​Speech by NTU President at the launch of the Joint NTU-WeBank Research Centre on Fintech

Published on : 31-Jan-2019

Speech By

Professor Subra Suresh
President, Nanyang Technological University

Launch of the Joint NTU-WeBank Research Centre on Fintech

Thursday, 31 Jan 2019, 10:30am
NTU Nanyang Executive Centre, Auditorium
60 Nanyang View, Singapore 639673

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance,
Mr David Ku, Chairman and CEO of WeBank,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen, 

I’m really delighted to welcome all of you as we witness the launch of the Joint NTU-WeBank Research Centre in the area of fintech. Before we get started, let me wish everyone a very Happy Lunar New Year this weekend and next week. 

Let me start with a quote attributed to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Apparently he said this in the 1990s: “We need banking but we don’t need banks anymore.  Do you think some day we can open a bank account or ask for loans without physically having to come to the bank?”

Although banks are still around today, over the course of the last two decades, Bill Gate’s statement is starting to ring true. Today’s banks, and the way they deliver their banking services, look drastically different from just two decades ago. 

Digitalisation and advancements in information and communications technology, have contributed to completely new ways for customers to access banking services. We all know that through our mobile devices. For example, smartphones and mobile apps have enabled us to do banking on the go. We are now able to do banking or to purchase goods and services anytime, anywhere. 

Indeed, the rapid emergence of digital banking firms and fintech companies like our partner, WeBank, China's first digital-only bank, is challenging the status quo of traditional retail banks. Established banks are facing digital disruption and are increasing their pace of digital adoption to stay relevant, redefining a banking model which has been in place for centuries.

Enabling the Banking of the Future  

It is indeed a very exciting time for the banking and finance industry as services go completely digital. But there is more to come after early wins in digitalisation in transforming the customer experience.  We believe the true revolution in banking is about to happen. And this is what our joint research centre with WeBank is all about:  Enabling Banking 4.0, or Industry 4.0, or equally, Humanity 4.0. You can now bank anywhere but not necessarily in a bank. 

Working in close collaboration, NTU and WeBank will employ state-of-the-art research, such as data analytics, the Internet of Things (IOT) or blockchain technologies to fundamentally change how we borrow, save, pay, invest, buy and insure. 

The future of banking also lies in Big Data. It is about tapping the wealth of both financial and non-financial data that are consolidated on the consumer’s behalf to obtain personalised insights to their needs and desires, while ensuring privacy and confidentiality, and making sure, and respecting ethical boundaries. It is about tailoring services that help today’s tech-savvy customers manage their finances and support their needs in commerce and making their life easier. In essence, future banks provide advice, service and value to various aspects of one’s life.

Over the coming months, the research centre will identify and develop technology-enabled financial use cases as we jointly explore new opportunities to harness fintech for the Digital Banking space.

This partnership will leverage NTU’s strong interdisciplinary research expertise in fintech, computer science, cyber security, business, and communication, among other areas. NTU has a vibrant research environment where faculty members and students of different disciplines collaborate on interdisciplinary research projects. We also have an established track record of working with industry partners, through a variety of mechanisms, both local and global partners, to develop solutions to real-world issues that benefit the industry and society. 

Just before coming here, we were talking to the Minister and to the Chairman of WeBank, that there is an eco-system in place at NTU that looks at so many different aspects of digitalisation, not only involving computer science, engineering and business on one hand, but equally social sciences and other aspects of human behaviour on the other hand. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for us to start this new collaboration that can have major impact, not just for Singapore, or for WeBank, or China, but much broader than this.

In closing, I would like to thank Mr David Ku, Mr Li Nan-Qing and other WeBank’s colleagues who have joined us here today for the opportunity to create a shared vision of Banking 4.0 together. 

I also want to express my profound appreciation to the NTU team who has worked very hard to make this happen, in particular, Professor Miao Chun Yan, the Chair of the School of Computer Science and Engineering, and her colleagues in the School of Computer Science and Engineering; Professor Lam Khin Yong, our Vice President for Research, and his team; and also colleagues from the Joint NTU-UBC Research Centre of Excellence in Active Living for the Elderly, otherwise known as LILY; and many others—staffs from NTU who have worked very hard to make this happen. 

I wish all of them the very best in their research and collaboration, and we very much look forward to working with WeBank. And we thank them for choosing NTU as a partner in this very important effort. Thank you very much.

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