Sopnendu Mohanty, the Chief FinTech Officer of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has been instrumental in building a thriving FinTech ecosystem and community in Singapore.

Mohanty has been working to change the perception of the authority to become more of a “brand ambassador” for FinTech on a global level, and attracting FinTech players to come to Singapore, he says.

He caught up with GovInsider after he was named IT Leader of the Year at the recent SCS IT Leader Awards presented by the Singapore Computer Society. We discuss his work, challenges and priorities below.

Which tech trends are you most excited about?

I believe that the power of data, the power of AI will change most of what we see today. The one which is at a very early stage, and is philosophically very different, is the whole distributed ledger approach, distributed computing – I think that is a little far fetched.

But I think in terms of AI, data and distributed technology, it will be a big redefining moment, especially our sector.

What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?

The biggest challenge in my job, as a central bank, it is very hard for us to build a community because we are still perceived as a regulator. People are cautious to engage with us. I think the ability to break that barrier, and be the glue for bringing everybody together, was the most challenging problem for me. Can we be the glue, rather than be the reason that people stay away?

“We need to be somebody that’s not only tough on regulation, but also equally open to bringing the innovation community together.”
We need to be somebody that’s not only tough on regulation, but also equally open to bringing the innovation community together to drive collective change in a safe, secure way. So having both these images is very critical. A tough regulator who doesn’t stop to make tough choices if things go wrong; equally, balance it with very strong open progress in taking on technology, bringing it together and being impactful.

What is your biggest achievement of the past year?

My biggest achievement would be that in our space, the financial sector, when it comes to technology, it has become a big ecosystem. It used to be driven by one or two key drivers with industry; now it has become a collective growth for a wide range of people, whether they are from the technology startups, investors, or public officials. When I say public officers, from ministers to regulators.

So it is a kind of community that has come together and driven the success of Singapore as a leading FinTech hub. And because there’s a collective push, the effect has been very, very quick. I think one reason why Singapore has become a leading FinTech hub in a short duration is because it was driven by the community, not by a single institution. We have become a kind of brand ambassador.

And when we talk about this community, this is not only Singapore. I’m talking about ASEAN ecosystem, startups from India, startups from China, startups from Japan – even Nordic countries, African countries, Latin American countries. Singapore has pushed into the wider, global community to bring the global discussion on FinTech out of Singapore.

What innovation while you implement in the coming year?

Not from me, but I think from my friends and my community, the one launched last year is the API exchange platform, or APIX. This is an online global FinTech marketplace and regulatory sandbox that will allow financial institutions to connect with FinTech companies and startups, and enable collaborative experiments across borders, for instance. It was launched by Prime Minister Modi and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman last year at the Singapore Fintech Festival.

Perhaps if we get it right, it will be the largest global, multi-jurisdiction platform where technology solutions are being developed and experimented in a collaborative way. I think unprecedented in a sense. If we get it right, it is going to change the way people work with technology service providers.

And that platform, in my mind, is changing the game when we think about innovation.

Finally, where would you recommend for lunch?

My favorite place for lunch changes. Now I love this place called Alati Divine Greek Cuisine. It’s a great place for Greek food in Amoy Street. Feels like you are in Greece in that little spot.

Image from Sopnendu Mohanty’s Twitter