Hong Kong Can Own FinTech Market17 July, 2015
Since the arrival of the first ATM, the worlds of finance and technology have become ever more closely linked, creating in the process the need for a special kind of expertise spanning the two sectors.
Recognising this, the FinTech First seminar held on June 10 gave an audience of business school students, MBAs and professionals already working in the field a chance to hear about the latest trends and developments and what they may mean for start-ups, established businesses and general career prospects.
Co-organised by Education Post, the Hong Kong Design Centre and Nest Hong Kong, the event looked at areas of innovation and investment. The well-structured programme also included highly relevant case studies dealing with aspects of cyber security, data privacy and P2P (peer to peer) lending. The two panel discussions gave leading voices the chance to expound their views on the importance of subjects such as “human-centred” design and the value of accelerator programmes in supporting new enterprises and creating jobs.
In his opening remarks, Simon Galpin, director-general of investment promotion for Invest Hong Kong, notes that FinTech is becoming very important as a global phenomenon, with US$3.1 billion of new investment in the sector recorded in just the fourth quarter of 2014.
“Hong Kong now has one of the fastest growing start-up ecosystems in the world,” he says, adding that 74 new FinTech ventures were set up locally last year. That total is sure to have risen to well over 100 by now, besides which 41 of the international “FinTech 100” companies also have a presence and an office in Hong Kong.
“Our job as a government department is really to support companies one-to-one, providing specialist advice and acting as ‘account managers’ over a period of several years,” Galpin says.
Keynote speaker Steve Monaghan, regional director and head of edge (group innovation) for AIA Hong Kong, highlights the speed of change brought about by technology and the need to adapt to new ways of operating and increased levels of “disruption” as companies such as Google, Alibaba and Uber challenge accepted norms and effectively rewrite the rulebook.
“The simple logic is that banks can’t move fast enough to keep up with contemporary evolution,” Monaghan says. “Our relationship with technology is changing. It is not necessarily man versus machine; it is the combination of humanity and technology that actually creates something really special.”
For the development of FinTech in Asia, he notes the importance of building an ecosystem which does not look at entrepreneurs in isolation. Instead, the aim should be to bring together the best of what governments and universities have to offer, see how that can be advantageous for start-ups and corporations – and then tying that to capital.
Edmund Lee, executive director of the Hong Kong Design Centre and moderator of the panel discussion on human-centred design for insights and experience, draws attention to one essential element. That is to focus on not just meeting stated needs of the financial and banking sector, but to think more about future services and how technology could make it possible to connect with customers in other ways.
“There are many examples to substantiate how design is for more than function,” Lee says. “We have to install that mindset within the investor and start-up communities.”
Angel investor and CEO of Nest Simon Squibb believes the start-up scene in Hong Kong will continue blossoming.
For Simon Squibb, chief executive of Nest Hong Kong and moderator of the discussion on “FinTech accelerator programmes and opportunities for university graduates”, the general outlook looks encouragingly bright.
“I personally believe Hong Kong has a huge opportunity – if it spots it and takes some risks – to ‘own’ FinTech,” Squibb says. “At Nest, we have already invested in a lot of start-ups and try to be both an investor and a mentor. My philosophy is one of entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. They are the people who understand most in the early stages and see all the different issues involved.”
Author: John Cremer - SCMP