Financial innovation on the rise in nations where cryptocurrencies and related technologies are regulated rather than banned.
Asia has become a hotbed for budding blockchain companies. From Delhi to Beijing and Singapore to Seoul, innovative fintechs are disrupting traditional supply chains and expanding across the region. And while some countries have put a halt to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), others—like Singapore and Hong Kong—have welcomed them with open arms, putting cryptocurrency trading within reach of retail players.
Singapore-based blockchain-technology company ZPX launched its 108 Token, which simplifies crypto-investing through an index that tracks a basket of the top 15 cryptocurrencies. Ramani ‘Ram’ Ramachandran, MIT alumnus and CEO of ZPX says, “108 Token is targeted toward the average investor who wants some exposure to cryptocurrencies but lacks the time or bandwidth to figure out where, what or how to play the crypto opportunity. With 108, he or she can buy or sell one token in a simple, safe, transparent manner, and track the overall market.”
Why is there so much activity in Singapore? Ramachandran attributes this to a combination of policy and innate entrepreneurship. “Singapore is ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting disruptive technologies in gene
ral, and in creating pragmatic policy and regulation around them.” (On this, it is similar to Israel, another small nation that seems to punch above its weight.)
“Some of the most compelling projects in Asia are coming out of Singapore,” confirms Pavel Bains, CEO of Bluzelle, which builds blockchain and distributed-ledger solutions for the finance industry. Bluzelle’s decentralized database, supported by blockchain, allows subscribers to rent their underutilized storage out to store someone else’s data. “People who rent their storage space will earn tokens, whilst customers who have their databases on the Bluzelle network will pay tokens for the privilege,” he explains.
Bains cites a recent Bluzelle implementation involving a consortium comprised of OCBC Bank, HSBC, MUFG, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore. “This is a compelling example of public- and private-sector collaboration unique to Singapore,” he explains, “which will put Know Your Customer (KYC) processes onto the blockchain. This will allow banks to share KYC information, and therefore realize significant time savings.”
Ramachandran says Singapore offers a key lesson for lawmakers around the world: One cannot price uncertainty, one can only price risk. “Singapore seems to have gotten the balance between the two extremes right,” he adds. “We expect this pragmatic approach to blockchain regulation to continue over the coming year, and Singapore will likely solidify its position as a leading center for innovation in all things blockchain.”
Adds Bains: “Since 2015, pioneer fintechs have evolved their technologies and customer bases to grow outside of fintech and toward technology in general. Over the next year, I see many of these same Singapore-based companies scaling their products and customers throughout Asia.