SINGAPORE'S local and overseas payment systems are getting a big boost with a rollout of initiatives to beef up the Republic's cashless efforts, and plans for payment linkages with neighbouring countries.
Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who is also board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said on Monday that the Republic is working to enable cross-border payment linkages with neighbouring countries such as India, where one such link will be implemented next year.
Mr Ong, who was speaking at a dinner at the start of the week-long Singapore FinTech Festival, said NETS, the nation's largest merchant acquirer, will set up a framework to enable payment linkages with the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).
This means that from the middle of next year, anyone who holds a NETS card in Singapore can make online purchases on any NPCI e-commerce merchant website in India.
NETS is also working with NPCI to allow NETS payments at all 2.8 million RuPay point of sale terminals in India. Conversely, a RuPay customer can use his RuPay card or RuPay-enrolled mobile phone to pay at any NETS acceptance point in Singapore. RuPay is a card created by NPCI to fulfil the Reserve Bank of India's desire for a domestic, open loop, and multilateral system of payments in India.
Mr Ong noted that Singapore has started establishing e-payment interconnectivity in small ways with India and China, and will progressively work on more such linkages with other countries.
And from next year, the PayNow system can be used for more than just splitting a lunch bill with a friend - it can also be used to pay merchants. Mr Ong said the PayNow system, which allows individuals to transfer funds to each other via online or mobile banking using just mobile numbers, will be extended to businesses "around the middle of next year". Businesses will be able to link their Unique Entity Numbers to their bank accounts. This will allow businesses to pay each other, or receive payments from customers, through their UENs.
In another move to foster innovation in the fintech space, Mr Ong said MAS will expedite the application assessment for its fintech regulatory sandbox so that firms can test and launch their innovative solutions faster.
MAS will also further loosen the regulatory boundaries for sandbox cases where the risks do not outweigh the potential benefits of the solution to consumers, he said. MAS launched the sandbox to allow firms to test innovative solutions within a safe and controlled environment.
So far, he said, MAS has received more than 30 applications to "play in the sandbox".
"It turns out that about half of these applications did not require the sandbox. Many did not need any regulatory exemption and MAS told them to go ahead and launch their solutions. That is really encouraging and a positive reflection of our regulatory framework, because innovation thrives most when enterprising people can commence business easily."
Next, through the Payments Council that was formed in August, the MAS will set nation-wide common QR (Quick Response code) specifications for e-payments - the "SGQR" - which will be progressively rolled out across the island, Mr Ong said.
"So in the very near future, when you walk into a shop that accepts QR code payments, you should only see SGQR with all the acceptance marks underneath it. If your payment method is accepted by the merchant, you just need to use your smart phone to scan and pay to that one SGQR."
Mr Ong's announcements come as some 25,000 participants from over 100 countries gathered in Singapore yesterday for the start of the FinTech Festival.
The festival, organised by MAS in partnership with The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) and in collaboration with SingEx Holdings, started with an innovation lab crawl yesterday morning.
The highlight of the festival is the three-day FinTech Conference starting on Tuesday, which will feature over 160 speakers from central banks and regulatory agencies, financial institutions, venture capital firms and fintech companies.
A new feature this year is the Investor Summit or "Deal Day", which will provide an opportunity for Singapore-based fintech startups to access funding from global investors.