Prudential Singapore and StarHub are partnering to launch Fasttrack Trade (FTT) – Singapore’s first digital trade platform for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) using blockchain technology.
It would allow SMEs to seek business partners and distributors, buy and sell goods, track shipments, receive and make payments, access financing and buy insurance via a single platform. The pioneering platform is being developed by fintech startup Cites Gestion with funding from Prudential.
Under the partnership, StarHub will offer its enterprise customers access to FTT’s services while Prudential will offer insurance to help them mitigate business risks. The platform also provides alternative financing options to SMEs through Funding Societies, a peer-to-peer lender.
More service providers in areas ranging from financing, business intelligence, payments and logistics are expected to join the FTT by the time it is commercially launched in the first quarter of 2018.
The partnership between Prudential and StarHub is the beginning of a broader plan to create a digital B2B marketplace powered by StarHub. This will bring together a network of service providers across multiple industries to support the business expansion of SMEs.
Stephanie Simonnet, Chief Partnerships Distribution Officer at Prudential Singapore, said that such insurer-telco-fintech collaboration is the first of its kind in Singapore and opens up opportunities for all parties to reach a wider customer base with innovative business solutions, and to share expertise.
“We are creating a digital ecosystem based on cross-industry collaboration that will transform commerce and drive the growth of enterprises. Convenient and affordable access to non-traditional sources of funding and to protection will help smaller businesses fulfil their growth ambitions and manage risk. For Prudential, FTT will help drive engagement with a new group of enterprise customers,” said Simonnet.
Dr Chong Yoke Sin, Chief of Enterprise Business Group, StarHub, said that for SMEs to thrive in today’s digital economy, it is important for them to capitalise on digital technologies and leverage their capabilities early.
“In recent years, the role of telcos has evolved into much more than facilitating communications between people or businesses. At StarHub, we ease adoption of digital solutions for enterprises by integrating partner solutions into our digital platform of offerings, to propel businesses in the digital economy. Our solutions in data analytics, cyber security, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are integrated into value-added services offered through our digital platforms to enable enterprises to easily conduct business,” said Dr Chong.
FTT is powered by distributed ledger technology which establishes trust among SMEs through the sharing of a common audit trail between counterparties on the platform.
Every transaction on FTT is recorded and traceable, making it not only safer but also faster and cheaper for SMEs to conduct trade transactions and access financing. For instance, for transaction values of between S$3,000 and S$20,000, an SME can get access to financing within 24 hours and insurance cover for its outstanding loan for premiums as low as S$20.
Bringing FTT to SMEs across Southeast Asia
The plan is to open up FTT to SMEs beyond Singapore. Ms Agnes Hugot, CEO and Co-founder of Cites Gestion said, “We want to test the platform in Singapore and then bring it to emerging markets across Southeast Asia to enhance financial inclusion.
“Today, there is a huge trade financing gap in Southeast Asia because of a lack of financing and access to business services, especially for smaller businesses. A digital platform such as FTT could help boost the trade corridors in Southeast Asia, strengthen business communities and bring about significant economic benefits to everyone.”
Across five countries in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand), SME contribution is at least a third of GDP and 70 per cent of employment.