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MAS looks to create thriving FinTech hub with SG$27m AI & data analytics push

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched a SG$27 million Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics (AIDA) grant under the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FSTI) scheme. This is in a bid to promote the adoption and integration of AI and data analytics in financial institutions.

This initiative is part of MAS’ move to ensure Singapore’s FinTech journey is in line with the rise of digital. Ravi Menon, MD, MAS, said during his speech at the recent Singapore FinTech Festival that “a smart nation needs a smart financial centre”. To foster a thriving FinTech hub, MAS aims to focus on areas such as building an ecosystem of diverse players competing and collaborating, as well as a strong talent pool and deep research capabilities.

The grant will focus on two tracks – financial institution and research. Under the financial institution track, Singapore-based financial institutions which make use of AI and data analytics to produce insights, formulate strategies and assist in their decision making, will be co-funded up to 50% of project costs via the AIDA grant. Techniques may include machine learning, natural language processing, predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as deep learning.

A main criteria of the AIDA grant is that financial institutions will need to consider the impact of AI or data analytics project on their employees and develop appropriate training programmes. The programmes may include up-skilling staff with new data analytics capabilities or re-skilling staff who may be redeployed into new roles.

Under the research track, the grant will co-fund up to 70% of research institutions’ AI or data analytics projects which have clear applications for Singapore’s financial sector and demonstrate local knowledge transfer and industry sharing. This is to ensure the research ecosystem in Singapore will be strengthened and facilitate stronger industry applications.

Besides the grant, MAS is also intending to boost its talent pool by inking a Memorandum of Intent with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), six local universities and five financial associations. This is to form the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) FinTech collective to develop industry-ready professionals in meeting the strong demands of emerging infocomm technology (ICT) skills. The TeSA FinTech Collective will better equip Singaporeans with the right skills to take up ICT jobs.

Initiatives under the collective include research collaborations in FinTech with the universities, new courses in FinTech specialisations, and hackathons with finance professionals to help students understand FinTech trends. The TeSA FinTech Collective will also boost existing programmes which provide career guidance and skills certification. It will also cover in-demand technologies such as blockchain, cybersecurity, AI and data science.

Additionally, MAS has also partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab to offer Singapore-based industry professionals and researchers with opportunities to work alongside MIT researchers. Financial institutions and FinTech players will be able to participate in pilots and experiments in broad range of financial-services projects

“Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology pose a dramatic change to the existing regulatory landscape; they have the potential to reform the global financial system around peer-to-peer transactions, without traditional financial intermediation. We are excited to work with an organisation such as MAS which shares our thinking around the impact of open-source, layered architectures and permissionless systems,” Neha Narula, director of the digital currency initiative at the MIT Media Lab, said.

“As financial institutions and FinTechs tap on emerging technologies to create more innovative services, the need for professionals with strong technology skillsets and a good understanding of financial products and processes will grow significantly. This unprecedented, large scale collaboration among the government, financial industry, and universities will help to build a deep FinTech talent pool in Singapore,” Jacqueline Loh, deputy MD, MAS, added.

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