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Small countries like Singapore, Switzerland must cooperate in fintech: Swiss Finance Minister

SINGAPORE: Singapore and Switzerland are not competitors when it comes to the development of financial technology (fintech) and with both countries being small financial hubs, it is important to cooperate, said Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer.

Mr Maurer was speaking to Channel NewsAsia after his tour of Lattice80 – a not-for-profit fintech hub located along Robinson Road – on Tuesday (Apr 18). The minister is in Singapore as part of a week-long trip in Asia and was leading a 20-member delegation, which comprised of representatives from the Swiss banking industry.

“It is important to have good relationships and today is a step to network between the two countries… I think it is important that small countries (which) are important financial centres have this network and understand the need to cooperate,” he said.

“We are not competitors (and) we can cooperate together.”

Last year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) signed a cooperation agreement to foster greater cooperation on fintech.

Mr Maurer noted that Singapore’s fintech scene is on a “high level” and there are learning points for Switzerland, such as in the case of consumer protection. “We are a little bit not in the same speed like you… but I think we can go step by step.”

The minister also noted that Singapore’s fintech sector benefits from its close proximity to a big Asian market, and can act as a stepping stone into Asia for Swiss fintech start-ups. For Singapore firms looking to expand into Europe, Switzerland can similarly do the same.

Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer listens to a presentation at Lattice80. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

“Singapore’s fintech (sector) is on a high level and we have to learn from you… We can continue this sense of cooperation between Singapore and Switzerland,” Mr Maurer said. 

Lattice80 is one of the organisations that the Swiss delegation is visiting during their time in Singapore. Launched in November 2016, more than 80 foreign and local fintech firms have taken up spaces at Lattice80, which is dubbed the world’s largest fintech hub by Singapore-based private investment group Marvelstone.

Ms Gina Heng, co-founder of Lattice80 and CEO of Marvelstone Group, noted that European start-up founders are among those who have taken up residence at the fintech hub as they view Singapore as the first step for their ventures in Asia.

“They see this as a central location to kick-start their companies. There’s good infrastructure and legal system, with a supportive government. We are also near to many countries which which makes it easier in terms of outreach,” she said.

A report by Deloitte dated September 2016 listed Singapore among the top fintech hubs globally, citing a business-friendly environment, adequate government support and access to expertise.

The report did not rank the 21 fintech hubs that were evaluated. Instead, it assessed the countries based on three main factors –  the Global Innovation index, the Global Financial Centre index and the Doing Business index – and both Singapore and London scored the best score of 10. Switzerland scored 42, coming in behind Silicon Valley, New York and Hong Kong.

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