older a way to learn real-world money skills by using their own cards to make purchases, allowing them to see the impact of their decisions and sense of ownership, while also translating the value behind what they’re doing – that use fintech to penetrate areas of education that even schools are not able to.
These days, stories of “big finance players” crossing over to the fintech start-up realm seem to commonplace. One of the most, if not the most obvious reason for fintech start-ups taking over, is the simplicity and improvement that they bring to the customers. The ability of fintech to track spending, freeze a card at a touch of a button, and set budgets, are attractive features for prospective customers. Friends and family can exchange money with a few simple touches of the screen, even send emojis along with their transactions. Essentially, it is all about simplicity and speed; people are fed up with slow and old-fashioned banks, and the “big finance players” recognise that. Some of these people include HSBC’s formal global head of corporate finance and one of Hong Kong’s most experienced investment bankers, John Crompton, who has been named chairman of the advisory board at Issufy, a fintech company that sells an e-data management tool.
The point is, fintech hasn’t only changed the dynamics of our business landscape. It has changed the very nature of our lives; from the way we live through mobile apps, the synchronization of different industries/ businesses through digital platforms, to the way it’s forging the educational perspectives that will determine the future of humankind. And this is merely the beginning. What else, and how much more will we see emerging from this era?