Foreword by Director, The Association of Banks in Singapore

These are challenging times for the global economy. With heightened trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies weighing heavily on manufacturing, trade and investment, growth has slowed across the world.

As a region, Asia is weathering the challenges better than most. It is expected to grow by 5 percent in 2019 underpinned by strong domestic demand and a robust services sector. While this may be the slowest expansion since the 2008 financial crisis, Asia remains the fastest-growing region in the world.

Trade dependent Singapore is feeling the sharp end of the global slowdown, and manufacturing, trade and transport have slowed. However, the modern services cluster, which includes financial, professional services and information and communications, is holding up well on increasing regional demand and digitisation.

In its latest annual report, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) noted the financial services sector did very well in 2018 with growth of 6.1 percent, bringing the three-year growth rate of financial services to 4.1 percent. While it expects growth to slow in 2019, the financial services sector will continue to outpace the overall economy on higher demand for insurance products in the Asia Pacific, payment services arising from e-commerce and fintech-related activities.

As the digitalisation of finance picks up pace, Singapore aims to capitalise on this revolution. In 2020, the MAS will issue licences for up to five digital banks, including two retail banks and three wholesale banks. The two digital full bank licences will be awarded to companies headquartered in Singapore and controlled by Singaporeans. Foreign companies are eligible for these full bank licences if they form a joint venture with a local company, and the joint venture meets MAS’ headquarter and control requirements. The three digital wholesale bank licences will be open to both local and foreign companies. Winning bidders must show their ability to incorporate the innovative use of technology to serve customer needs and reach under-served segments.

Singapore is embarking on this new phase of banking liberalisation from a position of strength. It is one of the top five financial centres in the world and a leading fintech hub.

The Singapore Banking & Financial Services Directory is a vital reference for Singapore’s thriving financial sector. A joint publication by The Association of Banks in Singapore and Marshall Cavendish Business Information Pte Ltd., it provides information on over 1,000 companies in the financial services cluster, as well as the spectrum of products and services they offer.

Mrs Ong-Ang Ai Boon
The Association of Banks in Singapore