Fintech, financial literacy will play key role in ASEAN’s future

Danial Norjidi

Greater financial literacy will ensure greater use of fintech and create inclusive communities, because they will be able to better understand how to manage and move money in the digital world.

This was shared by CEO of Dynamik Technologies and Chair of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2021 Haslina binti Haji Mohd Taib in a recent interview with the Bulletin.

Speaking ahead of the ASEAN Business and Investment Roundtable on Fintech and Financial Literacy that took place on Monday, she explained that it is a prelude to the annual ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in October and the ASEAN Business Awards in November. This Roundtable is part of a series of events under the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021.

She noted that the Roundtable would explore how innovative digital financial solutions can ensure an inclusive sustainable recovery.

It featured two panel discussions focussing on ’Fintech for an Inclusive and Sustainable ASEAN’ as well as ‘The Role of Financial Literacy in ASEAN’s Economic Prosperity’.

File photo of CEO of Dynamik Technologies and Chair of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2021 Haslina binti Haji Mohd Taib

There was also an opening keynote address by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah.

Other prominent speakers included the Deputy Governor of State of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Kim Ahn who delivered a keynote address, as well as a scene setting session by Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Fiscal) and Chairman of Brunei Darussalam Central Bank Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Ahmaddin bin Haji Abdul Rahman addressing the importance of Financial Literacy in ASEAN, the challenges of improving financial Literacy in ASEAN, Brunei’s Financial Literacy Priority Economic Deliverables and what it seeks to achieve.

Sharing her thoughts on the significance of the Roundtable, Haslina said, “The way we work, travel, access payments, use cash and how we live has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted lives and livelihoods across ASEAN and has highlighted gaps in financial inclusion. Through the pandemic, the region has seen a surge in online banking due to limited movements. Digital adoption has also accelerated with greater use of e-wallets.”

She noted, however, that according to Fitch Ratings there are still around 290 million unbanked and underserved people in Southeast Asia. In addition, research by Kagan shows those who are using online banking tend to use it for smaller, frequent purchases while the bigger spending remains with credit cards and debit cards.

“So there is still a lot of potential for growth and significant benefits in adopting fintech and how we can be more financially inclusive,” she said. “The adoption of fintech however requires financial literacy. With greater financial literacy, it will ensure greater use of fintech and create inclusive communities because they are able to better understand how to manage and move money in the digital world.”

Haslina said the Roundtable “is timely given the economic backdrop we are navigating, and we will be able to explore how innovative digital financial solutions can ensure an inclusive sustainable recovery especially with ASEAN having the fastest growing Internet market in the world and that fintech and financial literacy will play a key role in our future in ASEAN”.

Touching on the Roundtable’s significance to Brunei Darussalam, she said, “Under Brunei Darussalam’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2021, one of the Priority Economic Deliverables (PEDs) is the ’Circular Economy - Building Fintech Around the Sustainable/Circular Economy’. During this chairmanship, the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Brunei is putting a sustainability spin to digitisation. It is something we hope to strike a balance on.”

With regards to the Roundtable’s attention to fintech and financial literacy, Haslina explained that the main objective of this Roundtable was focussed on digitalisation and sustainability, where the panel discussions took a look at how innovative digital solutions can ensure an inclusive and sustainable recovery for our region.

“The fintech and financial roundtable is based on a new paradigm of which back end and front-end systems will progress forward,” she said. “The development of platforms that can communicate with each other is essential in the world of Fintech to allow people to use and access banking systems in the new Fintech world and what organisations such as banks are currently doing to modernise the system that will enable payments to be made seamlessly from one platform to another, with or without going through them. Therefore, a secured framework of the technology’s architecture and exchange policy is important in Fintech.”

Asked on the Roundtable’s expected outcomes, the ABIS Chair said, “During the roundtable discussions, we also see the importance of balancing between onboarding citizens or businesses into the new norm, inclusivity for a new platform in comparison to how we would change the stakeholders that have the most control over the payment system.”

She further noted that one of the important things to facilitate growth in Fintech in the region “is to create policies that are progressive that will enable us to gain new technologies while managing safety or security.”

“Currently, the use of a Fintech Sandbox or an Application Program Interface (API) allows testing and execution of programs or codes that may not been deemed safe yet. Usually, a security mechanism will be running the programs to check solution vulnerabilities. With the use of the Sandbox, new payments, solutions and platforms can be identified through one controlled environment. This is important in ensuring policies are quite progressive when onboarding emerging technologies that can disrupt securities.”

In terms of the pandemic’s impact on the Roundtable’s preparations, Haslina said, “As with our next series of events, our initial ambition was to hold hybrid events where we would have in-person discussions as well as virtual interactions. However, as we now face a new wave of outbreak and an increasingly difficult pandemic situation, we will be holding it fully virtual for our Roundtables.”

Looking ahead, she shared that another ASEAN Business Roundtable will be taking place in September with the theme ‘Skills for a Digital Age’, which she explained will enable a deeper dive into topics ahead of the summit.

One of the main events to look out for is the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on October 25, which Haslina described as Southeast Asia’s premier annual forum that brings together the heads of state, presidents, prime ministers as well as business and thought leaders of ASEAN and its global partners.

Another main event is the ASEAN Business Awards, a Gala Night which has been established for over 10 years with the aim to recognise outstanding key enterprises that have contributed significantly to the ASEAN region.

Adding on, she said, “The ASEAN Business Advisory Council Chairmanship theme this year – ‘Recover, Stronger, Together, Sama-Sama’ – reflects the unity of ASEAN and the need for collaboration in these difficult times.”