Toh Wee Kee - Deputy Director and Specialist Leader (Distributed Ledger Technology), FinTech and Innovation Group, Mid-Career Professional, joined in 2016
The fast-changing world of technology is one of the few areas that you can make your mark even as a young professional. I graduated from SMU about 10 years ago and the last 5 years of my career has been an amazing journey of exploring the nascent area of blockchain technology, creating new knowledge, and pushing the boundaries of technical capabilities. Project Ubin has been part of this journey, we started Project Ubin over four years ago.
At that time, everyone was talking about blockchain technology. It sounded like a silver bullet for all types of issues in the financial industry, so of course we got interested. But once we started looking deeper into this, we realized that the understanding of the technology was superficial – everyone was saying something, but no one was actually doing anything. As an industry, it is not healthy if everyone wants to be a fast follower. This is why we decided to initiate a blockchain project that would bring financial institutions together, to experiment and learn from each other. Payments was a natural use-case for us as we run inter-bank payments, and have the expertise and knowledge in this space. Furthermore, there are limited proprietary benefits for any one party, so participants are more willing to collaborate and share in an open manner. This was a good opportunity to bring the industry together, and learn through practical experimentation.
Many of the financial institutions saw this as a learning opportunity, for them to find out more about the technology and how they could use it for other use cases within their respective organisations. On the other hand, some of them were working actively on blockchain, so they wanted to put their experience and expertise to the test by taking on more active roles. And then we have the technology partners who were building their own platforms and products, and were looking for first-hand experience with users working on challenging use-cases, to understand the challenges and build better systems. From our perspective, collaboration is about bringing all these different parties together and moving in a common direction, and success is when everyone benefits from the participation. If everyone finds value in what he is doing, and everyone moves forward together, they will all put in their best for the project, and success would then come naturally.
Project Ubin is a journey, and our aim is to bring the industry along with us on this journey. We are not here to develop the best possible product or solution – that is best done by commercial entities. Our role is to promote development in the industry, and facilitate and provide an environment where innovation can flourish. In that regard, we have been very open with sharing our project findings, such as the six reports published since the start of Project Ubin. We also released the source codes, interface specifications and other technical documents across the five phases. The open sharing has sparked off further developments in the industry, across commercial banks, central banks, and technology players. This is how we see the industry moving forward together, and in my view, has moved the needle.