Switzerland and Singapore: Small Countries Big in Innovation

November 27, 2019

Highly innovative, offering large numbers of skilled jobs and internationally known for being Startup-friendly: Switzerland and Singapore have more in common than just being important finance hubs in their respective regions. Read here why the Swiss and Singaporean FinTech ecosystem should tighten their bonds.

The Singapore FinTech Festival attracts key decision-makers from renowned financial institutions from all over the world, international Startups, unicorns and industry experts. F10 as THE HOME OF FINTECH and the F10 alumni APIAX, C2SEC, PXL Vision and vestr had a booth at the Swiss pavilion which hosts cutting-edge innovation in financial services technologies including FinTech, RegTech, blockchain solutions, big data and analytics, algorithm trading and cybersecurity made in Switzerland. In its third year of participation, the Swiss pavilion was one of the larger national pavilions at the Singapore FinTech Festival. “We are looking forward to deepening our connections with the Singaporean FinTech ecosystem”, says Thomas Landis, Head of F10.

Both Switzerland and Singapore are renowned for a high degree of innovation. In 2019, Switzerland has been ranked number one by the Global Innovation Index for the ninth year in a row while Singapore is the most innovative country in Asia. Switzerland scored particularly high in the category ‘knowledge and technology outputs’ and the alpine country has the highest ratio of European patent applications to population. Singapore ranked top for government stability and effectiveness as well as for the ratio of foreign tertiary students to the total number of tertiary students.

“Flirting with top positions in international rankings

The finance industry is of outstanding relevance for the Swiss as well as the Singaporean economy. Switzerland is internationally famous for being a stable and strong financial centre. “The financial sector, and particularly the banking sector, is one of the key elements of Switzerland’s economy. Around one in ten value-added francs in Switzerland is generated in the financial sector. Banks contribute to Switzerland’s international top competitiveness rank by catalysing economic development, offering a large number of skilled jobs, paying above-average salaries and contributing a considerable share of public-sector funding in taxes”, the European Banking Federation writes.

In Asia, Singapore is one of the most essential finance hubs and the International Monetary Fund describes the city-state as “large financial centre with a strong regulatory framework and significant external exposures”. Singapore boasts a highly developed and sophisticated financial sector, with many foreign branches intermediating funds throughout the region.“Singapore and Switzerland are flirting with top positions in various international rankings. No doubt, both of them can efficiently complement each other and get stronger together, by stimulating excellence and efficiency on a regional and global scale”, Ambassador Filliez said in an interview with “Business Times”.

Increasing desire for more specialised consumer products

Singapore is Switzerland's most important trading partner in Southeast Asia and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs states that “Singapore and Switzerland enjoy excellent relations.” The Swiss Ambassador to Singapore Fabrice Filliez called Southeast Asia “an exciting region with a vibrant middle-class appeal” in the interview with “Business Times”. He further explained that purchasing power in Singapore has been growing and with it, the desire for more specialised consumer products and services. “This environment welcomes Swiss companies to leverage on Singapore's strength as a leading trading hub and to explore the use of e-commerce as a tool to reach out to potential customers. At the same time, Singapore companies should count on Switzerland's pro-business policies, highly skilled workforce and excellent connectivity as a smooth gateway to Europe's markets”, Filliez continued.

Over 400 Swiss companies, particularly software companies and banks specialising in wealth management or private banking, have a regional office in Singapore thanks to the favourable conditions they are offered. The F10 Corporate Members SIX (the Swiss Stock Exchange), Julius Baer and PwC have regional offices in the city-state as well as the F10 alumni BasisID and Cryptoprofiler. In recent years, Singapore has established itself as an important place for both big financial institutions and disruptive Startups. To innovate the financial world, these players need to collaborate. Singapore offers an ideal framework for FinTech initiatives. We have observed the developments in Singapore closely and actively contributed to shaping the FinTech landscape in the region with our highly popular Hackathons”, says F10 co-founder and board member Andreas Iten.

High interest in disruptive Startups

FinTech provides the global finance industry with new possibilities to adapt to changing customer needs, reduce costs and make products available to a larger share of the world’s population. Financial technology is useful in a broad range of business segments such as payments, lending, investment management, money transfer, fund-raising and robot advisory. In traditional finance companies, the transformation towards more innovation may happen through partnerships with Startups and acquisitions. In Switzerland, investors are showing increasing interest in Startups working in technology: Swiss ICT and FinTech Startups collected CHF 685 million (960 million SGD) of investment in 2018, a 120 percent increase from the previous year. This was the first time that emerging tech companies received bigger investments than their counterparts in the Life Sciences.

FinTech is also booming in Singapore: According to the digital media platform Southeast Asia Globe, Singapore is one of the top global hubs for financial technology, with the fastest industry growth in Asia. “Singapore and Southeast Asia are benefiting from the FinTech revolution due to the coming together of many forces. One is that much of Southeast Asia has no access to banking services”, the article explains. “But Asia also makes up almost half of the world’s internet users. Add the fact that Southeast Asia has a booming consumer class, and the outlook is perfect for high-tech financial services to fill any gaps left by the bigger players.”

Startup-friendly environments in Zurich and Singapore

The closeness to established institutions in finance, banking and insurance as well as the availability of well-educated and experienced employees combined with the high quality of life make Zurich – the hometown of F10 FinTech Incubator & Accelerator – the most attractive city in the region to run a FinTech, RegTech or InsurTech Startup. Singapore, on the other hand, has been named as the ideal place to found a Startup in Southeast Asia due to its location in the heart of the ASEAN economy, strong research and development funding, the diversity of tech conglomerates and growing talent. Switzerland’s progressive regulatory environment is highly beneficial for FinTech Startups and Singapore has also launched initiatives to bring finance technology innovations to the market more rapidly. There are currently 345 FinTech Startups in Switzerland and Singapore counted 490 by the end of 2018.

“At the F10 FinTech Hackathons in Singapore in 2018 and 2019, we have seen game-changers in action: talents in tech, finance and banking from all over Asia came together to address the challenges that the global finance industry is facing and transferred their bright ideas into validated prototypes within 48 hours. It was inspiring to witness the dedication of the Hackathon teams”, Head of F10 Thomas Landis states. “PinAlpha, one of the Startups in the fifth batch of our P2 “Prototype to Product” program, formed at the first F10 FinTech Hackathon Singapore in September 2018 and this year’s F10 Hackathon attracted further entrepreneurs eager to revolutionize the financial world with us”, Landis concludes.

After two successful F10 FinTech Hackathons in Singapore, F10 launches the P2 “Prototype to Product” program tailored for international FinTech, RegTech and InsurTech Startups in Singapore! We are now accepting applications for this Startup Program beginning in May 2020 in Singapore. F10 Head of Program Management Lisa Schröder is transferring from Zurich to Singapore, bringing her expertise and experience from Switzerland to Asia. Lisa and the whole F10 team are excited to support and guide Asian Startups on their journey to successful companies while stimulating meaningful collaboration with established institutions in banking, finance, insurance and digitalization.We will provide an overview of our P2 “Prototype to Product” program and answer questions about the F10 Startup Program in Singapore during the Consulting Hours Singapore for Asian FinTech, RegTech and InsurTech Startups. Find the next Consulting Hours here.

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