Singapore: Hot in the City

It’s not my first time in Singapore – it will surely not be my last – and every time I step off the plane I’m hit by the overwhelming heat and humidity. For a northern clime, high altitude gal like me, it’s a physical shock, and I haven’t yet mastered my thoughts enough to quell the obsessive, repetitive one that constitutes the slipstream of my consciousness: wow, it’s so hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.

It’s so hot my skin prickles. It’s so hot time slows down. It’s so hot the air is heavier, even my lungs are confused, and they’re still confused days after arriving as I breathe in the thick, plumeria scented air.

Hot and green. That’s how I’d describe this Garden City, Garden Nation – and frankly, they’re the only adjectives I’ve ever used to describe Singapore, both as a place and a Fintech Hub. It’s a blistering hot, fruitful garden, Fintech hub. Hot, hot, hot.

Whizzing by bank after bank in an air-conditioned taxi (a gloriously chilly reprieve), the CBD zone of the city confirms its crossroads, financial hub status. Every global bank (and then some) has operation and tech hubs in Singapore, their marquee names shimmering in the afternoon sun. But behind those steel framed glass walls, and behind a few historical architecture preserves, sit a fruitful group of Fintech players, from startups looking to secure seed funding, to those already series veterans, to accelerators and incubators.

Startups like Tradehero (gamification & education on stock trading), Numoni (FS access for the 2.4 billion underbanked), and M-DAQ (efficiencies for cross-border securities trade) all call this place home. So do KyePot (mobile based social lending for the under/unbanked) and OTDocs (trade-finance compliance and certification).

This Garden City is lush, and although the heat may have no nuances or subtleties, what grows in this garden is diverse – and not just the horticultural stuff. This place is a melting pot of cultures, races, creeds, and people – melting pot is apropos, considering it’s a culinary delight and an epicurean’s dream kitchen, too. This place is ripe with differences, walk into any food court to catch a glimpse of it in action, and gather with friends and locals here to experience diversity first hand. Sitting around the table at lunch yesterday with members of the fintech community, not a single one of the nine of us had the same nationality, background, or business – the only common denominator was our passion for diversity and a love of this industry.

And diversity is what actually brought us together. While the conversation ran the gauntlet of subjects, the recurring theme, the binding tie, was the conviction that diversity is better for business, better for the industry, better for Singapore. I’m a visitor here, so you’d think my stake in diversity in Singapore is small, but as a member of this global community, my skin is in the game here, there, everywhere, and what better place to discuss the business of – and the business case for – diversity than in this melting pot.

So a regulator, a VC, a bank head of innovation, a stock exchange executive, and not one but two entrepreneurs sat down with an FS design mogul, an evangelical bank technologist, and me to commemorate the kick off our Singapore chapter FemTechLeaders event slated for the evening of 5 May. Spearheading all this is Namita Bhide, who, with the support of NextBankVisaDBS, and AppDynamics, has brought the melting pot to a boil – with a registration list of over 300, and a wait list half as long – ready to spill over into the SGX auditorium, all salivating to see this industry put policy and practice into play that embraces, promotes, and benefits from the diversity business case. The recipe for this event includes metrics, statistics, and numbers that all prove – conclusively – that women are good for business. ROI and ROE improve when women hold executive positions in companies. Customers are better served by diverse teams solving product problems. Employees are more productive and happier when their diverse needs are met. The reasons are ample, the case strong, and the spice of diversity brings a seasoning to this hot pot Garden City ready to pledge a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

So as we finish up preparations for tomorrow’s FemTechLeaders inaugural Singapore splash, I’m so lucky to be part of a hearty crew ready to turn up the heat on diversity. This place may be hot, but the Fintech community here is cranking up the burn, getting ready to light the fire. And me, this air-conditioning craving Fintech kissing cousin come to visit – I’m so ready to jump into the flames.

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