Can’t beat ‘em? Demo ‘em: Citi showcases fintech’s brightest minds


Over half a year in the making, the day has arrived: ‘Demo Day’ (Singapore) that is – a chance for finalists from the Asia-Pacific round of the Citi Tech Integrity Challenge to showcase their innovations, and quite possibly reshape the public sector and industry as we know them today.

FST Media spoke with Laura Gaviria Halaby, chief coordinator of the T4I, to discuss how the event seeks to inspire innovations that promote integrity and accountability.

The Citi Tech Integrity Challenge (T4I) pits developer against innovator, entrepreneur against establishment, tech titan against seminal start-up. It is a chance for the technology industry’s brightest minds to shine, developing innovations that tackle corruption and promote integrity in the public and private domains.

As the brainchild of the Citi Tech team, the T4I offers digital innovators an open platform to showcase their solutions to the world – and, of course, measure up against their industry rivals.

Singapore is proud to boast five finalists across an array of digital fields, from big data and analytics, and infortmation security, to digital fraud and money laundering prevention (see below for Singapore finalists).

FST Media spoke with Laura Gaviria Halaby, ‎Global Head of Fintech Acceleration (Open Innovation) at Citi FinTech and the lead coordinator of the T4I, to traverse the developments in global fintech and T4I’s role in exposing industry innovations that serve not only to protect public and private institutions, but also bolster economic security for the wider community.

FST Media: What developments or innovations have caught your eye in the world of global fintech?

Gaviria Halaby: There are so many different and interesting things happening around the world in fintech that it is very difficult to point to just one. Trends are also influenced by the stage of the market that you are in. For example, in countries like India and Kenya we see a lot of interesting financial inclusion solutions, while in Singapore or the United States we see a lot of focus on solutions using AI – particularly in looking at ways to find more touch points with customers.

I also believe that there is too much hype around consumer fintech; fintech goes way beyond that. So we see many opportunities in the ‘deep’ fintech space that are better targeted towards infrastructure and B2B, rather than B2C.

FST Media: Why has Citi sought to embrace fintech, rather than see it as a threat? 

Gaviria Halaby: Embracing and integrating technology represents one of the most important efforts that our company is undertaking – it is a competitive and strategic requirement if you want your company to grow and remain relevant in the future. Fintech has driven us to look at how we think and operate in a different light. It has propelled us to shift to an agile and more collaborative way of execution so that we can respond to changing client behaviour, allowing us to come up with solutions faster than ever before. This is true of retail customers and institutional clients.

Citi has a presence in more than 100 countries around the world, and we do business in more than 160 countries, so partnering with fintech is sometimes a matter of leveraging each other’s strengths.

FST Media: How does the T4I serve to enhance awareness around developments in financial services technologies?

Gaviria Halaby: The Citi Tech for Integrity Challenge is another example of Citi’s unique commitment to enabling growth and economic progress through innovation. More importantly, through the T4I and Citi FinTech Acceleration, we are helping to quickly drive innovation, not only in the public sector, but also for Citi, our allies, and even our competitors.

None of the T4I solutions will be proprietary to Citi. We worked closely with small accelerators, large tech companies, law firms and regulators to achieve a truly open environment, ensuring that anyone could potentially benefit from the solutions developed in T4I.

The goal is to bring awareness to an issue that affects all of us; by bringing T4I solutions to the market, we hope to make a dent in a $4 trillion global challenge.

FST Media: What will be your role at the Demo Day?

Gaviria Halaby: As Global Head of FinTech Acceleration at Citi, I led – and hopefully inspired – the team that put together the Citi Tech for Integrity Challenge (T4I).

The Challenge provided a way for more than 200 people from different parts of Citi, 81 allies (participating contributors to the T4I from the public and private sectors), and now 103 finalists, to work together to address the issue of corruption. We hosted Demo Days in strategic hub cities, including Abu Dhabi, Dublin, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Singapore and Hyderabad. At each event we present three awards; our allies (including IBM, Microsoft, and PwC) will give additional awards in July.

FST Media: What criteria have/will you use to determine the finalists and award winners?

Gaviria Halaby: We asked T4I applicants to provide ideas to solve corruption and promote integrity in the public sector and beyond – that is one of the main factors taken into account when judging. In addition to addressing these challenges, successful solutions should be innovative, scalable and ready to go to market.

FST Media: What is your ultimate goal for successful entrants – particularly for Asia-Pacific’s fintechs – participating at the event?

Gaviria Halaby: We are excited to watch our Singapore finalists present their ideas today. We started with more than 1,000 registrants for the competition and eventually invited 103 teams to compete at one of the six Demo Days; these finalists represent the best ideas that we received.

T4I is about the developers first, so my hope is that many of these great companies will come away from T4I with stronger support for their solution – through a relationship, a strategic partnership, or a sponsor to help them take the next step in their evolution. ⚫

Finalists presenting at today’s Demo Day (Singapore):

Category: Illicit Financing

Category: Big Data/Analytics
Dathena Pte Ltd
Taiger Singapore Pte. Ltd.

Category: KYC/AML
CompanySqreem Technologies & Synechron        

Category: InfoSec
CompanyVoxSmart Pte. Ltd.         

Award winners for the Singapore round of the T4I Demo Day will be announced later today.