It is hot and humid in Singapore's November and almost every afternoon the rain breaks its way. Then it almost seems as if the sky wants to cry. A visit to the "Singapore Fintech Festival 2018" also makes you cry. Since Monday, the international financial sector has been meeting in the exhibition halls (Expo) of the island and city state of Singapore to discuss current developments and trends in a future digital banking world. With Singapore as host, China, India, the USA, Poland, the UK and even Switzerland, many countries as well as their established companies and start-ups from the banking sector are represented - only one truly visible German participation is missing. While the community is discussing important impulses and ideas for a future financial market, demonstrating digital developments and presenting technical solutions, Germany is practically not taking part in this international industry meeting. Or in other words: one does not speak German.
Basically, this excerpt is just another component of the digital financial market that has been completely sleepy in Germany for years. Trends and impulses come from other parts of the world - above all from the large digital corporations in the USA, such as Google and Microsoft. In his opening speech, Microsoft engineer Saqib Shaikh spoke about "AI for Good". In his opinion, artificial intelligence (AI) is the trend topic. For Shaikh, AI describes the world around us. As an example, the engineer looked at how people with disabilities can benefit from digitization, from real-time text recognition and translation to help for the blind. Shaikh: "This is just the beginning of AI."
AI and the cashless payment of billions of people
Looking at the world of finance, it can be seen that AI and sensor technology, for example, automate payment in the background. The advantages for customers: No queues and no cash mean time savings and flexible payment. A mass phenomenon in many parts of Asia, Africa or India. Because of the expensive hardware for laptops or tablets, people use the cheaper smartphone as their own communication, payment and administration hotspot. The market for inexpensive smartphones is therefore booming, especially in emerging markets. The devices are mostly designed for the local market and therefore affordable, the communication infrastructure is available. With this simple technological "autonomy", billions of people are connected to the Internet, which gives them freedom. One reason why cashless payment functions via smartphone are so popular in India, for example.
It is hardly surprising that, according to the Indian news portal "Digit", an estimated one billion smartphones will be sold in India alone in the coming years, citing "Counterpoint Research".
In addition, the number of smartphone users will rise to over 700 million. Already today, the Indian subcontinent is the second largest smartphone market with around 400 million users behind China.
In addition, the Indian government is providing important impetus with the central bank to accelerate mobile payment functions. The fact that electronic payment is booming in India is also due to the temporary devaluation of money in 2016. All 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were worth nothing overnight. There was chaos during the exchange and millions of people had to search for alternatives without cash reserves. This led to increased use of mobile payment options. A billion-dollar business from which many benefit. On the one hand, mobile phone providers who do their mass business with prepaid cards and, on the other hand, retailers and digital banks who increase their sales or money transfers and thus commissions.
Open, innovative and digital
However, this openness to digital tools is not always voluntary - as the example of India shows. But it enables new forms of participation for the majority of people in many emerging countries. Opportunities that users can take advantage of, as will be seen at the Fintech event in Singapore.
E-payment is one of the big topics for the top dogs of the international financial sector, but also for start-ups that present themselves with innovative solutions. While secure payment transactions are an information and risk management topic here and there, the focus of the congress trade fair is clearly on the opportunities offered by new technologies and the possible applications in the financial services environment. In addition to artificial intelligence in Fintech, cloud solutions and blockchain technologies will occupy the theme channels and trends in Singapore. Looking at Fintech solutions, Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat recognized that Fintech could help expand financial integration worldwide. And this includes cross-border systems such as payment transactions or trade finance. With its topics and participants, the event shows that the challenges of digital disruption are being met. Moreover, there is an open culture of seeking opportunities. Unfortunately without any significant involvement of German finance and tech minds. A missed opportunity for the local financial sector - once again.