Financial Services to Singapore
Financial services in Singapore comprises the banking sector, capital
markets, wealth management and insurance. The country is also a regional
Renminbi (RMB) gateway, with the appointment of an RMB clearing bank in
Singapore's central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) helps
shape the financial industry by promoting a strong corporate governance
framework and close adherence to international accounting standards. It
also works closely with other government agencies and financial
institutions to develop and promote Singapore as a regional and
international financial centre.
The range of financial services offered by the industry has evolved and
expanded to include areas such as wealth and asset management, equity and
bonds, foreign exchange and derivative markets. Today Singapore is one of
the most established capital markets in the Asia-Pacific and notably, the
Singapore Exchange (SGX) is the preferred listing location of close to 800
The market is well-regarded as a triple-A rated economy with strong growth
potential, a sound and stable location for business expansion as well as
for investments. It is home to over 200 banks, and with a total asset size
of almost US$2 trillion as of December 2013 the banking sector is critical
to Singapore’s role in financing local and regional growth (Source: Monetary Authority of Singapore,
Asian Dollar Market
Accessed 1 December 2017
). Activities in this sector include trade facilitation, corporate finance
and building of infrastructure. Singapore’s deep and liquid capital markets
are also a key source of funding and as a facilitator of growth and
development in Asia Pacific.
Singapore is well recognised as one of the premier asset management centres
in Asia. Besides global and locally-owned asset managers in the traditional
space, there is a growing community of alternative players, including hedge
fund, private equity and real estate managers (Source:
Monetary Authority of Singapore, Wealth Management and Insurance
Fintech firms are shaking up the traditional banking and financial services
industry. In Singapore, fintech start-ups are being courted aggressively to
bring their innovation to local banks.
With Singapore’s move towards becoming a Smart Nation and a global fintech
hub, the country has become an increasingly attractive destination as a
“preferred gateway” into Asia for fintech startups. Singapore’s vibrant
startup ecosystem, supportive government, stable financial system and
business-friendly tax regime, have helped turn the country into an
attractive spot for fintech entrepreneurs.
Singapore has made fintech a high priority as it intends to keep its
leading position as a global financial center. To this end, MAS have
deployed a number of initiatives aimed at boosting fintech innovation, and
helping startups collaborate with banks. It will be stepping up efforts to
encourage financial institutions to enhance connectivity and fintech
innovation through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). There are
also plans to work with industry to transform the insurance marketplace
through centralised blockchain platforms that will allow for more efficient
risk placements, and create specialist insurance solutions to address
emerging risks in the region.
As an international financial centre, Singapore offers financial
institutions a pro-business environment that is cost-competitive, with an
effective regulatory environment, strong infrastructure and a highly
skilled and cosmopolitan pool of finance professionals.
A premier wealth management hub offering investors direct access to
regional and global investment opportunities, its robust and transparent
legal framework is coupled with economic and political stability and
provides an ideal location for wealth managers to tap into asset gathering
opportunities in the region.
There are opportunities for Australian firms to complement the vibrant
insurance ecosystem of life and general insurers, reinsurers,
intermediaries and ancillary service providers.
Singapore’s advanced infocomm infrastructure and strong connectivity
affords service providers and investors greater access to a broader range
of trading and information services in the region.
Another opportunity is the development of training programs to enhance the
competencies of financial sector professionals and to strengthen the local
talent pipeline of finance professionals and leaders.
The recent rise of fintech in Singapore is due to a friendly regulatory
environment which enables innovation to grow, and talent to come from all
over Asia and also Australia to start up companies, along with an improving
infrastructure and more entrepreneurial mind-set within banks when working
Notable initiatives in Singapore include the “regulatory sandbox”, which
allows financial services ventures to experiment and test fintech solutions
under less stringent laws; MAS’ Fintech and Innovation Group and Fintech
Office; as well as a set of rulings aimed at easing the current
requirements for financial intermediaries and fintechs.
Like Singapore, the Australian Government is committed to working with the
fintech industry, regulators and other stakeholders, on key issues to
underpin the continued innovation in financial services. There is strong
support of the industry’s objective of making Australia the leading market
for fintech innovation and investment in Asia by 2017. There is opportunity
for both Singapore and Australia to collaborate in areas such as strategies
to promote and support the evolution of fintech start‑ups and innovators to
develop, test and globally launch their innovative financial products and
services in the market that is most appropriate or specific to the fintech
product or service at hand, e.g., a mobile payment system targetted at
Asian retailers might best be designed or launched from Singapore, etc.,
and conversely, the same can be said of a product/service designed for the
The Singapore Government has, since 1999, removed the 40 per cent ceiling
on foreign ownership of local banks. Approval, however, is required before
an individual investor (and parties deemed to be acting in concert with
him/her) may acquire the following levels of shareholdings in any bank
incorporated in Singapore: 5 per cent, 12 per cent and 20 per cent. ( Source: The World Bank Group,
Investing Across Borders. Singapore
, 1 Dec 2017
There is regional competition from key financial centres in Asia-Pacific
particularly Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, all of which are registering
strong growth in their financial markets.
Tariffs, regulations and customs
Financial institutions with substantive business plans to establish or
expand their operations in Singapore may apply for MAS tax incentives or
grant schemes under the
Financial Sector Development Fund
(FSDF). Successful applicants must satisfy rigorous requirements with
respect to the scale and quality of activities to be conducted in
Applicants can also avail themselves of the training grant schemes and
scholarships available under the FSDF to deepen staff competencies and
build specialist talent within their organisations. Some of the grant
schemes available under the FSDF include the Financial Training Scheme,
Institute of Banking and Finance Standards Training Scheme [formerly known
as the Financial Industry Competency Standards Training Scheme] and
Financial Scholarship Programme.
MAS is the integrated regulator and supervisor of financial institutions.
MAS establishes rules for financial institutions which are implemented
through legislation, regulations, directions and notices. Guidelines have
also been formulated to encourage best practices among financial
Marketing your products and services
MAS has incorporated all regulated activities in the securities and futures
market into a single licensing regime under which individual market
intermediaries are only required to hold a single licence to conduct a
range of financial activities. Licensees wishing to expand into new
activities can obtain MAS approval, subject to meeting the requisite
criteria, without the need to obtain an additional licence. This aims to
accommodate changes in the business strategies of individual industry
participants and provide flexibility and ease of commencing new and
innovative business in the industry. For more information about setting up
in Singapore, visit
Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Links and industry contacts
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