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UBS CEO: Innovation is not 2020’s trend, it's here to stay

UBS CEO: Innovation is not 2020’s trend, it's here to stay

Speaking at Singapore Fintech Festival, UBS CEO Ralph Hamers makes the case that while innovation and collaboration have not traditionally been the norm for financial institutions, the need to build symbiotic relationships with fintech is essential, particularly in the context of cybersecurity in a post-Covid-19, highly digitised world.

“Innovation is not a thing that we can determine to be a trend, it is here to stay. Banks and companies have to embrace the digital future and with this realise that you cannot innovate alone. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas and therefore you have to be open to innovation and collaboration.”

Hamers continues that the more digital society becomes, the more important digital services become and therefore the more interesting services become - and this isn’t only relevant to financial services.

“Everything that is crucial that we need for safety within society will increasingly become the subject for cyber-attacks and to defend against that is something no institution can do alone. There must be a concerted effort and open communication between institutions across sectors and with the government.”

Building on Hamer’s comments Herbert Scheidt, Chairman, Vontobel, highlights that balancing regulation while nurturing innovation is relevant to the stability of the security landscape. He argues that the way in which it is approached should also be addressed if we are to protect the industry from instability tech giants may introduce.

“We still live in a world in which regulators look at banks and treat them as special entities, while large tech or digital companies such as Google or Facebook are not regulated despite offering the same kind of products.”

“We have come to a world where we are sort of on equal footing, otherwise those institutions who provide security to those institutions will be disadvantaged and in the long term this is damaging to the financial sector across the globe.”

Later in the day, the sentiment was echoed by Dr Beh Swan Gin of the Singapore Economic Development Board during a fireside chat with PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman.

Dr Beh Swan Gin states that he is heartened by how companies have been responding to the economic crisis that has been caused by Covid-19 and the type of purpose that companies are imbuing in their mission to create positive change. Innovation is core to this, and he comments: “whether you want to call this stakeholder capitalism or a stronger priority on ESG, I think this represents a sea change in the attitudes of boardrooms as recently as five years ago.”

“In Singapore even ensuring the workplace is safe is a clear collaboration between companies and the government…The application of these measures to protect individuals requires a partnership, a strong relationship between the public and private sector.”

He concludes that there is significant optimism behind the push to change Singapore’s economic trajectory from one that has been very much driven by investments to one that will be increasingly led by innovation. Regardless of where companies hail from, when based in Singapore there is an abundance of opportunities to create new products and services to address the unmet needs of the countries and regions across the Asia-Pacific.

Closing with a word of warning, PayPal’s Schulman says while the nature of digital change is accelerating with exciting speed, “at the same time we must be careful about all this change. Collaboration with governments such as Singapore allows us to work hand in hand and explore new ways to introduce services, bring in communities, and will benchmark how all public and private sectors need to work together."

“I think we can do great things for all citizens by working together and I’m really looking forward to that.”

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