The flow of money across banks and borders underpins the global trade and commerce. And it is SWIFT’s network which enables financial institutions around the world to securely transmit and receive standardised messages on financial transactions and hence, make cross-border payments.
SWIFT or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication is a global member-owned cooperative, headquartered in Belgium. Its messaging platform, products and services connect more than 11,000 banking and securities organisations, market infrastructures and corporate customers in over 200 countries and territories.
SWIFT has become the industry standard for syntax in financial messages. Messages formatted to SWIFT standards can be read by, and processed by, many well-known financial processing systems, whether or not the message travelled over the SWIFT network.
Currently, the landscape is witnessing rapid change, with innovations coming from SWIFT, as well as from various other players in the financial ecosystem.
OpenGov caught up with Mr. Christian Sarafidis, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Committee, SWIFT while he was in Singapore for the SWIFT gpi Industry Challenge for FinTech startups to build additional innovative overlay services on top of the SWIFT gpi platform. SWIFT gpi (global payments innovation) is a new standard for cross-border payments, available since January 2017, that combines real-time payments tracking with the certainty of same-day settlement. Since it became available in January 2017, over 110 global transaction banks have come onboard.
Mr. Sarafidis was previously Head of Western Europe, Middle East and Africa and Deputy Chief Executive, EMEA. Prior to joining SWIFT, he held senior executive positions for several multinational finance and technology groups. In wide-ranging discussion, he talked about different facets of the ongoing FinTech revolution and SWIFT’s role in it.
A time of transformation in cross-border payments
The basic mechanism for international payments has remained the same for decades. A correspondent bank provides services on behalf of another overseas financial institution through a correspondent account (Nostro/ Vostro accounts). Correspondent accounts are established through bilateral agreements between the two banks.
Mr. Sarafidis said that correspondent banking has been extremely conservative for many years. But now we’re in the middle of the biggest transformation that has ever happened in the area.
But why now?
It is a combination of different factors. The first is customer experience. Clients are demanding a better experience in cross-border payments.
They want greater transparency. They want to have clarity on the fees. They want to know the speed of transactions and they want traceability. In some industries, such as the transport industry, by using a reference number, we can find out exactly where the parcel is. In payments, that degree of transparency is not there. And it has been like this for 30 years. Also, cross-border payments can take from 2 to 5 days today. Customers want faster payments.
The second important factor is the push from regulators, who also want more transparency, while the third one is the pressure from the FinTech companies who are coming up with disruptive solutions (such as Ripple), which potentially can disintermediate banks.
The SWIFT gpi (global payments innovation) is a response to all of these factors. It is an attempt to significantly improve transparency and speed.
“gpi is not something that SWIFT has created, it is something we co-created with the banking community. So we invited all the banks around the world, we sat together and together we defined together a rule book. Everybody, when they subscribe to gpi, they commit to respect the rule book,” Mr. Sarafidis explained.
One of the key elements of the gpi is the Unique End-to-End Transaction Reference (UETR). A payment transaction typically involves multiple messages, exchanged between different parties involved in the end-to-end payments chain. The UETR, which is generated by the the gpi instructing bank (the first gpi bank in the payment chain) when initiating a payment, enables the unique identification and tracking of the lifecycle of the transaction.
SWIFT has invested in this new platform in a way that is standards-agnostic. As the financial community migrates to ISO 200022 , the same concept of gpi can be used.
More than 100 banks have committed to use gpi. Twenty are already live and sending tens of thousands of messages already. Around a third of the transactions are being settled in below half an hour and more than half of the transactions are completed within 2 hours, which is a significant improvement over the existing systems.
Benefits for banks and corporates
Using gpi, the banks are not only able to offer a better experience to their customers, the corporates, but they can also improve the efficiency of their investigations.
“When corporates call in to try to identify the problem with their payments, they need to contact the first intermediary, who contacts the next intermediary etc., on to the beneficiary bank. It is very cumbersome and takes a lot of time. Thanks to the concept of the payment tracker, we can really gain savings on the operational side of the banks,” Mr. Sarafidis explained.
Corporates can enjoy benefits in their supply chain. In the supply chain by knowing exactly where the payment, is they know when they can release the goods for the shipment as opposed to today, where there is an uncertainty regarding when the payment is going to arrive.
Their liquidity and FX (forex or foreign exchange) risk improve dramatically because the transaction is settled on the same day. Today they need to hedge the FX rate because they don’t know exactly when the effective date of the settlement is going to be.
Support for smaller banks
To facilitate adoption by smaller banks with resource constraints, SWIFT has defined some packages, which Mr. Sarafidis described as little boxes that the bank can put between the back-office and SWIFT. That takes out a lot of the complexity and reduces the required investment.
Mr. Sarafidis told us that this year, as part of the annual standards release at SWIFT in November, UETR is going to become mandatory on the receiving side. Every bank in the world will have to be able to process a UETR. This extends the traceability by one leg.
There are also ongoing discussions (not been approved yet) to mandate the use of the UETR on the sending side also, for the standards release next year, in 2018. The decision will ultimately be taken the banks.
Working with regulators
The regulators are trying hard to combat fraud. In the past, one payment generated several messages. It was difficult to track them and detect fraud. Now, with the UETR in the gpi, it is easy to move from message to a transaction.
