With the rising prevalence of IT in today’s global economy, consumers will prefer products and services that are easier to obtain. Consequently, service providers are increasingly turning to virtual solutions that provide more convenience. The financial technology sector is one industry that this shift has impacted.
The flourishing fintech industry in Singapore has made it a significant fintech hub worldwide. This success is attributed to various factors, including a favourable regulatory environment, a highly skilled workforce, and a well-established financial infrastructure. These conditions make Singapore an ideal location for starting a fintech company. However, there are still obstacles that need to be overcome. This article provides the necessary information to guide you through the process of applying to start a fintech company in Singapore.
Why Fintech Thrives In Singapore
The thriving fintech industry in Singapore can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the country’s favourable business environment. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has set a goal of promoting digital adoption, which has helped the industry grow. Although there was a setback in the second quarter of 2020, the country has rebounded and continued its efforts toward becoming a completely digital economy.
Investors seem to recognise the potential for high returns during times of economic downturn. As a result, they are heavily investing in niche fintech sectors such as insurance, online payments, and investment and trading, which are not as vulnerable to credit risks.
With over 1,580 fintech startups currently operating in the country, the value of Singapore’s fintech industry is expected to reach US$21.46 billion by the end of 2023. This number is expected to grow as more enterprises adopt digital financial transactions.
The government’s support for fintech incorporation makes starting a fintech business in Singapore appealing. Furthermore, such companies can benefit from tax breaks and establish a positive reputation, making theirs a profitable venture.
How To Start A Fintech Company In Singapore
Starting and operating a fintech business in Singapore is relatively easy compared to other countries. Basically, there are no specific licenses required for fintech incorporation in this Asian city-state, although there are still regulatory requirements that must be met. Nonetheless, like all other startups in the country, fintech companies must undergo the company incorporation process and comply with the requirements related to the nature of their business.
Requirements For A Fintech Startup In Singapore
For a fintech startup to succeed in the industry, specific conditions must be met. These conditions are typically standard regulatory requirements that apply to all businesses incorporated in the country. Therefore, to establish a fintech business, the startup must fulfil these requirements at the time of application for incorporation.
Here’s a summary of the different licenses that a fintech business owner may need to obtain according to the laws in Singapore.
Capital Markets Services (CMS) License
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issues the CMS license required for individuals who wish to engage in regulated activities. The license is only available to companies with a legal corporate structure. Accordingly, businesses that offer capital market products, corporate finance advice, securities financing, credit rating services, fund management, REIT management, or custodial services for securities are required to obtain this license.
Financial Advisors (FA) License
If you plan to establish a fintech company in Singapore, you must acquire a Financial Advisors license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Nonetheless, this permit is solely mandatory for companies that provide certain services, which include offering consultations on investment products that do not involve corporate financing advice, distributing or promoting forecast materials on any investment product, promoting collective investment schemes such as trust funds, unit funds, equity funds, and setting up life insurance policies.
Finance Companies License
This license is intended for businesses that take in fixed or savings deposits and also provide loans to both public and private entities. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is responsible for issuing this license.
If a fintech company makes its money solely by charging interest on loans, then they need to have a Moneylenders License. This license is given out by the Insolvency & Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO) and is a crucial requirement.
In Singapore, fintech companies that receive funds in checking or savings accounts, handle customer cheques and provide loans to customers must acquire a banking license from MAS.
If a fintech company is engaged in the purchasing and vending of foreign legal tender, it must secure this license from MAS.
For a fintech business intending to take on risk or responsibility for policies, receive policy proposals, issue policies, and collect premiums on policies in Singapore, they need to have an insurance license from MAS.
How To Apply To Start Up A Fintech Company In Singapore
To start a fintech company in Singapore, you’ll need to apply for company incorporation, which is required by Singapore law. This involves registering your fintech company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore and filing your documents through their online portal, BizFile. During the registration process, you’ll need to choose a business name and structure, as well as provide information about the company’s directors and shareholders.
If you’re a foreigner looking to set up a fintech business in Singapore, you’ll need to provide a copy of your passport and proof of residence. After you have received your incorporation certificate, you’ll also need to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Assuming all your documentation is in order and you’ve provided a clear explanation of your business’s nature, the registration process should only take a few days to complete.
Incorporating A Fintech Company In Singapore Through The Regulatory Sandbox
Fintech companies have the option to bypass the typical registration process and become incorporated in Singapore using the sandbox framework. The Fintech Regulatory Sandbox was created in 2016 to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles that are typically associated with starting a fintech business in Singapore, as well as offer regulatory relaxations.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) oversees the sandbox, which aims to reduce the regulatory challenges involved in onboarding a fintech company in Singapore. In addition, the sandbox serves as a testing ground for a wide range of financial products during the incubation period of a fintech business. Under the framework, there are also risk control measures in place to mitigate any shortfalls.
Fintech companies must follow a standard set of regulatory requirements while incubating in the sandbox. The requirements include reputation, track record, board composition, credit rating, financial soundness, cash balances, asset maintenance, fund solvency, and capital adequacy. In addition, there are other factors to consider, such as relative size, MAS guidelines on technology risk management and outsourcing, license fees, management experience, minimum paid-up capital, and minimum liquid assets. Also, the level of deregulation depends on the risk level of each company’s services.
To register for the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox, visit MAS’ Regulatory Sandbox Portal. After submitting your registration request to the agency, your application may take up to 21 working days to be processed.
If your application is accepted, you will enter an evaluation period during which you will collaborate with MAS to make any necessary changes to your application. The length of the evaluation period will be determined by the specifics of your application.
When your application is approved, you will receive a written confirmation from the agency outlining the permissible regulatory relaxations and the time frame for which you will be able to operate in the sandbox environment.
The fintech industry in Singapore is doing well, and the government is actively supporting the creation of more fintech startups. The paperwork involved in the application process is relatively straightforward and, to a vast extent, uncomplicated. However, there may be a long waitlist for applicants, eventually making the process somewhat tiring. To ensure a smooth process, it’s advisable to seek assistance from a business incorporation and taxation company.