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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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'I like to keep things fresh': Taufik Batisah on evolving as an artiste

SINGAPORE: It has been more than 12 years since Taufik Batisah became a household name across the country, but the 2004 Singapore Idol winner is still a big feature in the local entertainment scene.

The 35-year-old first made a name for himself as a musician, but is now keen to exercise his acting chops once more. 

He will be starring in Mediacorp’s Channel 5 weekly drama series Tanglin from Dec 30, and sees this as an opportunity to grow.

“I like to keep things fresh for the audience so that they look at me in a different light, and they won’t get jaded of hearing me just singing,” he told Channel NewsAsia in an interview. “I want to explore my options and see how it goes.”

The last time Taufik featured in an English TV drama series was when he starred in the 2005 show Shooting Stars, alongside Singapore Idol co-stars Sylvester Sim and Olinda Cho.

While he has made his big screen debut in Malaysian films Soulmate and Dukun Doktor Dani, Taufik is “privileged” for this chance to act in English TV dramas again. 

“The beauty of doing a drama is you have the time to develop your character and if you do something badly, you can figure out and you can improve along the way. So today you might have not done so well in the scene, but then you have the space to improve tomorrow, or the next week when you shoot again,” he said.

“But for film, it’s like you’re stuck. You have to do it to deliver, and if you don’t deliver during that time, you’re going to look bad on-screen. The good thing about drama which I like is that I get to practise and hopefully I can develop my acting chops over time.” 

In Tanglin, Taufik plays Khairul, a charismatic, charming businessman who can be scheming and unscrupulous when it comes to work and love pursuits.

Despite describing Khairul as a “nonchalant douche” who “doesn’t have a filter”, Taufik admits that there are other aspects of his reel life character’s behaviour that mirrors his. 

“In terms of getting work done, I too am a little bit ruthless,” Taufik explained. “When it comes to my music and entertainment, I am my harshest critic. Even if someone else thinks the work is good, and I don’t think it is, I will figure things out to improve.”

A familiar face within the cast of Tanglin is seasoned actress Masturah Ahmad, who plays a motherly figure to Taufik in both TV dramas he has been involved in – Tanglin and Shooting Stars. He will also be working alongside Nathaniel Ho, who was a fellow contestant during Singapore Idol.

And Taufik has nothing but praise for his co-stars.

“It’s been great, the cast and production team, they’re all so cool. Very helpful and welcoming. That’s a privilege because they’re already been many episodes in and I’m relatively new.”

CONCERT IN THE WORKS?

Besides honing his acting skills, Taufik continues to work on his singing career. Time and schedule permitting, he hopes to organise a concert for his fans in 2017.

In the more immediate future, Taufik will be part of Singapore’s largest countdown street party on New Year’s eve, which will be held at Suntec City’s Fountain of Wealth on Dec 31. 

Taufik will return to perform in this year’s New Year’s eve celebrations. (Photo: Sherlyn Goh) 

Taufik will be doing a collaboration with DJ Rave Republic, with whom he plans to do a remix of a song.  “It’s going to be a huge party. This is a free concert, the acts are done by familiar faces,” he added.

The party focuses on local talents such as Gentle Bones, Shigga Shay, Tay Kewei and Najib Ali.

“We just want everybody to come down and have fun with us,” said Taufik. “I am excited to see how the stage and the setup is gonna be at the fountain itself.”

Taufik’s debut appearance on Tanglin will be on Dec 30, at 8.30pm on Channel 5. 

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Want to trade like the big boys? This homegrown app could help you

SINGAPORE: Just like any other avid investor, Mr Clemen Chiang has always been on the lookout for a winning strategy to beat the stock market.

A keen investor in US equities since the early 2000s, the Singaporean took interest in analysing the investment styles of American billionaires such as Warren Buffett after noticing that the legendary investor had steered clear of US technology stocks, which were the darlings of the market back then.

“I was looking at many hot technology stocks … for example, when Google (debuted) at US$ 100 on the Nasdaq in 2004, I invested in it,” said Mr Chiang, founder and CEO of homegrown financial technology (FinTech) start-up Aly. “But after some time, I noticed that many of these tech stocks were just too volatile … and Warren Buffett never invested in them, apart from IBM.”