Banks try to detect fraud at the edge of the payment ecosystem. SWIFT decided to take a step from the centre. So, the board of SWIFT has decided to work on an intelligent fraud detection system in the cloud. The solution will come up next year.
Another element is a stop and recall payment feature in the second phase of gpi. Today, if a bank detects fraud, it is extremely difficult to stop the payment because they don’t know where the payment is, they don’t have agreements with every bank in the chain. This feature, when available, will make it much easier to stop or recall a payment.
Security is always a high priority issue for financial institutions. There is always a priority for banks to invest in security. With events like the Bangladesh Bank heist (hackers issued instructions to transfer nearly US$1 billion from the central bank of Bangladesh; SWIFT’s network was not compromised) in February 2016, cybersecurity has moved to the top of the agenda.
In addition to investing in its own systems, as an industry cooperative, SWIFT is committed to playing an important role in reinforcing and safeguarding the security of the wider ecosystem.
Therefore, SWIFT came up with a global programme, called the Customer Security Programme or CSP. The fraud detection discussed earlier is one the streams under CSP.
But the CSP is essentially about helping banks to raise the bar. To do so, SWIFT published 27 controls in the SWIFT Customer Security Controls Framework. Sixteen of these controls are mandatory and will help establish a baseline.
By the end of this year, there will be a self-attestation process, wherein banks need to express that they are compliant or that they will be compliant by a specific date. They will have until end of next year to be fully compliant with 16 controls. A quality assurance programme, to effectively evaluate the level of compliance with these 16 controls, is under discussion at SWIFT.
Disruption and innovation
We asked Mr. Sarafidis how SWIFT is dealing with the disruptive environment today.
“As the innovative incumbent, we want to absorb the technology. If you look back 30 years, we have passed through many different cycles of innovation. We started by killing the Telex, we created the X.25 network, then there was the Internet. We’ve managed to absorb all these new technologies. What’s going on now is exactly the same thing. We want to innovate collectively. gpi is an example of this. We created it together with the banks. Similarly, we see the FinTechs add value on top of gpi,” Mr. Sarafidis replied.
SWIFT has set up sandboxes for many different technologies, such as Blockchain or DLT (Distributed Ledger technologies) and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) among others.
SWIFT is developing a proof of concept (PoC) application in collaboration with global banks, that will test whether DLT can be used by banks to improve the reconciliation of their nostro accounts in real time, optimising their global liquidity. The results of the PoC will be presented at Sibos (Swift International Banking Operations Seminar) in Toronto in October.
SWIFT has been working to other DLT-related PoCs too. One PoC aims to demonstrate the benefits of DLTs by building an SSI (Standing Settlement Instructions) database for OTC (Over the counter) markets in a reference data context in which there are no data confidentiality concerns. There was another PoC showcased last year on using smart contracts in the bond lifecycle.
“Our ambition with this is to be pragmatic, to address pain points for the bank to create value and to collaborate with the FinTechs to see how we can do this together,” Mr. Sarafidis said.
The API sandbox opens up the SWIFT ecosystem. It means that banks and FinTech companies do not need to be connected to the production network of SWIFT. They can connect to the API sandbox and experiment with the tracker etc.
In addition, the SWIFT Institute is delivering grants in collaboration with academia to conduct research and produce studies on relevant topics from the financial services industry. Recently the Institute released a report on the implications of public APIs’ adoption in the financial services sector and the key challenges and opportunities that open APIs pose for the banking sector in the UK and the EU following the introduction of the Open Banking Working Group (OBWG) and Second Payments Services Directive (PSD2) regulatory frameworks.
SWIFT plays a highly critical role when it comes to innovation, in terms of facilitating the creation and implementation of standards. It is not just the Registration authority for several ISO standards. As a global industry cooperative, it is in ideal position to facilitate the creation of standards for new technologies or for the standardised implementation of new regulations.
For instance, PSD2 sets requirements for common and secure open standards of communication for the purpose of identification, authentication, notification, and information. APIs will be the technical means that allow the banks to fulfil the specifications of PSD2. But every bank will come up with their own APIs. There is a need for common standards there.
ISO 20022 is emerging as the preferred choice of messaging standard for market infrastructures around the world. As ISO 20022 implementations proliferate, there is variability in the ways in which ISO 20022 is deployed, in terms of message versions, market practice rules and release cycles. The SWIFT Standards’ Harmonisation Charter sets out a series of measures designed to drive harmonisation of the rollout of ISO 20022.
Mr. Sarafidis said, “This is SWIFT’s value proposition. By providing platforms, bringing in standards and building sandboxes, we are inviting the community to innovate.”
Example demonstrating how correspondent banking works from Wikipedia: “A customer of Wells Fargo Bank in Minneapolis might wish to pay a German firm €1,000,000 for machinery the customer has purchased. Wells Fargo has a correspondent banking relationship with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and the banks agree that, at an exchange rate of $1.30 to one euro, this is equivalent to US$1,300,000 and Wells Fargo's balance or credit with Deutsche Bank is at least US$1,300,000 / €1,000,000. Wells Fargo takes the $1,300,000 out of the customer's bank account, and instructs Deutsche Bank to take US$1,300,000 / €1,000,000 out of Wells Fargo's correspondent account at Deutsche Bank and pay the euros to the German firm's account. The customer receives its machinery and the supplier has its money (in euros).”
 A standard for electronic messaging between financial institutions. A global and open standard, ISO 20022 is not controlled by a single interest: it can be used by anyone in the industry and implemented on any network.
