FinTech Thought Leaders Webinar Series
15 May 2020

● Speaker:

Lesly Goh

World Bank Senior Technology Advisor (previously Chief Technology Officer at World Bank)

● Panelist:

Dr. BEN Shenglin

Professor and Dean of Zhejiang University International Business School & Academy of Internet Finance
Professor of Zhejiang University School of Management
Joint Chairman of Zhejiang Association of Internet Finance
Director of International Monetary Institute, Renmin University of China
(previously Chief Executive Officer at JP Morgan in China)

Yang Rui

TMTPost International Affairs Partner

● Moderator:

Dr. Hung-Yi Chen

Assistant Professor and Academic Director,Master of Finance (FinTech) Program at Zhejiang University International Business School
Program Director of FinTech Thought Leaders Webinar Series

Jie Hu

Bilingual TV Presenter at Zhejiang TV station

● Synopsis:

Theme:Tech Innovation for FinTech, SME and Women Empowerment

 

Digital technologies are playing an essential role in the battle against COVID-19, helping to mitigate and contain the spread of the coronavirus, to cope with social distancing measures, and to ensure business continuity as well as public service delivery for all. This session will explore the future of financial services post COVID-19 from the view of digital technologies perspective.

● Conclusion:

ZIBS FinTech Thought Leader Webinar Series: Finance needs to be inclusive and data driven, says Lesly Goh

 

By Hatim Hussain 

 

On May 14, Zhejiang International Business School (ZIBS) hosted its inaugural webinar on ‘Tech Innovation for FinTech, SME and Women Empowerment’ by Lesly Goh, senior technology advisor and former CTO of the World Bank and Professor of Practice at ZIBS. The event marks the launch of the FinTech Thought Leader Webinar Series, which aims to provide a platform for FinTech thought leaders, professionals, policymakers and academicians to discuss global trends and related regulatory challenges, latest technology-enabled business models and applications of financial inclusion in developing and developed jurisdictions.

 

Dr. Hung-Yi Chen, Assistant Professor at ZIBS and Academic Director of the Master of Finance (FinTech) Programme commented on the webinar, “FinTech is frequently lauded as a disruptive force that is transforming the financial industry. In light of the current circumstances, the webinar sought not just to celebrate the success and the future potential of FinTech but also delve deep into the challenges it brings, specifically in leveraging the technology and tackling the question that consequently arise.” The webinar was chaired by Dr. Hung-Yi Chen and joined by Dr. BEN Shenglin, Dean of ZIBS as well as YANG Rui, International Affairs Partner at TMT Post.

 

Lesly Goh’s experience in FinTech, RegTech and SupTech spans more than 30 years across both public and private sectors. Delivering the keynote address, she emphasized the importance of digital transformation for SMEs as a crucial force in tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in emerging economies.

 

While COVID-19 is having a disastrous impact on all sectors, it has disproportionately impacted the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), which represent 60-70% of the GDP and more than 90% of the employment globally. According to a recent report by US Chamber of Commerce, approximately one quarter of the businesses have already shut down or are in the verge of shutting down in the US due to the crisis. Lesly noted that in such a scenario, most businesses would not be able to whether the storm easily. Consequently, it is important for the governments to pump in money and create stimulus in order to address the liquidity problems that will arise in the near future.

 

Estimates from IFC and World Bank show that prior to COVID 19, financing gap for SMEs was approximately 5.3 trillion USD, representing close to 70% of the total financing demand on a country-by-country basis. The barriers to SME development exist on demand as well as supply sides, including most importantly, lack of credit history, high transaction costs of traditional loans, low business/financial literacy and for the banks, high costs relative to revenue potential. Even as access to finance acts as a major issue for MSMEs globally, there are solutions available. The keynote address mentioned that the pandemic became a catalyst for FinTech to provide digital finance services using technology innovation.. For instance, digital payments create a digital footprint which can be used to evaluate the credit risks for SMEs.

 

FinTech is enabling international remittances, which serves as a major share of GDP for many emerging markets, and has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions in the usage of cash due to the pandemic has resulted in its limited availability, there has been an increasing demand for digital payments globally. This has also served to create new opportunities, including rise of open data platforms for SME finance to deliver more tailored services and better pricing for the customers. The keynote speech by Lesly mentions similar efforts in harnessing financial data around the world, most notably the efforts of the Bank of England in creating an open data access across the entire economy which could ease frictions in the financial system, in particular by closing nearly 22 billion USD funding gap in SME Finance in UK alone. Permissioned data sharing standards could also deliver portable credit files that makes it easier for SME’s to apply for credit, while increasing transparency for lenders.

 

Specifically in Singapore (Lesly’s birthplace), of particular interest is the ‘SME Go Digital Programme’ which focuses on the digitisation of small and medium enterprises, unlocking value and adding productivity such as e-payments, e-commerce, SaaS, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Public-private partnerships such as ‘Business sans Borders’ by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as well as policy innovations like ‘TradeTrust’ (a DLT-based digital infrastructure facilitating interoperability of electronic trade documents exchanged between different digital ecosystems) have been crucial in obtaining real time information, increasing interoperability, efficiency and transparency as well as in reducing costs.

 

Speaking about digital agriculture and the impact of COVID-19 on women, Lesly’s speech mentioned that references from World Bank show that disruptive agricultural technologies such as e-payments, remote sensing, farm robotics and blockchain can be deployed in rural areas with low connectivity to empower farmers. This will help in reducing information asymmetry, accelerating agri-food outcomes as well as in helping them make precise decisions about resource management. Solutions such as Pinduoduo’s work with farmers are great enablers and can empower female farmers and entrepreneurs by increasing e-commerce penetration in agriculture ultimately lifting millions of people out of poverty in developing and under-developed countries.

 

A remarkable discussion followed the keynote address, where Prof. Ben Shenglin noted the inspiring progress made by organisations such as MyBank and Webank in improving accessibility, affordability and availability of finance in China. Few short term predictions as noted by the panellists were a rise of e-commerce in near future combined with more reliance on data automation as well as an increased adaptability by SMEs to adjust to the ‘new normal’.

 

With respect to the opportunities and challenges for students at ZIBS in these difficult times, Lesly’s advice was to learn more about the technology and layer the same with interdisciplinary business skills, so as to look at the problem holistically and provide solutions which create a unique value for customers. The webinar provided a valuable barometer for the FinTech sector and the impact in current times, solutions envisaged and opportunities that remain to be explored. The Academy of Internet Finance at Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Association of Internet Finance were the supporters of the event.

 

Note: this session is the personal viewpoint and experience from Lesly Goh and does not represent official statement from World Bank and IFC.

 

 

Hatim Hussain is a lawyer and researcher based in India. He is currently pursuing Masters at Tsinghua University, China as a Schwarzman Scholar and on track for the completion of post graduate studies in Law at the University of Oxford on the Rhodes Scholarship. He has previously worked in vario us capacities with leading research institutions, including most recently with University of Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance where his role focuses on regulatory sequencing in relation to development of an automated regulatory intelligence platform as well as authoring reports in the domains of law, finance and technology. His main focus lies at the intersection of finance, law and technology.

 

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