Singapore’s five polytechnics, which offer pre-tertiary education and the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to deepen collaboration between educators and the financial technology (fintech) industry.
This supports the PolyFinTech 100 initiative, launched last October to develop a strong talent pool trained in financial technology to aid Singapore in becoming a “Smart Financial Centre”, with the aim of working with fintech communities on a global basis to provide internships and mentoring opportunities to polytechnic students who are keen to pursue careers in the fintech space.
This is the first MOU that SFA has inked with the polytechnics – Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic. The MOU underscores SFA’s commitment to enhance the fintech ecosystem through active and continuous engagement of polytechnic students.
Clarence Ti, Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic as well as the SkillsFuture Sector Coordinator for Accountancy and Financial Services, observes that following its launch in Q4 2016, the scheme had “gathered good momentum and achieved our target of securing 100 internships within two months”.
Ti said, “We are excited that this timely partnership with SFA will help open up more opportunities for polytechnic students to keep abreast of the FinTech sector’s evolving needs, fuel their passion for the sector and upgrade their skillsets to meet industry demands.”
According to a survey conducted in 2015, employers estimated that there would be 5100 vacancies for roles within network and infrastructure in the next three years (2016-2018), with a further 5700 jobs in data analytics and cyber security. This collaboration prepares polytechnic graduates to meet these demands, with the involvement of startups, financial institutions and regulatory bodies ensuring relevance to industry needs.
According to a media release, the industry collaborations plan to organise 10 innovation labs throughout the year to provide exposure and networking opportunities for projects in the fintech space.
Additionally, it plans to build a talent pipeline by connecting final-year polytechnic students, who wish to explore local and/or cross-border internship opportunities in fintech-related roles, to startups, financial institutions (FIs) and regulatory bodies within the fintech community. These internships will give students a broader perspective of the regional and global markets.
In conjunction with this, the SFA will also recommend industry practitioners as mentors, as well as venture capitalists and incubators, to students.
Finally, SFA pans to engage respective domain experts from the industry and enterprises to update polytechnics on new technological, regulatory and other advancements in the banking and financial sector. They plan to conduct 100 educational workshops, inclusive of hands-on sessions, at different innovation labs.
For instance, Singapore-based digital security firm V-Key will host a workshop on how advanced mobile security enables digital banking innovation. Speaking on the growing role of fintech in the city-state, SFA’s President Chia Hock Lai said, “This MOU kick-starts an enriching partnership with the polytechnics to nurture a pool of skilled manpower for the flourishing FinTech community – a critical success factor for FinTech development in Singapore.”
Gendered startup ecosystem
However, the partnership also highlights the gender divide and the role of women in the city-state’s startup ecosystem, given that Singaporean men are required to undergo at least two years of military service. Given that fintech skills are not necessarily relevant in the military sphere, there is the potential for this partnership to drive more women into the fintech space and the larger startup ecosystem that exists in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
This development comes at a time when data from Crunchbase suggests that there are an increasing number of female founders in the startup space in the US, a key trading partner of Singapore. Traditionally, women are a minority in technical and founder roles.
In the period from 2009 to 2014, CrunchBase posted that of the 14,341 U.S.-based startup ventures which secured funding, at least 15.5 per cent had one female founder
2009 saw 9.5 per cent of US startups having at least one female founder, but by 2014 this approached 18 per cent, while the absolute number of ventures with a female founder increased from 117 enterprises in 2009 to 555 enterprises in 2014.
There is a complex story underlying the role of genders in the startup ecosystem that data alone cannot explain. A working paper from the Peterson Institute for International Economics suggests that include female perspectives can benefit corporate performance.
Its abstract notes; “Women’s presence in corporate leadership is positively correlated with rm characteristics such as size as well as national characteristics such as girls’ math scores, the absence of discriminatory attitudes toward female executives, and the availability of paternal leave. The results find no impact of board gender quotas on firm performance, but they suggest that the payoffs of policies that facilitate women rising through the corporate ranks more broadly could be signicant.”
At a time when it is argued that the collaborative environment of startup ventures are beneficial for women, Entrepreneur notes: “Highly structured management styles and an old boys club mentality are still very much the reality in many sectors, but startups by their nature have the ability to write their own rules, create their own cultures and build management structures in a way that can open up a lane for female leaders.”
A Harvard Business Review piece contends that the involvement of women in investment decisions may also aid in the success of startup ventures. This is pertinent given that many US venture capitalists (VCs) are reportedly not funding women-led startups, given “many VCs may implicitly discount businesses started by women because they second-guess their commitment.”