 FX risk exists when a financial transaction is denominated in a currency other than that of the base currency of the company. The risk is that there may be an adverse movement in the exchange rate of the denomination currency in relation to the base currency before the date when the transaction is completed.
 Before SWIFT, Telex was the only available means of message confirmation for international funds transfer. Telex was hampered by low speed, security concerns, and a free message format. Telex did not have a unified system of codes like SWIFT to name banks and describe transactions.
 SIBOS is an annual banking and financial conference organised by SWIFT, attended by over 8000 financial institutions.
The Victoria University of Wellington’s division of Science, Health, Engineering, Architecture, and Design Innovation (SHEADI) will inaugurate a Centre of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in the first half of 2023.
According to a statement from the University, the centre will offer areas of expertise in modelling and statistical learning; evolutionary and multi-objective learning; deep learning and transfer learning; image, text, signal, and language processing; scheduling and combinational optimisation; and interpretable AI/ML learning.
These technological themes will be applied across a wide range of areas including primary industry, climate change and environment; health, biology, medical outcomes; security, energy, high-value manufacturing; and social, public policy, and ethics applications. On top of traditional research, the centre will also establish a pipeline of scholarships/internships for Maori students, train early career researchers, and focus on industry, intellectual property, and commercialisation.
The centre will build on the current success and international leadership in this space at the University, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the division, Ehsan Mesbahi, stated. The institute is continuing to grow its national and international partnerships to create local and global value. The centre will provide a distinctive identity for the growing excellence and innovation in data science and AI research at the University, capabilities which domestic and global partners are increasingly demanding across a vast array of application domains.
In May, the University announced it would offer the first undergraduate major in Artificial Intelligence in the country. It provides students with knowledge of AI concepts, techniques, and tools. They learn how to apply that knowledge to solve problems, combined with programming skills that will enable them to build software tools incorporating AI technology that will help shape the future.
Students studying AI at the University are taught by academics from its internationally renowned AI/ML research group, which is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. The major is designed to open doors for graduates to opportunities nationally and around the world. There has been an increase in the adoption of AI technologies globally, and a growing demand for people who can apply AI techniques to address a wide range of problems, which the University aims to address.
After completing their degree, graduates will have a wide variety of career options, such as AI scientist, business consultant, AI architect, data analyst, machine learning engineer, and robotic scientist among others. They will also have the option to further their study through the University’s Master of Artificial Intelligence.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that New Zealand’s Education Technology (EdTech) is set to become one of the country’s key industries. Worth NZ$ 173.6 million in 2020, EdTech software is poised to grow to NZ$ 319.6 million by 2025. At the heart of the digital transformation of education technology has been the pandemic. COVID-19 is seen as the driving force behind the digital transformation of learning, permanently changing the way education is consumed and delivered — right from preschool through post-tertiary education and lifelong learning. The global EdTech market size was valued at US$ 254.8 billion in 2021. Experts believe the market will reach US$ 605.4 billion by 2027.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education have the potential to enhance how education is provided, financed, and managed as well as offer easier access to the community.
A PPP system operates under the construct that market mechanisms, in conjunction with government inputs, are better for providing education. One of the rationales behind PPPs, which are supported by international organisations, development agencies and academics, is that competition between public and private education providers is a good way to improve the quality and efficiency of education.
PPP policy frameworks should therefore create real market dynamics in which education service providers continue to innovate and improve the quality of their services to attract learners, young and old, who are seen as benefit maximisers and well-informed consumers.
New Era of Partnerships, Building Talent Pipeline
“The structure and framework for any university to launch degree programmes can be fairly onerous, given the emphasis on quality assurance and relevance,” says Annie who is also a Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Business and Senior Advisor at the Business Families Institute in Singapore Management University (SMU).
However, academic-industry partnerships play a crucial role in building the future of students and facilitating the transition of young people from school to work. Students need to be exposed to a variety of jobs and workplaces to develop interest and discover where their studies and passion may lead.
Industry partnerships with different sectors offer a variety of experiences, such as simulated job interviews, career development activities, challenge-based learning projects, curriculum-aligned activities, and work-study programmes. In addition, internships have become a vital opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves prior to full-time employment.
A PPP is mutually beneficial, allowing industry access to fresh talent and looking at the industry’s challenges from the perspective of future consumers or employees acknowledges Annie. In fact, the private sector has indicated to all institutions that they need future talent in the area of data analytics, so SMU has recently launched a track in data analytics hosted in both their business school and computer and info systems school so universities also benefit from the insights from the industry to stay relevant in our curricula.
With the help of data analytics tools, a company may take unstructured raw data and use this information to discover patterns, draw conclusions and turned into useful insights. Therefore, data analysis aids businesses in so many ways, including making educated judgments, developing a more successful marketing plan, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining processes.
Education is not only under the charge of the Ministry of Education but also needs the support of other ministries since future jobs and capacity building are expected of the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Maritime, Health and others. Partnering with the whole of government allows for students’ skillsets to be increased and all students become more relevant, valuable and workplace ready.
Prof Annie knows that no one has a monopoly on knowledge, and no one knows the exact skills which will be needed in the future. Thus, PPPs have the most value when it forms a part of “lifelong learning.”
