The banking and financial services sector is steeped in tradition and proud of practices it has followed for decades. Highly resistant and stubborn to change, the industry is nonetheless undergoing a quiet revolution as disruptive web businesses chip away at its market. Banks and other financial institutions are simply too gargantuan to just be replaced by startups, but it’s clear there is need for more innovation. And this isn’t a highlight of the internet age alone – in 1994 Bill Gates famously said that “banking is essential, banks are not.”
While it’s still too early to say whether the financial services sector will undergo a holistic, systemic shift, the fact of the matter is that there’s more VC money flowing into fintech startups than ever before. In 2014, global investment into this industry tripled to US$12.25 billion. Consumers demand convenience and flexibility; established financial players aren’t nimble enough to provide them. Which is why there’s more buzz around fintech than ever before – it remains one of the last bastions ripe with opportunity.
Fintech startups in Asia collectively raised US$797 million last year, making the continent the second-highest funded region after the US. Singapore remains one of the hubs for fintech activity – business-friendly regulations mean founders eye the city-state as a base from which to expand to the rest of Asia.
In no particular order, here are 5 exciting fintech startups from Singapore:
1. Call Levels
Call Levels is a mobile monitoring tool aimed at those who want real-time updates on fluctuations in commodity and asset prices. The startup targets all those interested in investing in financial markets, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced trader or a noob when it comes to finance, like myself.
Through its app, users can keep track of things like forex, futures, stocks, and even Bitcoin. Just last month it raised a pre-series A round of US$500,000 led by 500 Startups.
Tradehero has been referred to by Tech in Asia as one of the best startups in Singapore. Tradehero’s app allows users to trade virtual money, betting on real-world stock exchange and commodity data. It’s basically a game, but the unique premise is for inexperienced investors to learn the tricks of the trade without undertaking risks.
The startup monetizes by allowing users to follow other, more experienced ones. Every time a user makes a particular trade, all their followers are notified via an in-app notification. And this model works well, because in financial trading, nothing is more valuable than information and experience.
Numoni wants to provide financial services for the 2.4 billion people across the world who survive on less than US$2 per day. Referring to that segment as “underbanked,” the startup’s flagship product is an ATM-esque machine called Nugen.
Through Nugen, users can remit money abroad, pay bills, receive funds, top-up mobile phones, and more. Since it started up in 2012, Numoni has expanded from Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. In August this year, it raised a series B round of US$4.76 million.
M-DAQ is trying to make trade of cross-border securities more efficient. It allows investors to trade in any foreign currency denominated in the local currency of their portfolio without having to worry about exchange rate volatility.
M-DAQ’s technology embeds into security exchanges and ‘locks in’ rates, allowing investors to breathe easier. The startup has raised a colossal US$24.2 million in total funding to date and has offices in eight cities across the globe.
5. Quoin Exchange
Quoin Exchange is a pan-Asian bitcoin exchange headquartered in Singapore. It offers Bitcoin payments and wallets and distinguishes itself from rivals by offering users other services, like margin trading and futures. While it initially only offered trade in Japanese Yen, the US Dollar, and the Euro, the startup has since expanded to cover a total of eight different currencies.
There’s also an “internal lending platform,” allowing users to lend bitcoin to one another and earn interest, as well as a number of analytics tools to monitor price updates and fluctuations in Bitcoin.
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