Fintechs to reshape landscape, says Singlife founder

Consumer-led innovation will make the role of fintechs even more crucial, according to  Singlife Founder and Group CEO Walter de Oude.
Consumer-led innovation will make the role of fintechs even more crucial, according to Singlife Founder and Group CEO Walter de Oude.

For years now, financial technology (fintech) has been disrupting the banking and insurance industries. And you can expect fintechs to play an even more influential role in the pandemic-stricken financial services landscape.

“With the continuous threat of COVID-19, governments such as ​Singapore and ​Malaysia’s Penang state are already encouraging digital finance and e-payments as a means to reduce physical contact and curb the spread of the virus,” Singlife Founder and Group CEO Walter de Oude told Digital Life Asia.

Consumer-led innovation

“The pandemic has already propelled digital adoption, with an ​85 percent uptake in banking and finance apps in Asia due to COVID-19. As traditional banks report declining profits against the backdrop of the pandemic, some financial institutions are looking to increase their ​digital offerings to generate income despite the sluggish economy. As we move from respond to recover, fintechs will reshape the financial landscape from reinventing customer service to round-the-clock services, prompting traditional finance to follow suit,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, with both the public and private sector embracing the digital imperative. As consumer behavior changes, expect even more disruption, as well as convergence as technology further blurs the lines separating fintechs, banks, and insurance companies.

“Today’s tech-dependent consumers value convenience as an important deciding factor when considering a ​brand or ​financial service​. This drive for convenience has given rise to a growing number of tech and financial companies melding innovative technologies together to adhere to the needs of the digital consumer, blurring the lines between different forms of financial services and other digital offerings. This consumer-led innovation has prompted an innovation race for which ultimately benefits users with increased choice and a streamlined digital journey.

“At Singlife, we have long recognized the difficulties that consumers face within the fragmented and inconvenient financial landscape and connected key financial services like savings and insurance so our customers can better manage, grow and protect their wealth with ease,” De Oude said.

Digital by design

De Oude can empathize with the frustrations that customers face, having built Singapore Life as a digital-first company, which has been further emphasized by its rebranding to Singlife.

“Having worked in traditional financial institutions for years, I’ve witnessed the rigid practices and processes and believed that customers deserved better. They deserved a financial experience that was efficient, connected, and flexible. With wealth often locked up in inaccessible insurance policies, I wanted to reinvent insurance and unlock the potential of money by introducing flexible ways to save and give customers more autonomy over their money. We have always been digital-first, but our rebrand to Singlife places greater emphasis on that, capturing the energy that technology brings to our customers when managing their finances.

“We are digital by design, so our challenge wasn’t on the technology front, but rather being a new player in an ocean of well-established financial firms. However, despite our nascency, Singlife’s flexible mobile savings plan, the Singlife Account, hit ​40,000 downloads in just the first month of its launch, clearly indicating the demand for digital-first financial services that do more for our money,” he said.

Mobile-first approach

The Singlife Account is an example of this kind of disruption. The idea is for consumers to enjoy an interconnected mobile-first approach to financial services.

“The Singlife Account breaks down the silos of financial verticals to streamline the financial journey helping customers better manage, grow and protect their wealth. We are not a bank and are instead providing a flexible insurance savings plan that encompasses current accounts, insurance protection, and retrenchment benefits — all on a single platform. As we look forward to launching our full suite of services, Singlife is continuously reshaping finance and unlocking the potential of money for all in Singapore and beyond as we expand in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia,” he said.

In fact, De Oude firmly believes that fintech will future-proof Singapore’s financial landscape.

“Singapore has always been a strong financial leader and hub for innovation. It actively implements robust frameworks that safeguard consumers while supporting innovation. The announcement of the ​Payment Services Act​, for example, takes into account the evolving e-payments landscape, ensuring that Singapore is a safe and secure place for fintech adoption. Additionally, grants such as the ​S$125 million support package for fintechs to tide through the pandemic and the ​S$285 million to sustain innovation and entrepreneurship have enabled fintech startups to continue innovating despite the recent downturn.

“Local universities also understand fintech’s prominent role in the future of finance with the National University of Singapore recently launching a new ​digital finance research facility to encourage fintech leadership in Singapore and drive further growth in the sector,” he said.

Welcome to the future of financial services, where fintech can help us build a better post-pandemic world.