The exciting thing about lifelong learning, Annie believes “…is that when you get your degree, you think you’re done, but you’re just getting started. Even as you gain experience and learn on the job, you’ll need to keep reinventing yourself and the skills needed to extend your runway will keep changing.”
Passion extends beyond degrees and ongoing learning is a crucial element to keep employees engaged That’s why higher education now permits a variety of pathways to marry passion with career aspirations and is no longer a paper chase, she explains.
Two good cases to illustrate the value of PPP in the context of SMU’s innovative programmes that Prof Annie is very proud of are the partnership approach in launching the International Trading track and the Maritime Business Operations track under the Finance and Operations majors in SMU’s business school.
In accordance with the creation of a strong Singaporean core, wholesale trade and maritime businesses have been focusing on both skillset development and attracting new talent supply to ensure a pipeline of sustainable human capital. So, the trading and maritime sectors do need to build a case for making the jobs in their sectors more appealing – particularly with the assistance of government grants and scholarships.
Companies can play a crucial role by showing how an organisation can provide a feeling of purpose with support and development opportunities available to make building a career in their organisations appealing and attractive to the candidate
A part of Annie’s challenge in the early days was to set up an International Trading Institute (ITI) where students could take for-credit classes under the business school and get a certificate of completion for the non-credit practice-oriented sessions, learning from practitioners in the evenings.
“My goal at SMU is to link external relevance to internal degree requirements while upholding the quality assurance requirements of the education system. Different industry partners help us with this mission to co-create and deliver the applied learning content with us.”
SMU is therefore a strategic asset for the country and both the tracks had, over the last decade, created a pool of more than 300 alumni who are knowledgeable about wholesale trading, largely in the commodities trading space and maritime operations. Now, there is available talent who are able to speak and work with more confidence up and down the trade value chain and contribute to Singapore’s relevance as a trade and maritime hub.
Another great example of PPP was manifested during the last three years of the COVID-19 crisis which saw a spate of job cuts and many experienced PMETs were laid off. Annie worked with her teams at ITI and BFI to design a nine-month Business and Digital Transformation programme which combined in-class training modules with a capstone project for candidates who are matched to SMEs to also deliver a project for these sponsoring companies. Candidates have a chance to learn and apply the knowledge and sponsoring companies also benefit from the capstone projects delivered. In addition, 70% to 90% of the programme fees are supported by SSG grants, while WSG grants provide funding support towards the candidates’ commensurate salaries.
All these partnerships were possible because a pool of companies is available and can be accessed to match the candidates as a result of SMU’s external network of trusted companies, which was strengthened by the BFI that Annie had set up 10 years ago with the support of SMU’s senior leadership. Many of Asia’s SMEs are family owned with different sets of challenges and aspirations other than the usual business issues. In addition, many of these business families have longer horizons and they are the ones that countries depend on to build businesses sustainably as they think beyond current generations.
Therefore, business families with an entrepreneurial spirit, not only make money but also contribute to changing the world through their businesses and other new ventures, including building social enterprises and philanthropic activities.
By addressing business family-specific issues such as succession, family governance, entrepreneurship and wealth management, BFI aims to strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurial business families and stakeholders in their creation of sustainable impact by leveraging SMU’s core competence as a thought leader. In turn, BFI has been a strong partner to the LKYGBPC. Many of LKYGBPC’s sponsors are family-owned businesses, such as Wilmar International and Frasers.
In addition, many of these family enterprises have footprints beyond Singapore and are always on the lookout for quality start-ups to invest in or be part of their accelerator programmes. Innovation is essential for a company to improve its operations, introduce new and enhanced products and services to the market, raise its efficiency, and most crucially, boost its profitability.
Annie feels that her journey in academia is more about building entrepreneurship and Technology, Talent and Trust (3Ts) are important drivers in helping companies in their transformation journeys. As such, public-private-people partnerships are even more relevant in today’s challenging and uncertain times to build back better and broader for everyone.
According to Annie, the road to digital and business transformation success is paved with courageous actions by caring and forward-looking leaders. The right leaders will build a firm sustainably and attract the right people, the right leaders will inspire and motivate the right people to learn, improve and grow.
“Developing people is my calling but learning to develop people is everyone’s responsibility. And because the world is bigger than yourself, you need to be big-hearted, purpose-oriented, and have an open mind to be successful on any path you choose,” Annie concludes.
Cleveland train users will be the next to benefit as the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system continues. Customers travelling from Central station and Cleveland station will have access to the system from 30 November 2022. Queensland’s Minister for Transport and Main Roads stated that the AU$ 371 million project continued to gather pace, with Cleveland line customers now having more ways to pay.
He said that delivering better public transport services for Queenslanders is not just about acquiring more trains or buses but about making it easier for people to use the trains without barriers. This trial allows adult customers to use their credit card, debit card, smartphone, or smartwatch to pay for their train journey – meaning you do not need to think before hopping on a train, you can just tap and go.
The Member for Capalaba stated that the system would put Queensland on par with major cities like London, Singapore, and New York. He said that record levels of investment in the region mean that commuters can get home safer and sooner, spending more time with family and friends.
Meanwhile, the Member for Lytton encouraged commuters to use the new system. She said that there is no doubt this trial is proving to be immensely popular with public transport users. She looks forward to seeing the rollout extend onto local buses, which is set to take place next year.
