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    Accelerating FinTech and green finance

    Izah Azahari

    Green finance and financial technology (FinTech) can transform the country’s economy and society at large, to be more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, said Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy Dato Seri Paduka Haji Khairuddin bin Haji Abdul Hamid (pic right) at the Brunei Economy Programme held at Anggerek Desa Technology Park yesterday.

    “The opportunities that FinTech could offer to advance green finance is tremendous,” said the deputy minister during a keynote address at the event.

    “It could help to address the pain points in developing green finance such as requirement of real-time data, complex risk assessment and documentation as well as trustworthiness of the ‘greenness’ of the projects or investments,” he said.

    The deputy minister said the topic of sustainability, which includes climate change, is of heightened importance as a global agenda.

    With the demand from the global and domestic markets for the alignment towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially in the fields of green finance initiatives, the deputy minister believes it is time for relevant entities to explore how the country could benefit from the industry, in line with the Brunei Vision 2035’s third goal – a dynamic and sustainable economy.

    He said the country’s sustainability agenda is closely aligned with the objectives of Maqasid Syariah – to preserve wealth, faith, lives, lineage and intellect.

    “Islamic finance, therefore, is a natural fit to spearhead the sustainability agenda and has the potential to play a major role in plugging any gaps towards achieving sustainability goals,” he added.

    Brunei Darussalam Central Bank Managing Director Hajah Rokiah binti Haji Badar, the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar and Thailand Mark Garnier, Dynamik Technologies Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer Haslina binti Haji Mohd Taib and Baiduri Bank CEO Ti Eng Hui on a panel moderated by Director of the ASEAN and Corporate Affairs at the UK-ASEAN Business Council Allen Lai
    ABOVE & BELOW: British trade envoy Mark Garnier makes remarks; and audience during the forum

    Dato Seri Paduka Haji Khairuddin said Brunei Darussalam is recognised for strong Islamic finance regulations opportunities for Islamic FinTech.

    Another area important in supporting sustainability is the development of a sustainable financial sector.

    “Its development is paramount as it provides an avenue to channel funds into ‘green’ initiatives thus ‘greening the financial sector’,” said the deputy minister.

    STRATEGIC GOALS
    One strategic area that the nation is working on is to encourage the development of financing green products such as electric vehicles (EVs) to incentivise the purchase, which could help increase the total share of EVs, while another example would be the issuance of ‘green’ bonds or sukuk to support renewable energy projects such as solar power stations to shift and increase the use of renewable energy.

    Meanwhile, the deputy minister said the recently published ASEAN Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance which serves as a common building block on fostering sustainable finance adoption and provides guidance to attract more investments and financial flows into ‘green’ projects in the region.

    The deputy minister also outlined new digital financial products developed to meet the rising demand for convenient and low-cost services, mainly in the areas of digital payment, as well as insurance and remittance, such as DSTPay, ProgresifPAY, MoneyMatch, Beep Digital Solutions and Takaful Brunei Mobile, as well as the establishment of a National Digital Payment Hub (DPH) – a project jointly implemented by Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and local banks.

    He also mentioned a white paper State of FinTech in Brunei Darussalam – launched in late 2020 – which outlined recommendations to advance the development of the FinTech ecosystem in the country. Progress has been made to strengthen the FinTech ecosystem including the soon-to-be established FinTech Association. Meanwhile, Brunei’s entry into the Global Financial Innovation Network could also broaden the partnerships and possibilities for local developers to establish connection with international players and markets, he said.

    “However, we are not exempted from roadblocks in our journey towards successfully accomplishing our sustainability and FinTech goals,” said Dato Seri Paduka Haji Khairuddin, noting the recent episodes of economic and financial crises stemming from the pandemic and global inflation that have impacted development momentum.

    “Despite these challenges, it has shown our ability to break limits and harness our potential to innovate, thus, teaching us to leverage the current crisis as a continuous learning opportunity by building competence and strengthening stakeholder engagements.”

    BUILDING THE RIGHT CAPABILITIES
    After the deputy minister’s keynote address, a forum to explore how Brunei can increase the use of the financial digital tools and also raise awareness of sustainable finance.

    The forum, ‘A Conversation on Accelerating Fintech and Green Finance in Brunei’ was organised by the ASEAN and APEC Business Advisory Councils of Brunei Darussalam in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the British High Commission in Brunei Darussalam, in partnership with Baiduri Bank.

    Chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Brunei and Dynamik Technologies Sdn Bhd CEO Haslina binti Haji Mohd Taib said it is imperative to ride on the digital transformation momentum accelerated by the pandemic and encourage the use of FinTech to strengthen Brunei’s digital economy.

    “In order to do this, one of the important tasks in my opinion is to build the right FinTech capabilities,” said Haslina.

    British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam John Virgoe said, “FinTech always feels like a 21st Century phenomenon, but actually the United Kingdom’s (UK) leadership on financial innovation and technology goes back at least 400 years to the 17th Century where we pioneered the first paper banknotes, the first regulated stock exchange in 1801 and even the first ATM in the 1960s.

    “Creativity and innovation are central to success in the fast-moving global economy. Brunei’s high internet penetration together with its highly educated population base gives this country a huge potential in this respect,” the high commissioner said.

    The forum also heard from the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar and Thailand Mark Garnier who shared the UK’s approach to FinTech and the regulatory practices put in place.

    He underlined the importance of green finance driving climate action and provided examples of the commitments made during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26).

    PRACTICAL STEPS
    A panel of industry leaders also explored the regulatory framework and practical steps of growing the FinTech sector.

    During the panel discussion, Haslina stated that the Brunei Legacy Digital Gateway project is an industry-led digital transformation initiative that will contribute towards achieving the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025 and the Bandar Seri Begawan Roadmap.

    Meanwhile Baiduri Bank CEO Ti Eng Hui said Brunei has the potential as an excellent financial centre as it has the right building blocks and regulatory framework.

    He also said digitalisation is creating efficiencies in the banking sector with tools such as robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. Virtualisation of data centres which is helping the bank cut their carbon footprint by reducing the number of computer servers they use from 300 to 22.

    Brunei Darussalam Central Bank Managing Director (BDCB) Hajah Rokiah binti Haji Badar also provided an overview of the regulatory framework and initiatives underway such as the establishment of the FinTech Association and education programmes.

    Hajah Rokiah also said BDCB is the current Chair of the ASEAN Taxonomy Board for Sustainable Finance and has set up a task force within BDCB to look at how green finance can help to achieve Brunei’s economic and sustainability goals.

    The panel noted that green finance will play a pivotal role in helping the Brunei Darussalam achieve its COP26 commitments and net-zero ambitions. The forum is part of the Brunei Economy Programme, an initiative by the ASEAN and APEC Business Advisory Councils of Brunei to connect global issues with Brunei.

    Darussalam Enterprise (DARe), Radio Television Brunei (RTB) and Brunei Press Sdn Bhd were the programme partners.

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