The Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) 2023 attracted over 650 exhibitors and received over 60,000 attendees from 15 to 17 November.
Playing the role of a Supporting Media Partner at SFF 2023, the DollarsAndSense team was there to network with the brands and learn about the latest and most significant innovations in the FinTech space.
While there were many high-profile exhibitors, sponsors and organisations in attendance, there were 10 start-ups that captured our attention while we were walking about and interacting with the FinTech brands at SFF 2023.
Prior to starting up Dobin, Co-Founder and CEO Khaled Benguerba, held senior positions at American Express and Visa for over a decade. I found him and another Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Gyan Singh, when I was at their booth at SFF 2023.
Meeting the Dobin team at SFF 2023, and bumping into the Endowus team as well. (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo with Khaled and Gyan!)
Unsatisfied with the state of personal finance management in Singapore, they decided to start up Dobin.
Besides being brand agnostic and independent, Dobin also uses our personal information to benefit users, instead of any particular financial institution. Because of this, security and sharing of personal information is a top priority for Dobin.
Ultimately, Dobin aims to give users a fuller picture of our finances each month. By linking the various bank accounts we keep our money in and spend from, Dobin automates our income and expense tracking.
What’s cool about the Dobin app is that it also buckets our transactions into expense buckets, such as Transport, Groceries, Food & Dining, Travel, Bills & Utilities, and more. This enables consumers to understand where we’re spending our money, and gives us a better way to manage our budgets.
In the works are two powerful features. 1) A function that recommends the best credit cards based on your actual expenses each month; and 2) loans recommendation that can help you manage your finances more efficiently.
Right around the corner was another eye-catching start-up: heymax.ai. Its mission is a straightforward, albeit harder to actually achieve, one: to simplify and optimise credit card usage.
Co-Founder, CEO and self-professed “Chief Miles Hoarder”, Joe Lu explains that heymax.ai lets users earn even more miles – on top of the miles they already earn on their own credit cards when they make a transaction.
Joe shared an Excel sheet that he keeps on his phone – a list of 50 credit cards that he currently owns, and cites the best places to use the cards. This “problem” spurred him to start heymax.ai. Now, we can instantly know which is the best credit card to use when shopping.
The best part, we get to earn extra Max Miles that never expire while doing so.
Joe Lu (Right) taking a selfie with me and my colleague, Siang Hong (left)
Via its Max Miles rewards programme, heymax.ai gives you rewards miles each time you shop at one of their over 50 partner merchants, including Klook, Zalora, Lazada, SEPHORA, Decathlon, and many more.
heymax.ai is also working on a new product, their Max Card. In the future, you can earn Max Miles by simply using a Max Card when making a purchase at a store.
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If there’s anything more urgent and relevant than FinTech, it may just be ESG. STACS, which powers the technology behind the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Project Greenprint, tackles both FinTech and ESG.
Co-Founder and CEO of STACS, Benjamin Soh, explains going green does not have to be so daunting. Powering the technology behind the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Project Greenprint, STACS standardises ESG data and metrics.
As a serial entrepreneur, he shared that he grew up with the experience of seeing the successes and failures of his businessman father – which honed his aptitude and desire to start his own business.
Recently, STACS helped Ghim Li, a leading global textile and apparel manufacturer, secure a Sustainability Linked Loan (SLL) from OCBC, facilitated by its ESGpedia platform. ESGpedia solves the problem of collecting and verifying ESG data on both fronts – for SMEs and for banks that want to issue Sustainability Linked Loans.
#4 Tokenize Xchange
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to meet Co-Founder and CEO, QY Hong, at the Tokenize Xchange booth this year. But, he’s another entrepreneur we’ve interviewed before, and I met the person who took this photo (below) for us when I was at their office last year.
While trading cryptocurrencies in 2017, QY ran into many inefficiencies trying to buy and sell the assets. Rather than resign himself to the limitations, he started up Tokenize Xchange.
The goal was to make cryptocurrency investments easier. Namely, allowing traders to buy larger amounts, allowing them to trade in and out more regularly, lowering the cost of each trade, matching buy and sell investments more quickly, and more.
Hong Qi Yu, or QY as he is known in the crypto community in Singapore, raised $12 million in his Initial Coin Offering (ICO), and used to funds to development of the crypto exchange and expand the business in the region.