The project will replace 1300 fixed devices and 12,000 onboard readers to bring 18 different payment systems across the regional bus network together under one Smart Ticketing umbrella. Whether commuters are visiting family and friends in Cairns, Bowen, Rockhampton or Bundaberg, there will be one seamless way to pay.
The Member for Bulimba praised the success of the trial, which had already clocked up more than two million trips. She said that commuters and tourists alike are finding it easy to use, and we’ve seen incredible numbers tap on and off using the system since it began.
The region will continue to develop the system to bring concession card holders onboard while also encouraging those who travel at a discounted rate to continue using the go card for the time being.
The Member for Greenslopes noted that the expansion added new destinations to the Smart Ticketing map, adding that this is another crucial step toward rolling out the system across the South East Queensland heavy rail network, following on from trials already underway.
Next, the South Brisbane and South Bank transport hubs will begin the rollout of the Smart Ticketing system. This will connect the area to the hospital and health precinct as well as South Bank businesses.
Smart Ticketing is already operational on the Ferny Grove, Ipswich/Rosewood, Springfield Central, Sunshine Coast/Caboolture, Redcliffe Peninsula, Doomben and Shorncliffe train lines. Next, it will launch at the Airport, Beenleigh, and Gold Coast lines, enabling customers to interconnect from the Gold Coast Light Rail through to Brisbane CBD and the airport, with buses and ferries set to follow next year.
Train users who prefer to pay with their go card will be able to continue doing so. Customers travelling on a child or concession fare should continue to use their go card for now, as should customers travelling to or from destinations not yet using the trial, or anyone using a connecting bus or ferry service.
What is smart ticketing?
Smart Ticketing is an innovative ticketing technology that enables more ways to pay for public transport across Queensland. Over time, more Queenslanders will be able to pay for travel with contactless payment methods using a Visa, Mastercard and American Express debit card, credit card, smartphone, or smart device. As a long-term project, the aim is to have more Queenslanders tap on and off to conveniently pay for everyday travel on train, tram, bus, and ferry.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and an IT service management company jointly launched the “Idea Launcher” co-ideation initiative to foster and accelerate innovation and technology (I&T) development in Hong Kong through extensive support, mentoring and coaching to help early-stage start-ups nurture innovative ideas and research projects.
The project is another addition to HKTSP’s co-incubation mission with sector leaders, with the Idea Launcher being the first partnership with a corporate leader under HKSTP’s IDEATION Programme. The IT service management company collaborate closely with HKSTP to specifically support the development of early-stage ideas from emerging start-ups and next-generation entrepreneurs.
The Idea Launcher continues the strategic collaboration that the two parties began earlier this year, covering the four key pillars of Research & Development, Technology Simulation, Co-incubation, and Talent and Culture Cultivation. It is a six-month co-ideation initiative that provides early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs with technical training, business consulting, capabilities assessment as well as project feasibility to optimise start-up solutions and concepts.
HKSTP will offer HK$ 100,000 in seed funding and incubation training to selected start-ups, while the IT service management company will provide tailor-made AWS innovation culture workshops to help start-ups build up their innovation capacity. Programme participants will also receive up to US$ 25,000 in the IT service management company’s cloud resources, as well as technical support and training through their Program, set up especially to help start-ups optimise their business models and fuel future development.
The Head of Business Development at the IT service management company’s Hong Kong and Macau branch stated that with its established start-up ecosystems and investment development teams in Hong Kong and beyond, the firm gathers talent with investment institution backgrounds and entrepreneurial experience that is geared to supporting start-ups throughout their growth cycle. He noted that the company looks forward to deepening its partnership with HKSTP to advance local start-ups and propel Hong Kong on its journey to international I&T hub status.
The Chief Corporate Development Officer of HKSTP stated in partnering with one of the world’s largest and most iconic start-ups, HKSTP is ready to elevate Hong Kong’s talented entrepreneurs onto the global stage.
About the IDEATION programme
The IDEATION programme was launched by HKSTP in 2019, furthering its support for early-stage research and development projects and innovative ideas. Well-received in the start-up community, the number of participating members and teams in the programme has more than tripled from 60 to over 230.
Start-ups will receive help turning realising their ideas and beginning their entrepreneurial journeys with the Ideation Programme – an up to one-year start-up support programme for tech-focused entrepreneurs. Through the programme, participants can develop the fundamental skills they need to kickstart their businesses. All-round support will be provided from designing a business model to finding investment. Participants will receive guidance along every step of the way, to fine-tune their ideas for technical development.
The programme provides seed funding in the form of a grant worth up to HK$ 100,000; a mentor for business advice; training on a variety of topics including Hong Kong’s start-up ecosystem, business modelling, pitching and investment, and more; access to centre facilities like co-working spaces (subject to availability), and potential to bridging programmes which means participants will be prepared for admission into other HKSTP incubation programmes.
Singapore and the United Kingdom held the 7th UK Singapore Financial Dialogue, where they renewed their commitment to deepening their financial partnership, which was agreed upon in 2021. They also discussed sustainable finance, fintech, and innovation.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the UK-Singapore FinTech Bridge, which is based on an agreement signed in 2016, which removes barriers to fintech trade by opening new regular talks between regulators and businesses. The FinTech Bridge will build on the active interest of fintech players in the areas of payments, regulatory technology, and wealth management. It will also provide a structured engagement that will aid the development of policy actions, enhance assessments of emerging issues, such as the development of distributed ledger technologies and data sharing, and support trade and investment flow between respective markets.
