Digital Workplace. As with other industries with a high percentage of knowledge workers, BFSI organisations are grappling with granting remote access to staff. Cloud-based collaboration and Fintech tools, BYOD policies, and sensitive data traversing home networks are all creating new challenges for cyber teams. Modern approaches, such as zero trust network access, privilege management, and network segmentation are necessary to ensure workers can seamlessly but securely perform their roles remotely.
Looking Beyond Technology: Evaluating the Adequacy of Compliance-Centric Cyber Strategies
The BFSI industry stands among the most rigorously regulated industries, with scrutiny intensifying following every collapse or notable breach. Cyber and data protection teams shoulder the responsibility of understanding the implications of and adhering to emerging data protection regulations in areas such as GDPR, PCI-DSS, SOC 2, and PSD2. Automating compliance procedures emerges as a compelling solution to streamline processes, mitigate risks, and curtail expenses. Technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), low-code development, and continuous compliance monitoring are gaining prominence.
The adoption of AI to enhance security is still emerging but will accelerate rapidly. Ecosystm research shows that within the next two years, nearly 70% of BFSI organisations will have invested in SecOps. AI can help Security Operations Centres (SOCs) prioritise alerts and respond to threats faster than could be performed manually. Additionally, the expanding variety of network endpoints, including customer devices, ATMs, and tools used by frontline employees, can embrace AI-enhanced protection without introducing additional onboarding friction.
However, there is a need for BFSI organisations to look beyond compliance checklists to a more holistic cyber approach that can prioritise cyber measures continually based on the risk to the organisations. And this is one of the biggest challenges that BFSI CISOs face. Ecosystm research finds that 72% of cyber and technology leaders in the industry feel that there is limited understanding of cyber risk and governance in their organisations.
In fact, BFSI organisations must look at the interconnectedness of an intelligence-led and risk-based strategy. Thorough risk assessments let organisations prioritise vulnerability mitigation effectively. This targeted approach optimises security initiatives by focusing on high-risk areas, reducing security debt. To adapt to evolving threats, intelligence should inform risk assessment. Intelligence-led strategies empower cybersecurity leaders with real-time threat insights for proactive measures, actively tackling emerging threats and vulnerabilities – and definitely moving beyond compliance-focused strategies.
Enhanced Centre of Excellence track to expand grant funding to corporate venture capital entities
Innovation Acceleration track to support emerging tech based FinTech solutions, and
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) FinTech track to accelerate ESG adoption in fintech
Additionally, FSTI 3.0 will continue to support areas like AI, data analytics, and RegTech while emphasising talent development. We can expect to see transformative financial innovation through greater industry collaboration.
MAS’ Continued Focus on Innovation
Over the years, the MAS has consistently been a driving force behind innovation in the Financial Services industry. They have actively promoted and supported technological advancements to enhance the industry’s competitiveness and resilience.
The FinTech Regulatory Sandbox framework offers a controlled space for financial institutions and FinTech innovators to test new financial products and services in a real-world setting, with tailored regulatory support. By temporarily relaxing specific regulatory requirements, the sandbox encourages experimentation, while ensuring safeguards to manage risks and uphold the financial system’s stability. Upon successful experimentation, entities must seamlessly transition to full compliance with relevant regulations.
Innovation Labs serve as incubators for new ideas, fostering a culture of experimentation and collaboration. They collaborate with disruptors, startups, and entrepreneurs to develop groundbreaking solutions. Labs like Accenture Innovation Hub, Allianz Asia Lab, Aviva Digital Garage, ANZ Innovation Lab, and AXA Digital Hive drive create prototypes, and roll out market solutions.
Building an Ecosystem
Partnerships between financial institutions, technology companies, startups, and academia contribute to Singapore’s economic growth and global competitiveness while ensuring adaptive regulation in an evolving landscape. By creating a vibrant ecosystem, MAS has facilitated knowledge exchange, collaborative projects, and the development of innovative solutions. For instance, in 2022, MAS partnered with United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to build digital financial ecosystems for MSMEs in emerging economies.
This includes supporting projects that address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns within the financial sector. For instance, MAS worked with the People’s Bank of China to establish the China-Singapore Green Finance Taskforce (GFTF) to enhance collaboration in green and transition finance. The aim is to focus on taxonomies, products, and technology to support the transition to a low-carbon future in the region, co-chaired by representatives from both countries.
MAS has also promoted Open Banking and API Frameworks to encourage financial institutions to adopt open banking practices enabling easier integration of financial services and encouraging innovation by third-party developers. This also empowers customers to have greater control over their financial data while fostering the development of new financial products and services by FinTech companies.
Regulators in Asia Pacific Taking a Proactive Approach
While Singapore is at the forefront of financial innovations, other regulatory and government bodies in Asia Pacific are also taking on an increasingly proactive role in nurturing innovation. This stance is being driven by a twofold objective – to accelerate economic growth through technological advancements and to ensure that innovative solutions align with regulatory requirements and safeguard consumer interests.
Recognising the potential of fintech to enhance financial services and drive economic growth, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) established the Fintech Facilitation Office (FFO) to facilitate communication between the fintech industry and traditional financial institutions. The central bank’s Smart Banking Initiatives, including the Faster Payment System, Open API Framework, and the Banking Made Easy initiative that reduces regulatory frictions help to enhance the efficiency and interoperability of digital payments.
The Financial Services Agency of Japan (FSA) has been actively working on creating a regulatory framework to facilitate fintech innovation, including revisions to existing laws to accommodate new technologies like blockchain. In 2020, FSA launched the Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN) to facilitate collaboration between the government, financial institutions, and the private sector to explore the potential of blockchain technology in enhancing financial services.
The Central Bank of the Philippines (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas – BSP) has launched an e-payments project to overcome challenges hindering electronic retail purchases, such as limited interbank transfer facilities, high bank fees, and low levels of trust among merchants and consumers. The initiative included the establishment of the National Retail Payment System, a framework for retail payment, and the introduction of automated clearing houses like PESONet and InstaPay. These efforts have increased the percentage of retail purchases made electronically from 1% to over 10% within five years, demonstrating the positive impact of effective cooperation and innovative policies in driving a shift towards a cash-lite economy.
The promotion of fintech innovation highlights a collective belief in its potential to transform finance and boost economies. As regulations adapt for technologies like blockchain and open banking, the Asia Pacific region is promoting collaboration between traditional financial institutions and emerging fintech players. This approach underscores a commitment to balance innovation with responsible oversight, ensuring that advanced financial solutions comply with regulatory standards.