5 minute read 17 Dec 2018
Aerial Singapore business district city twilight Asia

How open banking in Singapore may pivot or remain organic

By

Andrew Gilder

EY Asia-Pacific Banking and Capital Markets Leader

Banking and Capital Markets Leader. Over 20 years of experience in the field of auditing.

5 minute read 17 Dec 2018

Singapore is one of the leaders in EY's Open Banking Opportunity Index, ranking high across all four Index indicators.

This article is part of our Open Banking Opportunity Index.

Singapore’s regulatory approach to open banking scored third on our EY Open Banking Opportunity Index, and the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. But the country’s open banking policy is not quite as it seems.

open banking opportunity index singapore ranking

The high ranking is driven by proactive efforts by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to progress open banking since 2016, when it first published the application program interface (API) guidelines. Since then, MAS has initiated a suite of measures designed to promote the opening of its financial sector, including the planned establishment of a shared ‘know your customer’ (KYC) utility. Perhaps most notably, in 2017 MAS produced what is acknowledged as one of the world’s most comprehensive API playbooks, which serves as a reference guide for the financial services industry.

But while the guidelines for open banking are robust, their adoption is voluntary, with MAS believing that this approach will be more successful than mandated timelines. Explains MAS’s Chief Data Officer, David Hardoon, “You can come and say ‘thou shall do it’ but then nothing happens effectively.”

Instead, what the MAS describes as an “organic” approach to open banking is so far limited to Singapore’s established, traditional banks, with third parties excluded from taking part and no licenses issued to neo or digital-only banks. While regulators may take cues from the evolution of open banking in other markets, particularly Hong Kong SAR and Australia, we are unlikely to see major policy shifts any time soon. The cautious stance of Singapore’s regulators makes it clear that the government prioritizes the soundness and stability of its financial market over any perceived benefits of a more open, competitive landscape.

open banking consumer sentiment singapore 2019

Collaboration boosts innovation

Singapore’s different approach to open banking policy is partly explained by the high levels of innovation already seen within its financial sector – banks here simply don’t need the mandated push required in other markets. 

In our Index, Singapore ranked fourth for innovation, scoring second-highest in the Asia Pacific after China. The country’s financial sector is one of the most dynamic in the world and considered one of the top hubs to start and grow a FinTech business. Much of the innovation we see in Singapore’s financial sector is through collaboration between FinTechs and traditional banks, mostly in developing new technology solutions for banking products.

We also see some banks using APIs to establish cross-sector partnerships and create ecosystems focused on financial services. For example, Standard Chartered’s Good Life service offers customers access to discounts on services with a range of other providers. Citi is exploring similar partnerships.

These initiatives did not originate in Singapore – they are being rolled out across global markets – but they do boost the presence of technological innovation. Another driver is a push by Singapore financial institutions to grow beyond their borders to maximize the growth potential of the rising middle class within the region, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia.

While this strong culture of innovation is not hindered by voluntary open banking adoption, Singapore’s current lack of API standardization may threaten the pace at which collaboration among banks, FinTechs and third parties can come to fruition.

Consumers trust banks, so embrace innovation

Within this environment of innovation, it’s not surprising that Singapore’s banking customers show high adoption potential, ranking third in our Index in this category.

Consumer adoption

67%

of smartphone users have adopted mobile banking apps.

While their innovation benchmark is not as high as that of Chinese customers, it’s likely that further innovation from open banking will be consumer-led, and focused on leveraging APIs to improve the consumer finance experience. For example, institutions may use a full picture of a customer’s spending habits to deliver more accurate credit scores or offer instant loan approvals.

FinTech services

88%

of the digitally active population use two or more FinTech services.

Singapore’s consumers are willing to share information for a better banking experience, with higher levels of customer trust toward banks than seen in some other markets. Our Index ranked Singapore third for consumer sentiment toward open banking, with about a third of online discussion posts expressing positive views.

consumer sentiment insights singapore

How will Singapore’s open banking evolve?

It’s difficult to argue with the country’s organic approach to open banking. While Singapore’s financial sector continues to grow and thrive, banks are able to push their own innovation agendas – and customers remain content.

Regulators are closely watching the introduction of open banking in markets such as Hong Kong and Australia and, over time, Singapore’s own policy is likely to adapt in line with other developments. But, it remains to be seen whether the country’s current voluntary regulation will ever move toward mandates – or if it will need the enforcement seen in other markets to retain its position as one of the world’s leading financial markets.
 

  • About the EY Open Banking Opportunity Index

    The EY Open Banking Opportunity Index assesses the conduciveness of open banking to thrive across 10 selected markets. Success is viewed as the potential for consumers to adopt open banking-enabled services within a market.

    Our model uses a wide range of measures — 22 indicators and 13 sub-indicators — to assess each country’s potential, across four key conditions needed for the success of open banking: regulatory environment; adoption potential; consumer sentiment; and innovation environment.

Summary

Singapore’s open banking policy is not mandated, but innovation is thriving under its organic approach.

About this article

By

Andrew Gilder

EY Asia-Pacific Banking and Capital Markets Leader

Banking and Capital Markets Leader. Over 20 years of experience in the field of auditing.