Mr Chiang believed that by knowing the trades of these “big boys”, who have abundant resources to conduct due diligence and access to exclusive information, could help the common man on the street understand the sudden spikes in stock prices and make better investment decisions.

“After 15 years of investing, I’ve come to believe in the thesis of standing on the shoulders of giants such as Warren Buffett … After all, (he) has consistently outperformed the S&P 500 and I’m just not as smart as him,” the entrepreneur, who is in his early forties, told Channel NewsAsia.

“While investors like him won’t reveal their secrets, they have to reveal whatever they invest to the public and I realise that is the path for me to identify which giant I should (follow),” he added.

And that is why Mr Chiang came up with the app Spiking that helps him to do just that. However, on the back of advice from local accelerator Startupbootcamp FinTech, the entrepreneur decided to shift his focus from Wall Street to the local stock market.

Since its official launch in early April, the homegrown app has worked on enlarging its database and now provides information of 11,000 company directors and substantial shareholders in Singapore such as Banyan Tree founder Ho Kwon Ping, tycoons Oei Hong Leong and Peter Lim, as well as DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta.

Via Spiking, users can choose to follow these sophisticated investors and track updated disclosures of transactions and stock holdings. This information is obtained by machine-reading algorithms that scan through publicly-available stock exchange filings and verify them against various sources such as Bloomberg to check for anomalies, explained Mr Chiang.

While targeted at retail investors, the founder noted that Spiking has received positive responses from the senior executives of public companies as well as remisiers. 

“Some remisiers told me they can now tell their clients that there’s information about these big shots buying and so what are they waiting for. It’s like a sales kit for them. Previously they relied on analyst recommendations which can sometimes be difficult for retail investors to understand.” 

The local bourse operator also extended a helping hand, by expressing its willingness to provide the app with more data to work with. “That was a validation to our work,” Mr Chiang said.

Previously backed by China’s Quest Ventures and the National Research Foundation, Spiking announced on Monday (Sep 19) that it secured S$ 1 million in seed funding. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

“I LEARNT AND MOVED ON TO BE A BETTER MAN”

The successful conclusion of a S$ 1 million seed-funding round earlier this week was also a form of validation for the founder himself, who was in 2008 embroiled in a well-publicised expose by The Straits Times for touting qualifications from an unaccredited university.

After the expose, participants who attended Mr Chiang’s seminars on options trading sued him for refunds.

“I learnt a lot from that and I moved on to be a better man,” the entrepreneur told Channel NewsAsia. “It was a test of whether you can still stand up after a fall. I picked myself up … and I moved on to do other things.”

That included the starting up of female shopping portal CozyCot with his wife, and organising the Singapore edition of the Diner En Blanc pop-up picnic from 2012 to 2014.

When asked whether he was ever worried about investors turning him down due to his past, Mr Chiang answered: “The good thing is that when investors look at a start-up or entrepreneur, they have a completely different perspective from a retail investor. They look at what drives the company and the founder, and whether he can stand the test of failure. I think I’m a standing example of that.

“Investors from the capital markets know about my past and I share with them very openly. In the end, they said, ‘We still want to invest in you and we believe in how you’re going to take the company forward’,” he added, with a smile.

NEW FEATURES AND MOVING BEYOND SGX

Now, flushed with fresh funding from prominent capital market investors such as Sakae Holdings chairman Douglas Foo, the start-up is gearing up for a packed schedule ahead. Some of the plans include the addition of an online trading platform for users to place their trades via the app.

But before that, new features such as a forum page which will aggregate recent news headlines, announcements and market activity, as well as an expansion of data coverage to 10 stock exchanges will be rolled out in early December.

Apart from the SGX, Spiking is looking to ramp up its services to include data from the stock exchanges in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as the two stock exchanges in Vietnam and India, respectively.

Among the overseas markets, Mr Chiang singled out India as the biggest challenge given the sheer number of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange.

“There are about 10,000 companies listed in India and for each company, we will have to (identify) the blue whales who are people putting money on the table, the board of directors who make strategic decisions and then the management group,” he explained.

But Mr Chiang remains upbeat about the expansion plans and has his ultimate goal set on Wall Street.

“We are still a start-up and if we go to the US now, we are just killing ourselves. So let’s start off with 10 exchanges in Asia-Pacific and if that works out, we’ll go for another round of funding and go after the US market,” he told Channel NewsAsia.

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