Rediscovering Innovation in FinTech

FinTech started altering financial services in phases: first, pushing paper became a thing of the past as systems started operating online. Then there was the gradual shift in producers and consumers becoming a new breed of “prosumers”; where the consumers themselves now become part of the production of services.

That was innovation at work, past tense. Removing paper, we were warned, takes us only so far.

“Digitalisation only takes you so far. Where we’re going now is asking what the role of financial services are in the economy. Financial services are all about facilitating what’s going on, the information flow, trust…but now innovation is breaking all of that apart, it’s becoming a challenge for regulators and incumbents.”

– Peter Sands, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

The innovation of today sees digitalisation and convenience coming hand in hand as we move forward into the 21st Century. Even companies like PayPal have to keep up with the changes and demands constantly. Payment methods, for example, are not only available on websites, but on apps and social media like WhatsApp and Facebook.

Key elements that you may want to consider, and reconsider with regards to innovation and FinTech: form factors, creating journeys and experiences for customers, reinvention in organisations and their systems, and rethinking strategies.

“What’s really important on how we look at things moving forward, is from facts. How customers and merchants interact with each other is really important…commerce is not necessarily conducted through a web page…but through WhatsApp, through Facebook, by sending a link to say hey, my name is this, please pay me $50, click on this link”, shared Dr. Rohan Mahadevan, CEO for PayPal Pte. Ltd. and Senior Vice President for PayPal Asia during his introduction to the CTRL-ALT-DEL: FinTech Reboot dialogue at the inaugural Singapore FinTech Festival 2016.

The industry is constantly shifting and changing according to the needs and demands of customers, and every part of the financial services chain is being questioned and changed.

Of the consumer data that is being collected, only about 20% is being used. Technology should come into play to use this data to streamline consumer services.


Financial services revolve around information; information flows, probabilities, rates. New waves of innovation take away traditional structures and push for changes in products; it forces us to imagine a different approach to what is already in place.

“We have an opportunity to drive innovation…for many years we have come up with problem and solution sets for clients. The opportunity to target is how do we break apart solutions into consumable APIs? How we can unleash those tools and technologies and empower the masses to solve problems we couldn’t before…we are only using 20% of data in the world to solve problems now.”

– Bob Lord, Chief Digital Officer of IBM on innovation, technology and APIs

Lord further shared that technology in the financial services could be used to streamline customer services, to provide better insights and solutions to the problems that we face on an ongoing basis.

The whole nature of financial intermediation is being challenged by new models and tools trying to make use of vast amounts of information. “Sometimes it’s the solutions looking for a problem. It is going to be a messy process…it’s not going to be linear,” Peter Sands commented.

Piyush Gupta, CEO of the DBS group, commented on reinventing financial services: “It’s a challenge for incumbents and regulators. Banks used to lend money, but now some FinTechs also lend money…Every part of the financial services value chain is being questioned and re-examined. Finally, it’s all about customer experience and customer journey.”

Singapore FinTech Festival 2016: CTRL-ALT-DEL: FINTECH REBOOT
Piyush Gupta, DBS Chief Executive Officer

To manage these changes, there are three points to consider. Rethinking technology architecture (mentioned above), re-imagining customer experience, and culture challenges.

Gupta observed that rethinking technology architecture was a potential “stumbling block” for banks. Digitisation can create massive opportunities and efficiency for financial services can be passed back to the customer.

Innovation is more than just implementing technology and upgrading, but realigning with customer’s needs. It is essential to re-imagine the customer’s journey and experience, which has benefitted companies like Airbnb; who re-imagined what the customer wanted to experience when staying abroad.

The last point revolves around the issue of changing the existing culture and mindsets. Getting people to think creatively and out of the box can be a challenge for large institutions. They have to be ready to stretch boundaries.

Aligning with customers and their journeys can help to drive cultural change within the organisation. Hence, innovation is not necessarily just about technological changes.



The Singapore FinTech Festival 2016 was held at Singapore Expo Hall 1 & 2 from 14 – 18 November 2016. The above article was based on the conference dialogue:



FinTech visionaries explore the next wave of innovation that will take finance to new islands of treasure

Dr Rohan Mahadevan, CEO for PayPal Pte. Ltd. and Senior Vice President for PayPal Asia (Speaker-Moderator)
Piyush Gupta, CEO, DBS Group
Bob Lord, Chief Digital Officer, IBM
Peter Sands, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School

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Founder @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is the Advisor (former CEO) of The New Savvy. She is currently the COO of ABZD Capital and the CMO of Gourmet Food Holdings, an investment firm focusing on opportunities in the global F&B industry. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna invests and sits on the board of a few startups. Anna is also part of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Career Women’s Group executive committee. Anna’s story is featured on Millionaire Minds on Channel NewsAsia. She hosts TV shows and events, namely for Channel NewsAsia’s “The Millennial Investor” and “Challenge Tomorrow”, a FinTech documentary. Anna was awarded “Her Times Youth Award” at the Rising50 Women Empowerment Gala, organised by the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore. The award was presented by His Excellency Ngurah Swajaya. She was also awarded Founder of the Year for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. She was also awarded the Women Empowerment Award by the Asian Business & Social Forum. Anna has been awarded LinkedIn Power Profiles for founders (2018, 2017), Tatler Gen T, The Peak’s Trailblazers under 40 and a nominee for the Women of The Future award by Aviva



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