In a year in which most of us conducted almost all business from home, what are the chances of staging a successful online event? The Singapore FinTech Festival and Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SFF x SWITCH) proved that the brand is able to capture large remote audiences. 60,000 participants from over 160 countries joined the summit, according to numbers released by the organizers. 3.5 million viewers tuned in to the sessions. SFF x SWITCH might just have transformed the way tech conferences are held.
A high-caliber speaker line-up certainly helped. Several heads of state, leaders of international organizations, and chiefs of major global companies spoke at the FinTech Fest, providing a perspective on today’s challenges that are dominated by a global health crisis and—as a result of it—unprecedented technological disruption.
The financial industry at the core of the conference saw a various local initiatives such as the Singapore Financial Data Exchange, allowing individuals to consolidate their financial information from different banks and government agencies, the Asian Institute of Digital Finance, that is developing new services, or a Blockchain Innovation Program backed by Enterprise SG, the Infocomm Media Development Authority, National Research Foundation, and the MAS.
The initiative, with 75 participating companies, has defined 17 projects which will develop, commercialize, and facilitate the adoption of real-world applications. Blockchain technology appears to finally prove its usefulness as the pandemic is showing how essential a secure, paperless organization has become. The focus will be initially on trade, logistics, and supply chain. One of the companies the initiative is working with is DiMuto, which helps the agrifood sector to track and trace fresh produce and food products to ensure compliance with hygiene and safety regulations.
R3, one of the familiar faces at the event, is also putting emphasis on trade. “We have seen supply chains not working efficiently, as they are not digitized enough,” said Asia-Pacific head Amit Ghosh. “Companies cannot react to challenges.” Ghosh points out that a lot of the workflows are still manual, paper based, or in many cases email based. Paper has to move along with the cargo, if that doesn’t move properly there are chances of fraud, chances of inefficiency.
The firm has also become a player in what turned out to be one of the hottest topics at the summit, central bank digital currencies, or CBDC. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Bank of Thailand used R3’s Corda software to create a remittance corridor between the two countries. R3 was part of a working group including 115 global institutions, among them the IMF, Fed, and MAS.
“Central banks and commercial banks right now have a legitimate threat from big tech, the likes of Libra who are launching propositions which can completely remove the need for us to carry SGD or HKD or whatever,” Ghosh said. “In some sense it’s a defensive play, but also offensive play.”
Back at SWITCH, the Barcelona-based startup TicTAP is working to build on its initial contacts in the region. The company has designed a traceability solution for railway rolling stock maintenance by using an intelligent sticker that communicates via NFC tag. TicTAP also participated in the Singapore Mobility Challenge and is now working with the Land Transport Authority and Alstom to equip the new trains on the North East line. “It would have been nice to meet some visitors in real time and do some live networking,” said co-founder Jordi Breda. “But it was a huge opportunity to be here,” he added, mentioning that a Malaysian firm just inquired about his product.
SFF x SWITCH will return next year in the second week of November. If people will mingle once again in the wide halls of the Singapore Expo remains to be seen. A hybrid event with a strong virtual component might be just the outcome that serves everyone’s interests.
KrASIA is a media partner of the event.