From Cash to Digital: The Potential of Japan's Fintech Landscape

Richard Koh
Founder & Group CEO

March 2024

For businesses transacting across borders, foreign exchange (FX) risk can be a significant and often opaque cost. Established in Singapore in 2010, M-DAQ, under the leadership of Founder & CEO Richard Koh, is pioneering innovative solutions to empower business-to-business (B2B) cross-border transactions.

In this interview, Koh shares his expert insights into the evolving global and Japanese fintech landscapes. With a focus on international transactions and efforts to enhance global accessibility, M-DAQ has uniquely positioned itself in Fukuoka's fintech-friendly environment. This discussion delves into the company's journey in Japan, focusing on business expansion, collaborative efforts, and the company's vision for the future.

The dynamics of global trends in fintech and Japan's digital shift

In a sector as dynamic as fintech, change is the only constant. Richard Koh, with his deep understanding of the industry's trends, highlights how emerging technologies like AI, regulation technology (RegTech) and green fintech are rapidly reshaping the landscape. "The global fintech industry is fast evolving with innovations," observes Koh, emphasizing the critical role of digital payment systems (also known as e-payment systems) for B2C and B2B transactions — particularly in cross-border transactions.

In Japan, the transformation is equally profound but distinct in its trajectory. As Koh points out, "Japan has long been a cash-driven society, where physical currency has been the primary mode of transaction." He also mentions the influence of the pandemic on Japan's shift towards digital payments, adding, "Recent developments such as the Bank of Japan's ongoing efforts to develop a digital yen are also likely to further popularize digital payments."

Koh further notes the unique position of Japan in the global fintech scene: "Japan's fintech landscape is developing and holds a lot of potential. Backed by strong government support, the fintech industry in Japan also demonstrates openness to foreign investments which poses opportunities for international companies seeking to expand into the market."

M-DAQ's entry into the Japanese market is timely, aligning with a period of significant innovation and evolution within the sector. Koh defines M-DAQ's goal as a player in Japan fintech industry as "to provide a fresh perspective and practical solutions to support corporates in the region in cross-border transactions." The company's commitment to improving FX certainty and clarity in cross-border transactions fits well with the current advancements in Japan's digital finance sector.

Crafting a collaborative financial ecosystem in Fukuoka

M-DAQ's choice of Fukuoka as its operational hub in Japan is a strategic decision that aligns with the city's emerging status as a center for fintech. "Fukuoka has undergone a transformation in the last decade," observes Koh, acknowledging the city's evolution into a dynamic hub for fintech innovation. He adds, "Located in Western Japan and close to major economies like Korea, China and Taiwan, Fukuoka is positioned as the Silicon Valley of Japan and thus a natural fit for M-DAQ."

M-DAQ Japan office in Fukuoka

Koh sees a parallel between Fukuoka and Singapore, noting, "Fukuoka city shares a similar approach and commitment to progress as Singapore, with the private and public sectors actively collaborating and developing innovative solutions." This similarity resonates with M-DAQ's ethos and operational strategies, indicating potential synergies and collaborative opportunities in Fukuoka.

Koh commends initiatives like Team Fukuoka, which fosters connections between industry, academia, and government, aiding M-DAQ in establishing its local presence. He adds, "We recently announced the launch of a feasibility study in collaboration with Fukuoka Stock Exchange (FSE) to assess the viability of implementing Trading the Right Chart™ (TRC)," speaking of M-DAQ's real-time multi-currency securities trading solution. Koh elaborates, "With Fukuoka TRC, international investors will be able to trade stocks listed on the FSE in their home currencies, which will facilitate seamless cross-border securities trading."

M-DAQ Fukuoka team at a Tokyo event

Furthermore, M-DAQ has engaged in dialogues with key local entities like the Fukuoka City Government and major transportation and tourism organizations to improve the experience of customers using foreign currency in retail and travel transactions.

M-DAQ's vision for seamless cross-borders transactions in Japan and beyond

Koh views Japan as more than just a market; he sees it as a center for financial innovation and international engagement. He states, "Through our FX solutions, we hope to support businesses in eliminating barriers across regions, facilitating cross-border transactions between Japan and the rest of the world, aligned with our corporate vision to create a World without Currency Borders™."

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