As the fintech landscape continues to evolve, financial services executives must keep pace with the changes to harness opportunities for their own businesses.
Through gaining an understanding of the key emerging technologies, leaders and managers from incumbent organisations will not only be able to respond early to the competition threat posed by fintech firms, but they can also shape their own organisations to ride the fintech wave.
With this in mind, National University of Singapore had launched a three-day Leveraging Fintech for Business programme in 2018, now into its 3rd edition.
The programme aims to provide leaders with a broad overview of developments in the sector and deepen their knowledge of the impact these changes will have on traditional business models.
Jai Arya, advisor to the dean, NUS Business School, explains that is it important that leaders in all financial organisations keep abreast of developments in fintech in order to remain relevant.
“Fintech companies are generally more customer-centric and they are more solutions orientated.”
“If incumbents want to stay relevant, they have no choice but to move up the curve and make sure they can match or exceed some of these offerings,” he says.
He warns that it is particularly important that traditional finance firms align with these trends as early as possible, as fintech companies’ time to market is much quicker than that of incumbents.
“Incumbents have to transform. I don’t think they have a choice. They have to project new functionality and progress to their clients,” he says.
Arya points out that a key aspect of this transformation process involves established financial institutions changing their mindset from one in which they are used to operating in a closed system, to an environment in which systems are shared, such as through open banking, and they have to learn to collaborate with other firms, rather than compete.
“The more progressive incumbents are trying to disrupt their own businesses. There is always a tendency not to disrupt yourself, but this is a situation where if you hold back, you risk missing the bus.” he says.
To better equip leaders and managers to reposition their business models, the Leveraging Fintech for Business programme aims to give them a broad overview of changes in the sector, as well as an understanding of where the opportunities and risks lie.
Arya says: “Financial ecosystems are transforming around new financial technology but there is some confusion about what this means.
“We wanted to put together a programme that is compact, yet long enough to give people an overview to understand and set direction for themselves.”
The programme begins by looking at the current fintech landscape, covering topics such as payments, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and cyber security.
It does a deep dive into the key technologies of data analytics, blockchain, AI and machine learning, and how these impact business models. It further touches on cloud infrastructure, the regulators' perspective and cyber security. “Finally, we spend some time on how to bring it all together and make it work for a participant in our programme,” Arya says.
He points out that AI and machine learning is something financial services leaders need to adopt to help them supplement their traditional models, while they have no choice but to focus on cyber security with all of the digital and internet offerings that are now available.
The programme is delivered through a combination of seminars, discussions, case studies and reflections.
“For a motivated participant, they can very quickly appreciate the fintech ecosystem, understand what the relevant developments and technologies are, and, at the end of the three days, connect the dots and contemplate next steps for themselves,” Arya says.
The programme is backed by the academic rigor of a university, and also includes speakers who are market practitioners.
The course is aimed at middle to senior executives at a wide range of organisations, with past participants from large financial institutions, regulators from central banks in Asia, senior managers from payment firms and people involved in strategy all having taken the programme in the past.
Participants have come from across Asia, including from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, China, Taiwan and Japan.
Arya says that while fintech is often viewed as a threat to established firms, it also represents an opportunity and incumbents have two clear advantages over their newer rivals, namely a large client base and a lot of data. In addition, incumbent banks already have operating licences.
“They are in a good position to start executing on AI and analytics. This is an opportunity to collaborate and invest in innovation, be driven by clients’ needs and then produce solutions. Our programme can help them see the way forward,” he says.