To reach the next billion financial excluded, FinTech must be transformative, AFI at the Singapore FinTech Festival 2017

"To reach the next billion financial excluded, FinTech has to be transformative and not just additive,” said AFI’s Deputy Executive Director Mr. Norbert Mumba during the 2017 Singapore FinTech festival, first of its kind to include a thematic focus on Financial Inclusion.

AFI members and management took part in the Festival from 14-16 November 2017, attended by more than 25,000 participants from over 100 countries. The Festival provided a platform for innovators and policymakers to deliberate where and how innovative technologies can be deployed to reach consumers still excluded from formal financial services.

“FinTech is uniquely positioned to make a transformative impact on the lives of the poor,” said Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance, in her address to the Festival.

Keynote speaker, Mr. Michael Wiegand, Director of Financial Services for the Poor at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, outlined the critical ingredients of an inclusive digital payments system including enabling real-time push payments, having a broad range of participants, and achieving real interoperability.

Highlighting the catalytic potential of new technology, participants shared a broad consensus that FinTech innovators will need to form effective partnerships with governments and incumbent financial institutions to be successful in achieving scale and impact.

“While FinTech holds promise for financial inclusion, it also poses risks. There is a need for balancing innovation and regulatory oversight”, Mr. Mumba said during the panel session “Policy and Approach for Sustainable Financial Inclusion”.

“Advice to regulators – Wait, watch, learn and regulate. Do not rush, you may run the risk of impeding innovations”, said Ms. Maha Bahou, Executive Manager for Payment Systems and Domestic Banking of the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) speaking in the same panel.

Ms. Bahou explained how the CBJ is using a centralized national switch to enable payments interoperability and based on big data analytics, develop creditworthiness for users of mobile wallets.

AFI members —financial regulators & policymakers from more than 90 countries representing over 85% of the global unbanked — are leveraging technological innovation to advance their financial inclusion goals through proportionate regulatory approaches such as ‘Test and Learn’ and now the Regulatory Sandbox, Mr. Mumba said and highlighted the need to focus on FinTech for Financial Inclusion that has transformative potential.

The Festival also featured the Global FinTech Hackcelerator and FinTech Awards, in which AFI participated on the Panel of Judges. The awards recognized the work of innovators to design FinTech solutions for pressing consumer challenges, including those focused on enhancing financial inclusion. AFI Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) partner TransferTo received an award at the Festival from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) for its innovative work in cross-border mobile remittances to improve women’s empowerment.”

Take a look at selected tweets from the Singapore FinTech Festival.

About the 2017 Singapore FinTech Festival

This year’s Singapore FinTech festival is organized by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the country’s central bank and financial regulator, in partnership with the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), an organization that represents the retail and investment banking community of Singapore. In addition to workshops and networking sessions, the festival also consists of a three-day FinTech conference, featuring over 160 leaders from central banks, regulatory agencies, financial institutions and FinTech companies.