The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses across all sectors, prompting many businesses, including financial institutions (both licensed and exempted institutions) (“FIs”) and fintech businesses to embrace digital changes in order to weather the storm that is the current pandemic.
With the extremely uncertain business landscape, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) had on 8 April 2020, announced a S$125 million support package for eligible businesses across Singapore. Of the aforesaid support package, is the Digital Acceleration Grant (“DAG”), a S$35 million scheme that aims to support digitalisation in smaller FIs and fintech firms with the objective of creating maintaining productivity, boosting operational resilience and risk management.
Applicable Categories of Solutions
Further to the above, the MAS has designated certain categories of digital solutions that will be applicable under the DAG. The proposed solutions that are supported are:
- Cloud services;
- Communication and collaboration tools;
- Compliance and KYC tools (including transaction monitoring tools);
- Customer relationship and engagement tools (including digital customer onboarding);
- Data-related services (including data warehousing, data automation, data analytics);
- Enterprise services (including HR and accounting systems);
- Marketing productivity tools (including customer sensing tools, insights generation);
- Office productivity tools;
- Project management, software development and testing tools;
- Security-related solutions; and
- Solutions to support alternative working arrangements, operational resilience and business continuity plans.
Applicants who wish to take advantage of the DAG for the adoption of digital solutions must ensure that the said digital solutions must:
- Be deployed and used for at least six (6) months (for the Institution Project Track) or 1 year (for the Industry Pilot Track) in Singapore;
- Contribute to improvements in productivity, efficiency, risk management, operational resilience, or customer service;
- Belong to any of the categories prescribed by the MAS (as listed above); and
- Not be built from scratch nor require investment in heavy infrastructure.
The DAG comprises two (2) distinct tracks which FIs and fintech firms can choose from, namely, the Institution Project track and the Industry Pilot track.
1. Institution Project
- Aims to support smaller FIs and fintech firms seeking to adopt digital solutions;
- Singapore-based FIs regulated by the MAS (licensed or exempted from licensing) and Singapore-based fintech firms (certified by the Singapore Fintech Association), each with not more than 200 employees, may be eligible for the Institution Project track of the DAG;
- Successful applicants will be able to recoup up to 80% of qualifying expenses for the adoption of digital solutions with a cap of S$120,000 per entity.
2. Industry Pilot
- Aims to support joint projects by multiple FIs to customise existing solutions with a solution provider;
- Applicants who wish to apply under the Industry Pilot track must be Singapore-based FIs that are regulated by the MAS (licensed or exempted from licensing), with a joint headcount of not more than 200 staff. Additionally, the project that the applicants are seeking to undertake must comprise a minimum group of three participating and eligible FIs;
- Successful applicants proceeding under the Industry Pilot track will be able to recoup up to 80% of qualifying expenses for the adoption of digital solutions by multiple firms collaborating together, up to a cap of S$100,000 per participating firm per project.
Financial Associate Management Scheme: In addition to the DAG, MAS has launched other initiatives to assist FIs and fintech firms in defraying their costs during the current pandemic. One of the schemes worth mentioning is the Financial Associate Management Scheme (“FAMS”).
The FAMS is an initiative supported by the Financial Sector Development Fund which was set up to facilitate development and enhancement of talent and other infrastructure in order to cement Singapore’s position as a leading financial centre.
In essence, FAMs is a scheme which provides salary support for FIs to hire Singaporean fresh graduates or Singaporean workers from other sectors and to place them in talent development programmes.
Successful applicants of the FAMS will receive S$2,000 (up from S$1,000 prior to the pandemic) a month for each eligible Singaporean hired as part of the scheme.
Criteria for FAMS: In order to be eligible for FAMS, the MAS has specified criteria for both that FIs have to adhere to in order for them and their new hires to benefit from FAMS.
Firstly, FIs applying for the FAMS must be a Singapore-based FI that is regulated by the MAS (licensed or exempted from licensing), or an industry association who may act as an aggregator.
Secondly, FIs will also need to ensure that their new hires are Singapore citizens who are either fresh graduates (i.e. within 12 months after graduation) or cross-sector convertees.
Lastly, all programmes run by FIs for the enrolment of their new hires must contain the following elements:
- Job rotations, whether within the same function or across different functions;
- Structured training (e.g. classroom training, leadership training, e-learning); and
- Mentorship programme.
It should be noted that successful applicants of the FAMS will be subject to additional requirements to ensure that they do not default on their obligations to their new hires.
You may refer to https://www.mas.gov.sg/schemes-and-initiatives/Finance-Associate-Management-Scheme-FAMS for additional information on the FAMS.
This update is provided to you for general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
 The support package includes amongst others, support for manpower costs, subsidies for workforce training, reimbursements of operational costs, support for experimentation, development and dissemination of nascent innovative technologies etc.