According to a press release, the countries recognised the importance of the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), which was signed earlier this year. They exchanged views on recent developments in the fintech sector, including advancements in crypto-assets, and agreed on priority areas for further cooperation. They shared their latest assessments of market developments, opportunities, trends, and longer-term expectations for the crypto-assets sector.
Further, the risks and challenges relating to financial stability and regulatory arbitrage were discussed. They shared their progress in strengthening rules on consumer protection and developing the regulation of stablecoins. Both sides agreed there is a strong need to support the safe development of a digital assets ecosystem while ensuring that risks posed by digital assets are consistently managed.
They will continue to actively participate in the shaping of robust global regulatory practices through engagement within international multilateral fora such as the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI), and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).
Regarding digital payments, Singapore provided updates on the progress of its review of e-wallet caps and the expected next steps. The event covered the recently released consultation, with the UK providing views on the key proposals. Singapore also updated on the new digital banks that recently launched their operations in Singapore.
Moreover, the sides have agreed to a roadmap for activities in sustainable finance, fintech and innovation, and other areas of mutual interest, leading up to the next Dialogue scheduled to take place in London in 2023.
The Financial Dialogue was co-chaired by the Deputy Managing Director (Markets and Development) of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Leong Sing Chiong, and the Director General (Financial Services) of HM Treasury (HMT), Gwyneth Nurse.
Two industry-led UK-Singapore business roundtables on sustainable finance and FinTech took place on 24 November 2022. Industry participants from both countries participated in this discussion. The sustainable finance Roundtable examined the implementation challenges faced by corporates in meeting their net zero targets, and how the financial industry could help to address these challenges. The FinTech Roundtable discussed the opportunities and challenges faced by FinTech firms, and how these firms could better access overseas markets, including by partnering with financial institutions.
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has inaugurated a Digital India start-up hub at the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) centre in Davanagere, Karnataka. According to a press release, this is the 63rd STPI centre in the country and the fifth in the state of Karnataka. STPIs are autonomous bodies under MeitY, established to encourage, promote, and boost software exports from India. They fuel a culture of tech entrepreneurship and innovation in the country.
The state government had provided 10,000 square feet of built-up space in the Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) Regional Centre to establish the STPI. Among other facilities, the centre has a plug-n-play 102-seater incubation facility, network operations centre (NOC), 16-seater conference room, 32-seater cafeteria and provisions for high-speed data communication facilities, and other amenities for export of software and services.
Speaking at the event, Chandrasekhar said that STPI, Davangere will usher in new opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship for the people in the region. Over the past few years, the government’s emphasis has been on the growth of information technology (IT), IT-enabled services (ITeS), and the electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM) industries in newer cities. This should not be confined to the metropolitan centres, he noted.
STPI centres across the state have IT exports of US $35 billion while just Karnataka state exports more than US $70 billion each year. India has the fastest-growing innovation system with more than 80,000 start-ups and over 107 unicorns, Chandrasekhar said. “We have assumed the presidency of the G20, a league of [the] world’s largest economies, and the GPAI an international initiative on artificial intelligence. It is the fastest growing major economy that has surpassed the UK to emerge as [the] fifth largest economy, receiving its highest ever FDIs of US $83 billion,” he explained.
India aims to transform its electronics production sector into a US $300 billion electronics manufacturing powerhouse by 2026. In August, Chandrasekhar launched a report that detailed how India can achieve this electronics production target and an export target of US $120 billion over the next few years. The report is titled, ‘Globalise to Localise: Exporting at Scale and Deepening the Ecosystem are Vital to Higher Domestic Value Addition’. It was prepared by the India Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), in collaboration with the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA).
As OpenGov Asia reported, to achieve its targets, the government has emphasised strengthening the country’s domestic manufacturing ecosystem to make it more resilient to supply chain disruptions. The aim is to emerge as a reliable and trusted partner in global value chains. The report postulates that the country must export aggressively to reach the scale in electronics manufacturing. “In addition to domestic production, and supplies and domestic consumption, the exports are [an] important way to get the scales of the other economies that are competing with us,” Chandrasekhar said. Exports will create a network effect of creating supply chain interests, and supply chain investments that in turn will increase value addition in the Indian electronics segment.
The global spread of COVID-19 has been a disaster of unparalleled proportions. Not only has it halted the world economy, but it has also made even the most optimistic leaders reconsider how soon things would return to how they were before the outbreak.
Even as the pandemic disrupted businesses and services around the world, a sudden and dramatic increase in internet consumption was observed. Businesses had to shift to digital communications and tools as the key medium for maintaining productive and interesting relationships with their many stakeholders – internal and external.
While the private sector was quicker to alter procedures in the early phases of the pandemic, the public eventually successfully adapted and innovated to continue citizen service delivery. Of course, early on, most governments rapidly put into place digital communication and emergency response platforms.
By allowing users to access their data and applications from any internet-connected device, cloud computing expands the scope of digital transformation beyond simple technology adoption to encompass a comprehensive redesign of all related procedures, resources and user interactions.
The cloud and digital transformation are now inextricably linked. Organisations across the board need to adopt a cloud-first strategy if they want to ensure the longevity of their operations and realise their transformation objectives.
