Singapore and Silicon Valley are arguably the fintech industry’s two geographical titans. Both are renowned for the ability of their supremely well educated and entrepreneurial populations to become early adopters of new technologies and commercial trends, and successfully turn them into globally dominant enterprises.
In Silicon Valley’s case it tends to be technologically advanced and trendsetting media and social media companies that rule the roost, whilst in Singapore, financial acumen, international trade, notably shipping, and now, financial technology are the industries that have helped to make one in every twenty of the City state’s citizens a millionaire, if reports are to be believed.
A joining of forces between these two regions is relatively rare, so when the two converge over a concept as disruptive as the blockchain, it is bound to generate headlines.
Hash Cash consultants are based in the Valley and led by renowned blockchain expert Raj Chowdhury, who has assumed the role of Managing Director. The company, which specialises in developing “retail remittances, vendor payments, wage disbursements, trade finance and several other business cases”, on the blockchain, according to a recent press release, has already won notable clients such as UAE Exchange, Russia’s Alfa-Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Germany’s Commerzbank.
The company operates in the same space as the likes of Ripple, and R3 technology, who are both well known exponents of blockchain based instant payments systems, with serious backing from major financial players.
Like R3 and Ripple, Hash Cash is looking to be the long term replacement for SWIFT as the preferred choice for payments of both the incumbent, and emerging financial technology industries, with SWIFT being deemed too expensive, not fast enough, and too archaic to adapt to the new financial realities.
Hash Cash has developed the HC Net for its instant payments and related services, which is fuelled by an internal currency known as HCX, although it is also capable of handling fiat currencies.
United Overseas Bank, is the third largest bank in South East Asia, according to the same joint release, with more than 60 branches in Singapore and a presence in 19 countries across Asia, Europe, and North America. It’s a full-service bank supplying corporate and personal banking services, insurance, venture capital and asset management.
Founded in 1935, as United Chinese Bank and catering mainly to Singapore’s Fujian community, UOB switched its name in 1965 and, embarking on an acquisition led strategy, grew into one of Asia’s largest financial institutions, with more than 500 branches, and subsidiaries in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.
Hash Cash are in the process of on-boarding UOB, which will give the banking giant access to a network of carrier banks in Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Australia, to carry out real-time remittances and corporate payments on HC NET.
An accusation often levelled at Silicon Valley is that it is hampered by a lack of geographical proximity to a major financial centre, being a 5-hour flight away from New York and the width of the Pacific Ocean away from the Asian fintech explosion.
Singapore’s Monetary Authority, the MAS, has been relentlessly building partnerships with foreign governments and businesses, however – the State cannot maintain its phenomenal success and growth without looking outside of its own tiny borders, after all – therefore a tie-up with the Valley represents a coup on both sides of the Pacific.
And as for geography, when payments can be made instantly and transparently on a platform with as much promise as the blockchain, then physical distance is the least of anybody’s worries.
Welcome to the new reality. Now that we can (almost) put a Tesla on Mars, is it time for banks and their traditional service providers to take their challengers more seriously?
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