December 07, 2022
Everyone who has followed the field of financial regulatory innovation knows that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has been far out ahead of the rest of the world, for years. Its visionary Managing Director, Ravi Menon, has charted a course of unique boldness, inventing new models that are being emulated throughout the world. I am thrilled to say that MD Menon is our guest on today’s show.
We recorded this conversation on the enormous exhibition floor at this year’s Singapore Fintech Festival in early November. The conference drew an incredible 60,000 people, which surely must make it the largest financial event in the world. Even more remarkable, to me, is that this world-leading technology event was created by none other than a central bank. We usually think of central banks as highly traditional. This one is also creative. They use a unique mix of policies, talent, programs, pilots, funding, and relationships to explore and build new strategies for modernizing the financial sector. In the process, they have made Singapore a regional and global powerhouse in financial innovation.
One creative step they have taken is that, a year ago, MAS established and funded a nonprofit affiliate called Elevandi. I’m pleased to say I serve on Elevandi’s board of directors as it pursues a mission of convening dialogue throughout the world on how technology is changing finance and how regulators should respond by encouraging desirable change and addressing emerging risks. Elevandi hosted remarkable events at the Singapore festival, and is also co-leading a new summer conference in Zurich called Point Zero, in partnership with the government of Switzerland.
(I’m aware of two central banks that have, within about the last year, created affiliated nonprofit organizations. In both cases, the logic is that an independent entity can be a bit more nimble than a central bank can, in an environment of rapid technology transformation that calls for flexibility and sometimes speed. The other example is the Reserve Bank of India, which has created an innovation hub. AIR worked with the RBIH this year on a TechSprint on women’s economic empowerment. I wonder if this idea — central banks establishing nonprofit affiliates — might be a trend that will catch on.)
Today’s conversation covers a lot of ground. We discuss the MAS innovation program — including the Singapore Fintech Festival itself — and how it fits into the wider regional trends in Asia and globally. We talk about the MAS’s stance on regulating cryptocurrency and digital assets. We talk about how the central bank is looking at climate and sustainability issues in the financial sector, which was a major theme at the conference. And we talk about the road ahead for mold-breaking innovations in DeFi and Web3. I think financial regulators will carry a special burden to get these issues right, for the simple reason that, in contrast to the germination of Web2, the Web3 world is seeing financial innovations at the forefront of change. How we regulate DeFi is likely to lay down pathways that will be followed in other Web3 evolution in the years ahead.
The episode complements our past episodes with MAS’s remarkable head of fintech innovation, Sopnendu Mohanty. For today, I’m very excited to share with you this conversation with the man who, in my view, is the world’s most innovative head of a central bank, Ravi Menon.
Mr. Ravi Menon was appointed Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 2011. He was previously Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI) and Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
Mr. Menon began his career at MAS in 1987. During his 16 years with the agency, he has been involved in monetary policy; econometric forecasting; organizational development; banking regulation and liberalization; and integrated supervision of complex financial institutions. Mr. Menon spent a year at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel as a member of the secretariat to the Financial Stability Forum.
A recipient of the Singapore Government’s Meritorious Service Medal and Public Administration (Gold) Medal, Mr. Menon has served on a variety of boards in the public, private, and people sectors in Singapore. On the international front, Mr. Menon chairs the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System. He is also a member of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) Steering Committee.
Mr. Menon holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Social Science (Honors) in Economics from the National University of Singapore.
As 2022 winds down and leads into 2023, we’re going to have a remarkable run of episodes. Coming up next is Nikhil Rathi, CEO of the UK Financial Conduct Authority — another show I recorded face to face in Singapore. Like MAS, the FCA has been a world leader in financial and regulatory innovation. We also have a show coming up with a third agency head – a conversation with Todd Harper, Chairman of the U.S. National Credit Union Administration.
We’ll have a very special conversation that we recorded at Money 2020 with Cleve Mesidor of the Blockchain Foundation and Delicia Hand, formerly of the CFPB and now with Consumer Reports, on how well fintech is doing in closing the wealth and financial access gap for women and people of color.
And of course we’ll be exploring the meltdown of FTX with one of the most thoughtful people in the world on crypto and DeFi, Simon Taylor, who is with Sardine and also writes the must-read newsletter, Fintech Brain Food.
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