In November, I was given the brilliant opportunity by Data Lab to step out of the world of healthcare for a week (I manage the Cancer Innovation Challenge) and explore the world of fintech… in Singapore… at the world’s largest fintech conference.
The Singapore Fintech Festival was anchored by a three day conference and it provided an intriguing insight into an absolutely immense international event. With 40,000 delegates, 500 exhibitors and 250 speakers. With keynotes from Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund) and Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India), and Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada) speaking at the peripheral Canada Fintech Forum, the calibre of speakers was truly second to none.
The range of innovation in financial technology on display amongst the exhibitors was mind boggling, from the big players like Google Cloud and AWS and Salesforce, to a dazzling variety of start-ups (there were about 100 or more start-ups in the Start Up zone from all over the ASEAN region). Using AI, blockchain and cutting edge analytics, it was exhilarating to see so many companies from all over the world working to improve digital banking, digital payments, cybersecurity, predict risk, guide investments, manage wealth and beyond.
Beyond the excess of superlatives I’ve used to describe the event itself, personal highlights for me included:
- Keynote from Chris Colbert of the Harvard Innovation Labs – “If you decode the human, your innovation will be successful… if you don’t decode the human, your innovation will fail”
- Keynote from Narendra Modi about India’s digital journey and how financial inclusion through fintech is a reality for 1.2bn people in India with 300 million new bank accounts being opened in the last 3 years (wow).
- All the sessions in the AI in Finance Summit on the Google Cloud stage – in particular the session on Responsible AI where Shameek Kundu from Standard Chartered Bank talked about Irresponsible AI being – 1) implementing it in areas that are not ready 2) blaming the machine for undesirable results 3) when it enforces and reinforces existing biases… but it’s irresponsible NOT to use AI if it can make things better.
- The launch of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s FEAT (Fairness, Ethics, Accountability, Transparency) principles around the responsible use of AI and data analytics in finance. Although written for Singapore, its principles translate internationally
I was also there in part to support Scottish Development International’s (SDI) efforts to attract inward investment. SDI had exhibited under the #ScotlandIsNow banner as part of the UK Pavilion. It was a great experience to meet so many people and tell them about the exciting and vibrant tech and data community in Scotland. It was also great to be able to tell everyone about Data Fest 19 and to invite them all to come and check out this community themselves.
The programme also included a series of lab crawls i.e. an opportunity to visit the offices and labs of some of the leading tech companies and see where all the magic happens. I went to the Refinitiv event and it was brilliant to see some of the cutting edge work they’re doing. Refinitiv is the newly incorporated name for the former financial risk business of Thomson Reuters. With their fresh new branding, we were treated with a chance to see some of the interesting projects they have been working on including a tool to monitor various open data sources to flag financial crime, and a data science accelerator tool to help clients get started with data analytics.
Once the main conference was over, I got the chance to meet with several companies based in Singapore to explore potential synergies with Data Lab. It was great to meet with SenseInfosys, an award winning start-up harnessing open intelligence to provide risk predictions and solutions; HolMusk who are doing exciting work on using data analytics and technology to improve the lives of people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and mental health illness; UCARE.AI who are using AI to provide healthcare insights; and last but not least Bambu, a robo-advisory solutions provider for wealth management.
And thanks to SDI, I was also able to join several networking events with the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and gain an understanding of the business and tech ecosystem in Singapore. My week ended with the CIO Academy Asia Gamechangers Forum, a gathering of senior business leaders in Singapore. This was a great event involving speakers from Mastercard, Google Cloud and Aruba amongst others and the theme was to look forward to the tech trends of 2019. Data and AI and digital transformation featured heavily in all the discussions. And to end the event, CIO Academy Asia announced that the venue for their next ConnectGov Summit (a international event that brings together thought-leaders, government and private sector CIOs, CISOs, business leaders and corporate tech experts from primarily the ASEAN region) will be none other than Edinburgh! We very much look forward to working with CIO Academy Asia to showcase the vibrant data and tech sector we have here in Scotland next July!
My trip to Singapore was a fantastic (apologies.. the superlatives appear again) learning journey for me professionally and personally and I am very grateful to The Data Lab for the opportunity. I would also like to thank Shirin Pang from SDI who helped make all the introductions to the companies and people I met.
I look forward to hopefully welcoming many of the contacts and companies I met in Singapore to Edinburgh for DataFest 2019 and beyond!
Project Development Manager