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87. Building a Fintech Nation with Varun Mittal

87. Building a Fintech Nation with Varun Mittal

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Key takeaways

1) Southeast Asia has more net new digital bank licenses than the United States.

2) Southeast Asian Fintechs need to move out of the region as there aren’t enough buyers of large enough size to sustain them. In addition, the public market’s risk appetite is low as there is little to no means to list in Southeast Asian exchanges due to local liquidity pools.

This week on WealthTech Unwrapped, Ned sits down with Varun Mittal, Chief Innovator and Group Head of Innovation and Ecosystem at Singlife. Together, they explore the extraordinary growth of Fintech in Singapore over the past decade, uncovering the crucial elements that have propelled it to become a “Fintech Nation.” Gain valuable insights into why Fintechs in Southeast Asia must expand their horizons beyond the region to thrive.

Varun, co-author of the book “Singapore: The Fintech Nation,” characterizes Singapore as such, attributing this distinction to several key principles. These principles include the pursuit of excellence with the “Right First, Fast Later” (RFFL) mindset, a unique economic and legal policy framework known as Singanomics, and an organized approach to new idea development called Garden Innovation.

Varun shares his journey in establishing Singapore as a prominent Fintech Hub for the region. He discusses the efforts undertaken to build the brand and solidify Singapore’s position as a key player in the industry. Events such as the Singapore Fintech Festival have played a significant role in putting the country on the global Fintech map, attracting not only Southeast Asian players but also participants from around the world.

Regarding Southeast Asian Fintechs, Varun emphasizes the need for them to explore opportunities beyond the region. The smaller scale of exits and limited liquidity pools in Southeast Asia makes it challenging for Fintechs to find buyers of sufficient size to sustain their growth. Additionally, the risk appetite of the public market in the region is low, with limited options for listing on local exchanges.

However, Varun recognizes that banks in Asia have a strong local presence and a solid foundation, enabling them to embrace innovation more effectively. Consequently, Southeast Asia has witnessed a higher number of net new digital bank licenses compared to the United States, reflecting the region’s adaptability and progress in the digital banking space.

Tune in to this insightful conversation, only here on WealthTech Unwrapped!

Meet Our Guest Speaker

Varun Mittal


Varun Mittal is experienced at the cross-section of digital business building and financial services in South East Asia and global emerging markets. He has developed and implemented strategy, technology rollout, ecosystem management, and regulatory engagement for financial institutions as well as digital and internet technology companies. He undertook his MBA at the National University of Singapore and graduated with computer science engineering as his undergraduate major. Currently he leads digital for Singlife building better way to achieve financial freedom. He is founder of "The Fintech Nation" project comprising book, podcast and investment fund to support fintech ecosystem in Singapore.

Varun Mittal_Singlife

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