Most organisations and agencies have benefited from the digital change, but some industries are behind the curve. To keep up with the fierce competition in their industries, they must guarantee the reliable operation of the cloud communication platforms that serve as a direct line of contact between the organisations and their consumers and aid in the promotion of their offerings.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight on 25 November 2022 at M Hotel Singapore provided Singapore’s public, education, financial and healthcare sectors with the advantages of the most recent cloud technology.
Simplifying Things via Cloud Communication
Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia believes that the cloud has transformed the way organisations communicate, cooperate and carry out many other critical business and service functions.
Cloud communications are voice and data communications solutions that organisations employ to manage cloud-hosted applications, storage and switching.
“Cloud communications services are becoming an increasingly intrinsic choice for organisations looking to streamline their operations and enable their remote workforces to stay connected and productive,” observes Mohit.
Cloud communications enable organisations to interact with their employees and customers over many channels, including email, audio calls, chat and video. All of these leverage internet-based connectivity to minimise faulty connections and lag in communication.
This communication model has become the go-to option for addressing the growing need for efficient internal communications in the hybrid workplace. As numerous workers are returning to the office, and for many of those who have remote work capabilities, hybrid work arrangements are swiftly becoming the new standard.
Organisations are figuring out ways to make hybrid work as interesting and effective as they can. Leaning into what is working, changing what is not working and adapting as lessons are gained are the first steps in creating an effective hybrid strategy, work environment, and culture.
Employee access to the system from anywhere on any device is the need of a mixed work environment. Regardless of the apparatus they are using or their location, employees need to be able to connect to the system.
“User-friendly features in cloud communications make it simpler for staff to become used to the technology,” Mohit explains. “Up until now, better work-life balance, more effective time management, control over working hours and location, prevention of burnout and higher productivity have been the main benefits of hybrid work.”
Having the appropriate tools to be productive at work, feeling less a part of the organisation’s culture, poor cooperation and relationships, and disturbing work processes are some of the biggest obstacles to hybrid work.
Apart from the initial expenditure, virtual meetings result in reduced expenses because of the decline in maintenance and transportation costs. Moreover, integrations of cloud telephony enable companies to place and receive calls from any device that is connected to the Internet.
This means that cloud communications can potentially maximise resources for organisations. Procedures, implementation and adaptability can all be accelerated with a cloud communications strategy, which also offers limitless high-volume information transmission.
According to Mohit, cloud communications must have robust security components to ensure compliance with data privacy laws and the security of all stakeholders. “To assist in safeguarding data in the cloud, emerging cybersecurity tools should also be taken into account.”
These include Artificial Intelligence (AI) for IT Operations (AIOps) and Network Detection and Response (NDR). Both programmes gather data on the security and stability of cloud infrastructure. After data analysis, AI notifies administrators of any unusual behaviour that might represent a threat.
Ultimately a well-thought-out cloud communication strategy with strong security features can serve organisations and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly digital landscape and VUCA environment.
According to Lucas Lu, Head of Asia, Zoom, if communication fails to give the greatest possible experience, everyone suffers – from employees to consumers to investors. And neglecting to address this essential avenue has ever-worsening implications.
Organisations are going through some significant changes, he explains. The first is in the general business environment. Organisations are under tremendous pressure to boost efficiency, adapt fast as competition rises and keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements.
This problem is becoming even more pressing because of economic uncertainties. Furthermore, solving these problems requires effective communication between consumers, prospects and staff.
The workforce is likewise seeing a paradigm shift. People desire the option of remote employment and are asking for the cutting-edge equipment and communication systems they need to do their jobs.
HR managers concur that a high-performing workplace’s future requirements would include collaboration, regular communication and a mentorship culture between managers and teams. “You run the risk of losing the ‘War for Talent’ if you don’t deliver,” Lucas asserts.
With every new tool and software that is made available, communication becomes more difficult and complex. Employees, clients and potential consumers are just a few of the stakeholders who have preferences and expectations about how, when and where they conduct business.
Due to this, many businesses choose their battles carefully when it comes to facilitating communication. They follow a variety of routes, including:
- Maintaining already-established systems that are deemed adequate
- Making use of the fundamental, built-in communication capabilities that are provided with other software packages, even if they don’t entirely satisfy the organisation’s demands
- Using different approaches based on the circumstances. You might, for instance, employ one communication tool for internal cooperation and another for clients, investors, and outside events
“All these strategies are meant to provide organisations with fundamental communication,” says Lucas. “These methods provide some flexibility, but they also change the environment for prospects, employees and consumers. People are compelled to alternate between various options based on their needs as a result.”
This causes unneeded annoyance, rework, expenditures and misunderstanding. Employees may feel alienated and impatient. Customers’ interactions with the brand are disorganised and unprofessional. And various instruments frequently make business slower.
In this uncertain business environment, organisations that can move beyond basic communication into universal communication have extraordinary potential. They can develop intuitive connections to all parties, employees, customers and investors, regardless of location, technology or business activity.
This will be accomplished by integrating the individual and organisational connection demands that will result in a) Delivering a consistent and quality experience for all participants, b) Making human connection effortless, and c) Enabling rapid innovation to maintain relevance.
These results may:
- Satisfy both the primary business requirements and the consumers’ expectations
- Redirect internal resources from managing communications to new services and capabilities; and
- Increase the marketability and perceived agility within the organisation and in the market.
An organisation’s reputation is directly related to the quality of its communication services. In addition to the fact that employees, clients and customers can work remotely, those returning to the office do not t want to compromise on the at-home office environment to which they have grown accustomed.
