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MAS seeks pan-Asean fintech infrastructure, says Mohanty

The MAS’s Sopnendu Mohanty wants to help fintech companies grow across borders, including working with neighboring officials to see if the MAS sandbox can include overseas players

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Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at MAS, says his goals for 2017 include seeing startups’ technology begin to be implemented, and to find ways to work with other regulators in Southeast Asia to create a scalable, cross-border environment for fintechs.

He spoke at the launch of SIM University’s fintech program.

Deploying startups’ tech and lowering regional barriers to business are linked, because only 5% of fintechs in the region have scaled beyond their domestic market, Mohanty says.

Regulators are partly to blame, because they are not harmonizing approaches to basic things such as digital identities and KYC rules. Access to capital and a lack of talent are other barriers, ones that governments can’t solve. But they can try to develop a more regional environment.

“We need a common infrastructure beyond Singapore,” Mohanty said. MAS is throwing ideas around with Asean counterparts and the World Bank to build a cross-border marketplace for fintechs to connect with banks. One of these is to expand the MAS’s regulatory sandbox, opened late last year to allow banks and startups to experiment under a forgiving regulatory environment.

Mohanty said MAS is developing a technical sandbox: “an actual physical sandbox, cloud-based, that allows the fintech marketplace to connect with bankas and regulators, to see what they can do in real time.” An announcement is due later this year if the MAS is satisfied with the arrangement.

Nor must this be limited to Singaporean companies. Mohanty said he is in discussions with counterparts in Southeast Asia to see if their financial institutions or startups might also participate. “A focus this year is the Asean bridge,” he said. By allowing their companies to experiment in Singapore, authorities in neighboring countries would have a better understanding of how things might develop – which would help them harmonize policymaking.

“If we get this right, there could be an explosion of change and creating of digital assets and digital identities,” Mohanty said.

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MAS seeks pan-Asean fintech infrastructure, says Mohanty