In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers dubbed Singapore the world’s best business hub after London. The city-state was ranked first in three indicator categories – technology readiness, transportation and infrastructure, and ease of doing business.

Singapore is also ranked by Forbes as Asia’s leading place to do business: its strong rule of law has allowed for good corporate governance, security, low taxes and an infrastructure that accommodates business building.

Which is perhaps why financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, UBS and Citibank are among the 200 international banks that have established their regional headquarters in Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the nation’s central bank, reported over $2.7 trillion in assets under management (AUM) in 2016, with 17 per cent growth in the areas of real estate, private equity, and venture capital.

Firms such as Blackrock Investment Management, J.P. Morgan, and Capital Group have also set up shop on the country’s shores, solidifying the fund management industry as an integral part of Singapore’s financial foundation.

However, the island-state is not only the centre of trade in the region, but also at the forefront of technological innovation, leading the way in the burgeoning FinTech start-up field.

In recent years, there has been a surge in venture capital fund raising amongst investors in Singapore. This reflects the thriving interest within Southeast Asia’s start-up community and positions the country as a hotbed for entrepreneurs, technopreneurs, and mediapreneurs.

Its financial landscape has made it attractive to accelerator and incubator programmes as well. Companies such as KPMG Digital Village and Unilever the Foundry have driven start-up demand by linking them to their global networks. Such programmes act as community platforms for start-ups by offering mentorship, workspace, and collaborative opportunities with corporate entities.

As an indication of strong investment appetite within the country, The Straits Times reported 112 venture-capital deals totalling US$1.2 billion last year.

Another growing focal point of the finance industry is FinTech and blockchain technology. Singapore’s technological infrastructure, connectivity, and laws have made it the epicentre of digital and technological innovation in Asia.

The country’s open interest in blockchain technology is reflected in the minimal legislation on cryptocurrency, and there are no taxes on long term virtual currency investments. This interest has allowed Singapore to play host to a wealth of conferences focusing on e-commerce, blockchain finance, policy development, digital identity and cyber security. 

One such global event is the Singapore FinTech Festival, which is the world’s largest FinTech event. In its second edition in 2017, the event hosted 32,000 participants across 109 countries, more than double the 13,000 attendees from 60 countries in its inaugural year in 2016.

This MAS-sanctioned event forms a robust ecosystem of investors, venture capitalists, financial industry leaders, policy makers, and FinTech players dedicated to driving the FinTech and digital finance industry. The 2018 edition will be held from 12 to 16 November at the Singapore EXPO.

One important aspect of FinTech is the innovation behind retail, and the Seamless Asia Expo catered specifically to those from the sector.

Held from 3 to 4 May 2018 at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, it was a free event that saw C-suite speakers from Airbnb, Go-Jek, 7-11, and 30 state banks sharing ideas on the future of e-commerce, end-to-end implementation of digital technology and their effects on traditional businesses. Topics such as retail store analytics and payment innovation for blockchain customers were also discussed.

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Meanwhile, future technology thinkers and businesses gathered at the Asia-Pacific Blockchain for Finance Conference from 20 to 21 June 2018. The blockchain-focused event featured tech speakers from J.P. Morgan, IBM, TenX, and Ripple who offered insights into the latest intelligence from within the financial services.

The financial landscape in Singapore reflects its intention of building its digital identity as a world leader in innovation and experimentation and to become the world’s most advanced city that bridges the development of finance and technological entrepreneurship.