Poll shows fintechs bullish about expanding businesses and workforce: Ng Chee Meng

FINANCIAL technology has shown itself to be a "bright spark" amid the Covid-19 crisis, with preliminary findings of an internal survey by the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) showing that most fintech firms are still bullish about expanding their businesses and workforce.

Speaking at the inaugural Digital Banking Symposium on Tuesday, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress Ng Chee Meng cited this finding and noted that a "new chapter" is opening up for the financial services sector as consumers' capacities for digital tools widen.

"Covid-19, in its ironic way, has forced companies, whether you are big or small, to embrace technology," he said. "The digital possibilities in the world are immense. Even the older generation that were previously averse to technological change, settled in their comfort zones, are moving out."

A new report on digital banks in South-east Asia, also unveiled at the symposium on Tuesday, noted that the number of "digital challenger banks" has grown significantly over the last decade, attracting some US$15 billion in funding. Here, digital challenger banks refer to fintechs or non-financial institutions that hold banking licences, as well as unlicensed neobanks that work with licensed partners to provide bank-like services.

While South-east Asia has relatively fewer digital challenger banks today, the region is a compelling market for new banking entrants as it offers opportunity to serve a large population of the unbanked and underbanked, according to the report authored by the SFA, Boston Consulting Group and Finastra.

Mr Ng urged financial institutions to continue investing in their workforce while embarking on their digital journeys. This may involve redesigning jobs where necessary, he said.

He cited examples of how traditional banks here have been trying to reskill workers, such as DBS reskilling more than 500 contact-centre staff to take on 13 roles as part of the bank's digital transformation, as well as Citi launching a professional conversion programme to help some 400 workers stay tech-enabled.

"Singapore has always been built upon new ideas, even breaking out of successful paradigms so that we can embark on new journeys of success," said Mr Ng.

And fintech is one such arena, he said, addressing the financial institutions.

"I'm sure you will maintain your agility, your innovation, your flexibility and to seize opportunities."