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Open Banking

Open Finance

A digitally advanced island country in Southeast Asia.

Singapore is a digitally advanced country, with 98% of residents having access to the internet, and being the home to the fastest broadband in the world (as of 2019).

The government agency, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) reports that 64% of people used the internet for banking in 2020, a small growth from 60% in 2018.

Despite the high levels of digital literacy, there are warnings that the small numbers of digitally excluded residents could become more isolated and underprivileged if they are ignored while the rest of Singapore continues its digital advancement. The people being left behind are typically made up of low-income households, the elderly, low-income adults and migrant workers.

The IMDA has several programmes for digital readiness, such as the Home Access Programme, offering bundled options for fibre broadband with a tablet or smartphone. Since it started in 2014, the programme has helped more than 14,000 people.

Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act of 2014 provides a standard of protection for the use of personal data. 

Singpass, or Singapore Personal Access, was launched in 2003 and is part of the Singapore National Identity. It serves as personal identification for every resident of the country, being used as a digital identity card, for signing documents, or for authorising transactions. It even allows age verification at alcohol vending machines. It allows the owner to access government data sources and private organisations, including banking and insurance services.

The Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex) allows a consolidated view of aggregated financial information from a variety of banks. It’s aim is to improve financial planning. Singpass is required, as is a UOB (United Overseas Bank) account.

Singapore’s PayNow allows for peer-to-peer fund transfers of Singaporean dollars between certain Singaporean bank accounts or e-wallet by using just their mobile number, Singapore NRIC/FIN, or Virtual Payment Address (VPA), instantly.

The ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) was set up in 2018 to encourage cooperation between financial institutions and Fintechs across south-eastern Asian countries. It produced the API Exchange (APIX), with the use of a sandbox to purchase APIs. A partnership was also announced with Abu Dhabi Global Market as the first regulator member of the APIX platform outside ASEAN, expanding its reach to the Middle East and North Africa region.

In 2021 Singapore’s PayNow, Thailand’s PromptPay and Malaysia’s DuitNow were linked to facilitate cross-border payments.

In 2023, India and Singapore linked their respective digital payments systems, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and PayNow, respectively.

Separately, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is involved in Project Dunbar, an initiative spearheaded by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to use central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) to facilitate cross-border payments.

Of the nearly 6 million population of Singapore, 4.5 million are on Singpass.  This covers 97% of Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 15 and above.

The 2021 Global Payments Report found that digital wallets are set to overtake credit cards as the preferred online payment method over the next four years. 80 per cent of residents and businesses in Singapore are currently on PayNow.  The electronic instant fund transfer service saw individual registration rise by 1.6 million in 2020, bringing the total number of registrations to 4.9 million.

In order to stretch inclusivity to those without mobile phones, face verification can now be used, including places such as public kiosks, matching the face with that stored with their national id, and for those who need assistance from others to perform transactions online, can have one time passwords sent by SMS to another, trusted, person’s phone. 

The Seniors Go Digital initiative was launched by the IMDA to support seniors in gaining digital literacies. The initiative primarily sets out to increase access to messaging and making video calls, before introducing SingPass, then enabling seniors to take part in e-payments and digital banking. Issues had been encountered with SingPass and banking apps only being supported in English, when some seniors do not speak the language.

The government technology agency, GovTech, has a citizen participation programme called the Tech Kaki Community.

Singapore is at the epicentre of the emerging superapp trend, with Grab and Sea providing both digital payments and financial services, integrating into services such as taxi booking, food ordering, or online shopping (called Shopee within the Sea portfolio).  

The Money Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 2021 set a global competition, in partnership with various agencies including the World Bank, exploring challenges and potential for Central Bank Digital Currencies.

The government produces an alert list of companies who have claimed to be licensed of regulated by MAS. 

The highly digitised and tech-leaning employment landscape in Singapore means there is high demand for tech workers. Trends indicate that Singapore will need 1.2 million additional digital workers by 2025 to remain competitive. The situation is such that tech workers can be quite particular about accepting interviews and rejecting offers if they feel the company does not understand the role they are advertising for.

Singapore ranked 1st out of 134 countries in Wiley’s Digital Skills Global Index 2021

The Association of Banks in Singapore released a playbook for financial institutions and fintech companies to “develop and adopt open API based system architecture”. The guide includes a framework for governance, design principles for APIs and how to implement them.

In December 2020, MAS launched the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex). This is facilitated by Singapore’s national digital identity mechanism, SingPass, which is an SSO used to transact with more than 60 government agencies. Consumers can grant access to financial institutions with whom they choose to share their information in a centrally managed online consent system. Individuals can use Singpass to retrieve personal financial information such as deposits, credit cards, loans, insurance policy details and investments from the participating banks, insurers and CDP, and their financial information such as home loans and central provident fund balances from the relevant government agencies.

MAS manages the Financial Industry API Registry – a registry of all institutions in Singapore with live open APIs. These extend across: Banking; Capital markets; Insurance (with one provider currently listed), and Payments.