Tokyo FinTech
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Tokyo FinTech

Podcast Highlights: Singapore FinTech Festival Debrief

The Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) was back in full force as an in-person event, with approximately 60,000 visitors attending the three day convention, plus the innovation lab crawl preceding it, and several side events across town. It was a fantastic opportunity to re-connect with the regional and global FinTech ecosystem, and for many of us traveling from Japan, it was the first time in a while to be out of the country.

In this episode of the eXponential Finance Podcast, we talk with Nachi Das, a Wall Street veteran and FinTech Investor & Operator, and Zach Taub, a financial services market wizard in both FinTech and TradFi, about our takeaways from the SFF.

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Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:

Notable impressions

  • Zach: The most interesting thing for me was a gentleman by the name of Balaji S, who previously was the CTO of Coinbase. His presentation covered “The Network State”, which is the idea of building virtual sovereign states across our traditional nation state borders and boundaries. That was really, really interesting. What is the state? What are the identity requirements? These are all things that tie into Web3, DeFi and sovereignty.
  • Nachi: The one thing that struck me apart from the companies or ventures themselves that were present, were the countries. I thought that this year, the countries and regions were doing a very good job of representing themselves through both their booths, and then some select ventures from those regions who came to connect and tried to establish businesses. I thought that was something remarkable and something that should be in line because it’s a FinTech festival for the entire region.

Crypot and payments

  • Zach: I typically look at the FinTech festival as market bellwether. What is hot, what is coming, sort of forward looking, and from a go-to-market perspective. For example, four years ago, there were just a couple of crypto exchanges, and a handful of payment service providers. And now we are seeing a proliferation of both, which is a great indicator of where the market is going, where I see these two spaces ultimate coalescing. What we are still not seeing is much progress in cross border payments, I think there is still a lot of problem solving to be done in that space. While you can see a lot of novel solutions for it, there is still a lot a lot to be done. Everybody wants to get off of Swift and all of the traditional networks, but we still do not really have a clear solution for that, similarly to how we do not have a clear solution and there are still huge challenges to solve.

Artificial Intelligence

  • Nachi: I think AI was sadly missing, and that really shocked me, because last year, the Singapore FinTech Festival made embedded finance a big theme. People talked a lot about AI. Last year, we discussed a lot about how AI-oriented analytics make a lot of sense. This year, I really did not see much of AI or AI-related ventures, I was hoping to see much more of that, especially around data and around services targeted towards individuals.
  • Zach: I did hear a lot of discussions about AI, ML, and NLP as enablers. So I do not think it was absent, but it is no longer a trendy theme, it has just become very present as an enabler in the background.

ESG

  • Zach: I do not get ESG, I do not get the the emphasis on it. I feel that businesses are using ESG as a “differentiator”, and that it is a theme with big corporates. And in that regard, the SFF this year, rather than being a bellwether, and looking forward at the relevant trends in FinTech in particular, I feel like it was actually a lagging indicator, in that it focused more on corporates than what people in FinTech care about. It really felt to me like a corporate messaging thing, more than actually talking about real applications. The ESG stages that I went to varied so widely in their themes, so it did not feel like there was any theme or any consistency to it other than big corporate saying we do ESG and we are great.
  • Nachi: One of my ventures is centered around accurate carbon capture using the blockchain to record it, providing transparency and actually getting certified from a third party so that whatever “green” you have used or not used is accurate. We developed that because there is a lot of mis-reporting, so called “greenwashing”, and it can have a lot of associated governance issues. So to some extent in this SFF, there was talk of some initiatives around creating appropriate dictionaries, creating appropriate measures so that you could have an audit, you could begin to have a standardized language around governance and reporting. So that is was what I saw. It is still very little, and not enough to have an impact, I agree with that.

For more from Nachi and Zach, please turn to the eXponential Finance Podcast on the podcast platform of your choice.

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Norbert Gehrke

Passionate about strategy & innovation across Asia. At home in Japan. Connector of people & ideas.