Organisations must adapt to this new hybrid environment to guarantee that everyone receives high-quality service regardless of circumstance or location. Expectations are simply greater and it is unacceptable if a session fails due to dropped participants or subpar audio or video.
“With Zoom, you may use a top-notch infrastructure that is specially made to prevent failures to safeguard your company from communications disruptions. You eliminate a work-limiting unpredictability risk by doing this,” Lucas says confidently.
When communications are down nowadays, it is impossible to conduct business. Hence, organisations may provide a controlled experience by enabling their staff to work without being concerned about the underlying technology. Additionally, they can analyse the underlying cause of any problems in their surroundings and take preventative measures.
With this, employees can concentrate on their work without unneeded interruptions or ambiguity and will have faith that the communication solution their organisation has deployed will work as planned.
“Partnering with Zoom enables quick innovation to keep up with the times. You can take advantage of a constant flow of fresh features that correspond to actual user requirements,” Lucas says. “Moreover, by frequently communicating with their support group, organisations will rapidly realise what is possible.”
Fireside Chat: How to Prepare for the Transition to the “Cloud Culture”
Geetha Gopal, Head of Infrastructure Projects Delivery and Digital Transformation, Panasonic Asia Pacific believes that every day, new technologies emerge and the culture of change is driving a paradigm shift for which an organisation must be prepared.
“As the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the world and we were unsure of what to do, our investments in technology became our strength,” says Geetha.
As the trend toward digitisation of remote work transforms the traditional office culture, a cloud culture has evolved. Likewise, cloud computing has become a competitive advantage for these organisations.
Every step toward better efficiency in the manufacturing sector increases competitiveness. Because of this, the industry’s embrace of cloud communications has become a crucial turning point. Cloud communications have changed the game for manufacturing by enabling increased efficiency while lowering IT expenditures.
“Cloud computing is the future, and organisations are successfully transitioning from the traditional office culture to the cloud culture,” Geetha says firmly.
Streamlining operations using scalable technological solutions for essential tasks and process optimisation not only helps reduce costs but also frees up time for businesses to devote to value-adding endeavours.
This is crucial now more than ever as operations teams struggle to keep up with the quickening speed of product and investment strategy development being observed among clients.
The new service-focused, client-centric operating model for investment operations will be made possible by technology, data and scalability. Organisations need to realise that the greatest way to prepare for the future is to create it as they deal with this period of constant innovation.
As a result, operations leaders who are taking steps to redesign, reinvent and adapt their operations may ultimately be in a stronger position.
Geetha emphasises that collaboration, communication and connectivity are crucial for success in today’s work environment. The key to maximising these contacts is digital communication. “For efficient communication and productivity, your company primarily depends on specific systems, platforms, and applications.”
More organisations are understanding the enormous advantages of migrating their systems to the cloud as technology continues to progress. In addition to allowing organisations to remain relevant in a competitive market, innovation plays a vital role in economic growth. Innovations are required to solve key problems.
One of the tactics that may be employed to save money while maximising organisational resources and extending communication skills and reach is advance planning.
An advantage of cloud communications for aiding staff members in a hybrid workforce is the reduction in time spent travelling to the workplace. Employees can save time travelling with the hybrid model simultaneously offering the chance to be more productive.
Despite the importance of enabling technology, it is the human workforce that will not only execute the organisation’s digital transformation strategy but also ensure its long-term success.
Guaranteeing that personnel are up to the task, however, needs not only technical training but also a radical transformation in thinking and decision-making.
It is important to focus on organisational culture by changing the management programme and making concerted efforts to close the gap between the internal aspect and employees.
Organisations that are unable to develop and achieve new goals that will assist their employees and business to thrive are those that are unwilling to alter existing practices.
“The pandemic can no longer be an excuse or the reason – remote work is here to stay. If we want skilled employees then we need to concentrate on their needs – we must empower our employees,” Geetha concludes.
Lucas believes that every problem has a solution since most organisations fail to connect their strategy to their innovation objectives. “Change is a constant process, and what we say today might leave a legacy tomorrow. Any plan for digital transformation, in our opinion, must be built around digital innovation.”
The road of digital transformation must involve a competitive advantage that can only be sustained by introducing innovations and contemporary methods if it is to stay modern and please clients with cutting-edge goods and services.
For every change, there is a call for managerial backing to be successful and transformative. Zoom is happy to discuss how digital transformation budgets differ from traditional business or IT budgets to meet the demands of any organisation.
Lucas believes that cloud computing is transforming not only how many organisations access and store data, but also how many of these businesses run. It provides greater protection, flexibility, data recovery, minimal to no maintenance and ease of access.
“Although many people used to hesitate the cloud computing, they have now realised how important it has become to organisations,” Lucas has observed.
Mohit believes that changes in computers and how technologies are distributed are altering the ecosystem, especially for those who work in a hybrid environment. He encourages delegates to start establishing a strategy to utilise the cloud’s benefits for their businesses and services. “Organisations should determine the types of cloud services for which you require solutions, then meet with cloud service providers to determine the best long-term match.”
Both public and private organisations benefit from the adaptability, efficiency, scalability, security, improved collaboration and cost savings that cloud computing offers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, but it is anticipated that cloud computing is here to stay, especially since hybrid work assumes a central role,” Mohit concludes.