I connected with another FinTech brand that I’ve come across many times. I spoke to their Co-Founder and CMO, Joel Leong, a couple of years ago to better understand their bank account meant for SMEs – and they have grown leaps and bounds since then.
While he was not at their booth, I managed to speak to several other team members – who were busy explaining their services to many interested attendees.
Aspire offers SMEs a simple and fast way to open a business bank account – between 1 and 3 days to be exact. Unlike many traditional bank accounts, they don’t require minimum deposits, or have any account fees and charges.
Through this account, SMEs can make payments as well as foreign currencies transactions that are generally cheaper than traditional banks and other digital business accounts. On Aspire, SMEs can also apply for corporate cards, including in multi-currencies, to better track their business expenses.
Besides this, SME customers can also leverage on certain automated accounting functions to reduce manual errors and use Aspire as a document repository.
Quite interestingly, SMEs can earn 1% cashback on their business expenses when they pay via Aspire corporate cards.
When I walked past the UNIQGIFT booth, I was intrigued by its claim to be Singapore’s leading eVoucher solution. I was quickly convinced of their solution when they handed me an e-voucher to claim. All I had to do was scan the QR code, and I could claim the voucher – no hasslesome sign-ups needed, no passwords, no physical voucher, nothing.
The person manning the booth explained that they had many established clients that were using eVouchers for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t just for sales and marketing purposes. In fact, many businesses use their solution for their HR – for employee appreciation or as a simple way to provide dinner to certain employees. They could also better track the usage of such perks.
One of the functions that really struck me was its ability to draw funds based on usage and expiry – which means we can store the remaining amounts of the vouchers via UNIQGIFT. This is unlike another very familiar solution we all use today – CDC vouchers – which require us to use denominations of the voucher with no balances refunded if we use less.
Bossjob is a Singapore FinTech that operates in a rather traditional space – recruitment. The elevator pitch was perfect: it’s like LinkedIn, but for people who are actually looking for a job very actively and looking to hire actively.
Created for that exact purpose, anyone online on the Bossjob portal would very likely be someone looking for a job in that instance. Similarly, Bossjob boasts a user base comprised of decision makers (i.e. hiring managers and bosses) who jobseekers can connect to directly.
At their booth, I learned how Bossjob makes use of AI to sieve through resumes – so that employers and employees would be connected once there is a skillset match.
Of course, no AI toolkit is complete without ChatGPT integration as well, and jobseekers can leverage on the tool to elevate their resume and personal branding.
#8 Hydra X
While looking at the FinTechs explaining their products and services, I found myself listening to the folks at Hydra X explaining their business. I will be the first to admit that it took me a few moments to begin to understand what they were doing.
With a Capital Market Licence (CMS) granted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore-founded Hydra X provides the financial infrastructure for the listing and trading of tokenised assets. They also provide custodial services for these tokenised assets.
In a sense, they offer an end-to-end solution for institutions to access digital capital markets. For example, Hydra X acted as the digital asset custodian when Oceanus issued digital convertible bonds in 2021.
Based in Singapore and Paris, MoneyThor provides a fully configurable solution for personal finance management. What caught my attention was the brand logos at its booth.
Co-Founder and CEO Olivier Berthier mentioned that many of us may already be interacting with MoneyThor in Singapore without knowing it. As a B2B personal finance solutions provider, MonyThor white-labels its software to financial institutions.
In turn, their banking customers, such as Standard Chartered and Trust Bank in Singapore, CIMB in Malaysia, DBS in Hong Kong, are able to implement their own unique version of spend tracking tools, saving goals, financial well-being programmes and gamified loyalty campaigns.
#10 Alta Alternative Assets
Since 2016, Alta enables investors to diversify their portfolio beyond the traditional asset classes. The FinTech assesses investment opportunities and brings to the table just 4% of the deals that it analyses.
Allowing investors to start investing in alternative assets from US$500, Alta provides a low barrier for those looking to access private equity, private credit, luxury assets (such as art and wine investing), and opportunities in leading funds.
Alta boasts over 1,500 completed transactions, worth more than US$600 million. Some of the brands listed on its website include Discord, Grab, SpaceX, Gojek, Shiok Meats, Vertex Fund, and many more.
On its platform, investors can trade live investment opportunities instantly, or indicate interest in upcoming deals.
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