Exclusive: Vikram Pandya, Director of FinTech; on the impact of AI and Machine Learning


The recent Singapore Fintech Festival saw some of the brightest minds coming together to spark conversations and identify trends for the industry.

One of which was the  Strategic Considerations in Fintech event organised by S P Jain School of Global Management, Singapore, where its Director of Fintech, Vikram Pandya, covered key strategic considerations for a successful implementation of leading technologies like API, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Big Data, and Internet of Things (IoT) across various industries.

Getting further insights on these topics, our exclusive interview with Vikram highlighted on the trending technologies and their effect on the growing Fintech and wealth management industry.

WealthUp (WP): Before we begin, let’s get to know you a little better. 

Vikram Pandya (VP): I have been in the banking industry for more than a decade in multiple roles; and currently am a Chartered Accountant from the ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India ), CFA (USA) and CISA, ISACA

Additionally, I have the privilege of being a venture capitalist (VC) at a Fintech VC Fund  – Varanium, which invests in fintech startups in India.

WP: I’m sure you’ve worked on a lot of projects – which were the most exciting?

VP: There were many projects that are close to my heart. One of which is a blockchain project where we developed e-certificates and e-diplomas that are tamper-proof for S P Jain School of Development (Mumbai).

WP: Moving on to industry-related trends, do you think robo-advisors can completely replace wealth managers in the near future?

VP: Robo-advisory is more about augmenting human efforts or assisting and allowing us to make informed decisions. For example, if you are being told by a robo-advisor not to invest in XYZ Company because their EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) is going down for the last 5 years; yet you make a completely opposite decision, it is still fine as long as you can prove that you have reasonable evidence to believe otherwise.

WP: With the job market changing and evolving, how can candidates be future-ready?

VP: You need to first identify which role you want to get in. For instance, program manager or project manager will need to have a basic understanding of blockchain, but you will also need to have program management skillsets. You need to understand from the product perspective what exactly you want to do and how it works.

On the other hand, business analysts will need to understand both – business aspects, as well as the technology used; as you will be the person that bridges the program manager and final developer.

When I teach Fintech, I focus on the two things – program and project management, and business analysis.

WP: Talk about businesses, how can blockchain technology help companies in the wealth management space?

VP: If you look at wealth management, you are talking about retail customers, High Net Worth Individuals (HNI), or ultra HNl; as well corporate portfolio or treasury wealth management.

Blockchain can be used in all of the above, but the purpose and use-case are very different. Let’s take the HNI for example, portfolio management service (PMS) is the best solution that you would want to offer. Here, blockchain helps you to open an over the counter sale of securities. 

Meanwhile, if you want to invest in a PVC fund, the liquidity is very low or negligible. The moment you have a secondary market and the OTC market also on a blockchain and you have the security tokenized, then it becomes very easy to exit.This helps you get both better valuation and better liquidity.

Being in top management is mostly strategy driven. You need to empower others, and provide oversight.

– Vikram Pandya, Director of Fintech, SP Jain

WP: How can startups in the banking, finance and payments industry leverage technology to be able to compete with the big boys of the industry?

VP: Big boys will not easily get into blockchain or take that risk – they will normally wait. They will not be the first to invest and will wait for the technology to mature. However, if you wait too long, you will be too late to recognise the potential – making the last party to enter the competition. You need to think about whether it makes sense in your use case to use that technology. 

If it makes sense, go ahead with a pilot to understand the risk and reward associated with the technology, and look at what happens. The moment you invest in that, it is a long-term investment that you are making.

Given the choice, blockchain should only be used when you have a global use-case. So many people are part of the ecosystem that many intermediaries involved, so much so that there is no trust and you want to remove intermediaries. There is something which I follow in this regard and it’s called the FITS framework: Fore-likelihood, Intermediaries, Throughput, and Static Data.

WP: Coming back to you achievements, what do you think have helped you succeed?

VP: First of all, it is all about teamwork. The bigger the project, the bigger the team needs to be – and you need to know where you are.

The role of young executives or interns may not be about strategy but more on execution – don’t be hesitant to get your hands dirty. However, don’t let that narrow your scope. If you are able to identify certain issues and you think you can improve the process of your product, go ahead and mention that to your seniors. 

It helps identify your potential, if it is a valid point. If you are wrong, then you will learn from your mistake; but if you are right, then you are more visible. 

Next, the middle management role is a techno-strategy role. Sometimes your role may require you to think only on the strategic side, but you still need to think of the technology – your understanding of the technology side will ensure the success of the project.

Finally, being in top management is mostly strategy driven. You need to empower others, and provide oversight.

Professor Vikram Pandya, Director of Fintech, SP Jain School of Global Management

The Bottom Line

Blockchain, AI/ML and other technologies in the fintech space are disrupting the financial world. The established players i.e. financial institutions would have to soon change the way they operate and adopt these new technologies to stay in the game.

More and more people are moving towards mobile payments, robo-advisory and crypto-trading than ever before. 

Therefore, shifting their focus from the old and conventional credit card, investing in the stock market and wealth managers (to manage their portfolio) to these new technologies. The move is happening and for sure it will change how the financial world works.

Written by

Cheryl Toh

Last updated on

November 28th 2019, 4:48 pm

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