“Financial technology is the future and we are determined to make it ours” was the rallying call from the chief of Hong Kong on the opening day of the city’s two-day Asian Financial Forum (AFF).
In its 16th year, the forum has returned as an in-person event in Hong Kong for the first time in two years following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions along the city’s shared border with the mainland of China were lifted on Sunday. This follows December’s relaxation of the region’s wider strict Covid policies.
The morning kicked off with an opening address from John Lee, the chief executive of Hong Kong, who highlighted the city’s efforts in enhancing its strength as an international financial centre. He also outlined the importance of encouraging fintech players to test innovative ideas and concepts.
“More than 800 fintechs call Hong Kong home, up from 180 five years ago,” he said. “They provide a diverse range of services from commercial banking, asset management, and insurance technology to robo-advisory blockchain, digital trading, payments and cybersecurity.
“We’re working closely with our financial regulators and public agencies to enhance Hong Kong’s fintech infrastructure to provide an enabling regulatory framework that encourages financial innovation and natural talent.”
State of fintech
Fintech was also the focus of a global discussion panel in the afternoon with leaders at the BIS Innovation Hub, WeLab Bank, Two Sigma Asia Pacific, Standard Chartered Bank, Visa and the Daiwa Institute of Research.
The panel discussed digital currencies, how to bring technology to financial services, applying data science technology in the investment process and the importance for incumbent banks to embrace fintech.
When asked how ‘dinosaurs’ can adapt to the fintech world, Peter Burnett, MD of Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong, said: “We’re at a bit of an inflection point in the fintech-incumbent – or dinosaur as you refer to them – world, where there is a great deal of collaboration combining the advantages of both.
“The external financial environment, to some extent, has forced this and we can debate whether it’s the dinosaurs catching up with the disruptors or it’s the disruptors working out a way they can bed down with the dinosaurs, but it doesn’t really matter. What we’re seeing now is coordination, cooperation and a greater alignment between fintechs and incumbents with the advantages of both coming together.”
Also at AFF 2023
There are 19 overseas delegations attending this year’s Forum with 32 exhibitors from 12 countries, revealed Patrick Lau, deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).
The Forum, held at the Hong Kong Convention Centre, will also feature addresses from more than 100 global business leaders.
In Wednesday morning’s Policy dialogue session, panellists discussed the impact of Covid on the economy, while a keynote luncheon served up an address from former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
He first discussed how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can pave the way towards a greener, healthier workforce era post Covid-19, before highlighting the importance of the addressing the global impact of the climate crisis and the urgency of reaching net zero by 2050.