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Global FinTech Hackcelerator 2022 winners revealed in Singapore

Singapore FinTech Festival: MAS’s managing director Ravi Menon describing the authority’s “collaborative fintech projects”; and (inset from top) the Hackcelerator’s three winners - FQX, Norbloc and WeavInsight - all pictured with MAS deputy MD (markets and development) Leong Sing Chiong | Credit: Monetary Authority of Singapore

The winners of the latest Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)-organised ‘Global FinTech Hackcelerator’ competition – an annual challenge that has this year been themed ‘Accelerating A Greener Digital Future’ – have been revealed.

The focus this year was specifically on ‘web 3.0’ – meaning the third generation of internet-based technologies, incorporating concepts such as decentralisation and token-based economics – and green finance. The competition climaxed with 17 finalists pitching their innovations to an international industry panel during the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF).

Three teams were deemed winners: Switzerland’s FQX and solution eNotes; Sweden’s Norbloc and solution Fides; and the host nation’s WeavInsight and solution WeavAir. Each receives S$50,000 (about £31,000) in prize money.

FQX’s solution was described by MAS as a ‘highly efficient infrastructure that provides on-chain settlement of tokenised debt securities’, enabling cheaper issuance fees and increased capital efficiency; Norbloc’s impressed the judges with a digital onboarding platform that covers the know-your-customer (KYC) lifespan from data collection, management and validation to data sharing and monetisation; and Singapore’s WeavAir combines artificial intelligence (AI) analysis with new data sources such as satellite imagery to gather accurate and real-time data that enables the achievement of environment, social and governance (ESG) targets ‘faster and more efficiently’.

MAS and the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) revealed the Hackcelerator 2022 results on the final day of the SFF event, which was held from 2–4 November.

MAS expands cross-border wholesale CBDC work

MAS made announcements about numerous fintech initiatives in the run-up to and during the SFF, including its publication of an analysis of its explorations into potential use cases – including uses for government agencies – of what it refers to as ‘purpose-bound’ digital money.

The authority also unveiled a project called ‘Ubin+’, which it describes as an ‘expanded collaboration’ with international partners on cross-border foreign exchange (FX) settlement using wholesale central bank digital currency (CBDC). Wholesale CBDC is digital central bank money for interbank payments (in contrast to the higher-profile retail CBDC, which is for general population use).

Ubin+ builds on Project Ubin (2016-2020) – a project with the private sector to explore the use of blockchain and distributed-ledger technology (DLT) for the clearing and settlement of payments and securities – as well as learnings from MAS’s participation in Project Dunbar, which concluded that a common platform for multiple wholesale CBDCs could enable cheaper, faster and safer cross-border payments (and also examined how such a common platform could be made feasible from policy and governance perspectives).

As part of Ubin+, the authority will undertake ‘Project Mariana’ alongside the Banque de France, Swiss National Bank and the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub’s Eurosystem, Switzerland and Singapore centres. Their work will explore the exchange and settlement of Swiss franc, Euro and Singapore dollar wholesale CBDCs with an automated market maker (AMM) arrangement. AMM enables the exchange and settlement of two or more digital assets to be performed automatically with a smart contract.

Together with almost 20 central banks and global commercial banks, MAS is also participating in a CBDC sandbox being run by Belgium-headquartered interbank payments network SWIFT to explore cross-border interoperability across digital currencies based on DLT and non-DLT payment systems. 

MAS’s five fintech ‘key outcomes’

MAS’s managing director Ravi Menon (pictured) used a keynote speech during the SFF to describe what he described as five “key outcomes” that MAS wants to achieve through “collaborative fintech projects”: instant remittance, atomic settlement, programmable money, tokenised assets and “trusted” sustainability data.

In respect of instant remittance, he summarised Singapore’s aim of connecting its PayNow system with other nations’ faster-payment systems: for example, it linked up with Thailand’s PromptPay last year, the first such linkage in the world. Menon said that MAS is “now finalising” linkages with India’s Unified Payments Interface and Malaysia’s DuitNow; and summarised MAS’s work with the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub on ‘Project Nexus’ (first presented in July 2021).

In terms of atomic settlement, Menon described the aims of Ubin+; and, for programmable money, he focused on the first report from ‘Project Orchid’, which has developed four promising use-case scenarios (see separate Global Government Fintech article).

For tokenised assets – which he described as having “transformative potential” – he focused on ‘Project Guardian’, an initiative with the private sector that MAS announced in June and whose first pilot, he said, had “demonstrated the potential for reducing costs in executing [financial] trades”.

In terms of sustainability data he focused on ‘Project Greenprint’, which was launched by MAS almost two years ago and is focused on four ‘digital utilities’: an ESG disclosure portal (titled ‘ESGenome’ this is being piloted with SGX to enable listed companies to perform baseline sustainability reporting against 27 core metrics); an ESG registry of green certifications (titled ‘ESGpedia’) using DLT; a data ‘orchestrator’ (for which small pilots are underway); and a digital marketplace that MAS is aiming to launch in 2023.

FURTHER READING

‘Singapore authority assesses “purpose-bound” digital money’ – our news story (2 November 2022) on MAS’s 55-page ‘Project Orchid: Programmable Digital SGD’ paper

‘Singapore authority cuts ribbon on ESG Impact Hub’ – our news story (7 October 2022) on MAS opening an ‘ESG Impact Hub’ workspace, as well as launching a Sustainable Finance Advisory Panel 

’Singapore authority kicks off asset tokenisation experiments’ – our news story (17 June 2022) on MAS kicking off a Project Guardian to explore the opportunities and risks of asset tokenisation