Media Releases
Published Date: 18 April 2017

MAS and UNCDF to Collaborate on Driving Financial Inclusion in ASEAN Region

Singapore, 17 April, 2017... The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have formed a strategic partnership under the ongoing UNCDF’s SHIFT (Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations) programme to facilitate the development and access to digital financial services in the ASEAN region.

To accelerate financial access and usage, MAS and UNCDF SHIFT will explore opportunities to work on digitisation of low-tier financial institutions (Financial Cooperatives/Micro Finance Institutions/Banks) in ASEAN, particularly in extending last-mile distribution to the base of the pyramid in these markets. This collaboration will give UNCDF and MAS the means to rapidly digitise the operations of these Financial Service Providers, enabling them to better aid financial access and usage to serve the marginalised population, including women in these countries.

As the first initiative under the collaboration, MAS is a Supporting Partner of UNCDF SHIFT’s latest Challenge Fund Window. The Fund provides co-funding grants for innovative, scalable business models that foster regulated international remittances to Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV) for women, and concurrently increase adoption and usage of remittance-linked financial products and services in CLMV. 

Remittances for these four countries contributed US$17.2 billion . The growing influx of international remittances to CLMV is playing a significant role in economic development in the Mekong region, and can act as a catalyst for the development of the local digital financial services ecosystem by providing greater access to basic financial services. 

The Challenge Fund mechanism incentivises innovations in women-inclusive business models that financial institutions would not ordinarily be prepared to pursue. The Fund aims to support projects for which social returns are assured, but financial returns may not yet have been proven.

The UNCDF SHIFT Challenge Fund Window focussing on remittances, is open to applicants from 7th April to 9th June 2017; and the grant awards will be finalised by October 2017.

MAS will host a SHIFT Challenge Fund workshop in Singapore and this collaboration on Challenge Fund Window will culminate in the opportunity for selected applicants’ project to be showcased at the Singapore FinTech Festival , to be held from 13 to 17 November 2017. 

Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS, said, “We believe that financial services has a role to play in the economic empowerment of women and the marginalised. It is with this belief that MAS is pleased to partner with UNCDF SHIFT, as this is a meaningful social initiative that will create solutions to provide greater access to basic financial resources. We look forward to recognising the innovative ideas from recently launched Challenge Fund Window at the Singapore FinTech Festival and hope that this will spur more partnerships in the area of financial inclusion.”

Mr Feisal Hussain, Senior Regional Technical Advisor and SHIFT Programme Manager said, “The challenge in providing last mile financial services requires multiple partnerships and innovations. We are pleased to partner with MAS to promote financial inclusion initiatives that benefit the financially excluded, particularly low income individuals, women and small businesses, across ASEAN. The collaboration between our respective organisations will further enhance support at country and regional level to both private sector and policy makers.”