Sunday 30 November 2014

London Mayor Boris Johnson hops on an MRT train to meet PM Lee

By Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

Mayor of London Boris Johnson hopped onto an MRT train to his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, during a visit to Singapore.

"Riding Singapore's gleaming tube - the MRT - this morning on the way to a meeting with the PM," he posted in Twitter, along with a photo of him sitting beside an elderly couple.

The Tube is what Londoners call their subway train system.

He also posted a photo of his meeting with PM Lee, and wrote: "Good discussion with PM Lee on trade, Europe and opportunities for growth between London and the UK & Singapore."

Mr Johnson is leading a delegation of financial technology startups on a roadshow to the region, and is in the city state from Thursday till Saturday (Nov 27 to 29).

Britain should not keep out talented people: London mayor
By Grace Chng, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has said during a Singapore visit that it is entirely legitimate for British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut European Union migrant numbers to Britain.

But he said talented people should not be kept out of Britain.

"I think it's very important to stress that immigration has brought great things for our country and indeed the cross-fertilisation of ideas and people around the world has been massively beneficial," he said at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

"I'll have to see what David Cameron says, but I think he's entirely right to want to put in place measures that stop too much of a pull factor, too much of a suction effect that brings people to the country, (who) might just want to make use of the benefits."

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a technology event on collaboration between Singapore and London to develop the financial technology business.

Mr Johnson said that with the expansion of the EU, there is a huge discrepancy in payments of benefits from one country to another.

Britain has a generous benefit regime, he said, adding that it was reasonable to look at whether people were coming to Britain to make use of the benefits.

"On the other hand, you've to make sure you keep people of value to our economy. London in the last 20 years has done well to bring in talented people. So a balance needs to be struck."

Earlier, a BBC report said Mr Cameron is expected to set out plans to curb welfare benefits for migrants from the EU.

Asked what he thought about the EU's resolution calling for the break-up of Google's search and commercial businesses, he said: "I think you've got to be careful in any industry that it is not dominated by one or two big players."

He does not think the EU's action will affect relations between Britain and the United States.

People have the right to have a look at whether organisations have an anti-competitive and monopolistic position, he said.

The action comes amid rising concern in the EU over the growing dominance of American technology companies of the Internet sector.

Yesterday, Mr Johnson met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and they discussed challenges facing global cities.

They also noted the dense links between Singapore and London that are based on complementarities between the two cities, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

They also discussed developments in Asia and Europe and other international issues, as well as opportunities for growth between Britain and Singapore.

Mr Johnson, who is also visiting Indonesia and Malaysia as part of a regional tour to promote trade and investment and leaves Singapore today, said in a tweet after the meeting that he had a good discussion with Mr Lee.

Mr Johnson took the MRT to his meeting with Mr Lee and tweeted a photograph of his ride on what he called "Singapore's gleaming Tube".

The Tube is what Londoners call their subway system.

S'pore hailed as financial tech capital of Asia
London mayor urges collaboration in the white-hot area of fintech
By Grace Chng, The Straits Times, 29 Nov 2014

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson believes Singapore and the British capital can both reap big rewards by collaborating in the white-hot area of financial technology.

The flamboyant politician outlined his vision for this joint effort on start-ups offering technology solutions for financial products during a visit here yesterday.

London is Europe's capital for financial technology - in short, fintech - while Singapore is Asia's fintech capital, he said at the ArtScience Museum.

"Let's cross-pollinate and synergise, and come out with new fintech solutions," he said at an event highlighting tie-ups between start-ups of the two cities.

Mr Johnson is here as part of a six-day trade mission that also includes Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur to promote London as a major investment destination and promote closer ties with these cities.

The trade mission boasts 26 tech start-ups, including 11 fintech firms which offer a variety of services for consumers and financial institutions, including remittances, gold trading and lending to small and medium-sized firms.

They are seeking a beachhead to expand into Asia as well as to look for local partners.

Ms Claire Cockerton, chief executive of industry body Innovate Finance, told The Straits Times that London fintech start-ups would need local partners to guide them on issues such as cultural sensitivities and doing business.

Innovate Finance was set up in August to promote Britain's growing fintech industry.

She said the fintech industry is white hot because the financial crisis in 2008 has taken a toll on financial institutions which have had, among other things, to invest in resources to meet new policies imposed by the regulators.

"This meant that they have less to spend on innovation. Smaller companies have emerged to offer services that are more efficient and convenient for consumers."

Some start-ups on the trade mission have already opened offices here and seek to do more here.

The Real Asset, which allows small investors to trade in the bullion markets, has part of its US$10 million (S$13 million) worth of gold stored in a vault here two years ago when it started trading.

Said chief executive Jan Skyoles: "Eighty-seven per cent of potential customers we polled cited Singapore as one city where they would like to store gold." She wants to expand to Asia using Singapore as a base as Asians have traditionally traded in physical gold. She believes they would understand the value of such a service.

Markit, which provides financial information services, and helps banks, hedge funds, regulators, fund managers and other related organisations, has had an office here for over a year. Its services include customised technology solutions and information services and processing to help financial institutions be more efficient.

Another trade mission member Startupbootcamp FinTech will open its 13-week accelerator programme to Asia in May next year. The five-year-old body, Europe's leading fintech accelerator, will select 10 fintech start-ups from Asia for its first programme here.

Last month, Infocomm Investments (IIPL) took a strategic investment in Startupbootcamp. IIPL hopes to get local fintech start-ups to participate in the London-based accelerator programmes later.

DBS Bank is one of the backers of Startupbootcamp Asia. DBS Bank's chief innovation officer Neal Cross told The Straits Times it can work with bootcamp participants to experiment with new services or solutions.

Bank staff will also engage with the accelerator participants and act as domain experts and business advisers. "The ultimate aim is to ensure that we can serve our customers in the way they want."

In this way, it hopes to introduce the start-up culture. The Innovation Office will also be taking up space at Singapore's start-up home, Launchpad, in Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is also backing Startupbootcamp. It will explain banking and financial regulations and guide the start-ups to design new solutions within MAS regulations.

Startupbootcamp managing director Nektarios Liolios said this is Asia's ideal innovation hub. "I've been (here) many times and I've been very impressed by the quality and innovation levels of the start-ups we've met."

Not only is there industry and government support, but the concentration of investors, financial institutions and mentors makes it a good place for a fintech investment, he added.

Barclays Bank also said it is opening its Barclays Accelerator to Singapore participants. Its 13-week programme will begin in London in March next year.

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