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WHY HONG KONG IS THE ULTIMATE GATEWAY FOR SCALING INTO THE APAC REGION
With a population of over 4.45 billion people, the APAC region offers an unmatched opportunity to businesses of all sizes as it is the largest consumer (+ potential consumer) market in the world.

China, which is home to 1.4 billion people, and boasts the second-largest economy, plays a critical role both in the region and globally as a financial center. The country is continuing to aggressively reinvent itself as a global technology hub. Unmet financial needs, ubiquitous connectivity, and the world's largest and most developed e-commerce market are among the main factors that are expected to drive an explosive growth of China’s startup community focusing on financial technology. On top of that, China includes forward-thinking technology companies that drive innovation adoption and FinTech-ready generation.

China has leapfrogged the rest of the world into becoming the undoubted center of global FinTech innovation. Hong Kong SAR, one of the most prominent megalopolises in China, is in a uniquely influential, unmatched position that offers the entry into the market with the biggest opportunity in finance and tech.

Connecting Global FinTech: Interim Hub Review 2017 by the Global FinTech Hubs Federation places Hong Kong among the top performing FinTech hubs globally. For businesses looking to effectively serve their customers in Mainland China and any other country in the APAC region, Hong Kong is a strategic geographic choice that enables quick customer support. Anthony Fernandez, Vice President of APAC at Teledyne e2v, emphasizes that Hong Kong offers tremendous opportunities in collaborating with customers and co-innovation, and foresees further development in Hong Kong and Asia, especially for advanced technology applications.

Furthermore, we will explore some of the main reasons Hong Kong is one of the highest-performing hubs globally – an effective springboard and gateway for financial technology companies of all sizes to successfully expand into APAC.

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HONG KONG FINTECH WEEK 2018
Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, 2018

The World’s First Cross-border FinTech Event in Hong Kong & Shenzhen

Hong Kong hosts major events to bring together industry professionals representing all parties from around the world.

Hong Kong FinTech Week 2018 – the world's first cross-border FinTech event and one of the largest conferences, attracting 8000+ senior executives and featuring 200+ of the world's top FinTech founders, investors, regulators & academics who are shaping the future of financial services by driving a technological revolution in the industry across Asia and globally.

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Ashley Alder

CEO, SFC

(Hong Kong)

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Brian Behlendorf

Executive Director,

Hyperledger Project (USA)

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Calvin Choi

Chairman of the Board, AMTD

(Hong Kong)

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David Rutter

Founder & CEO, R3

(USA)

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Henry Ma

CIO, WeBank

(Greater China)

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Jakub Zakrzewski

General Manager, APAC, Revolut

(United Kingdom)

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Jonathan Larsen

Chief Innovation Officer, Ping An Group

(Hong Kong)

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Matthias Kröner

Co-founder & CEO,Fidor Bank

(Germany)

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Norman Chan

Chief Executive, HKMA

(Hong Kong)

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Ronen Assia

Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, eToro

(Israel)

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Simon Loong

Founder & CEO, WeLab

(Hong Kong)

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Wayne Xu

President, ZhongAn International

(Greater China)

 

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Melissa Guzy

Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Arbor Ventures

(Hong Kong)

 

This year, the FinTech Week will put the focus on Hong Kong’s vital position and appeal as a conduit to the Greater Bay Area, which comprises half a dozen cities and 70 million people around the Pearl River Delta. It’s a powerful proposition and working with Shenzhen is a great way to showcase the opportunities.

THE HONG KONG FINTECH WEEK 2018 WILL COVER TOPICS ACROSS THE FOLLOWING KEY THEMES:
Artificial Intelligence | Blockchain & DLT | FinTech in China Greater Bay Area Collaboration | Virtual Banks
SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE
HONG KONG FINTECH WEEK 2018 INCLUDE:

Fast-Track Program. In partnership with InvestHK, the Fast-Track Program during the FinTech Week will help startups from all over the world to get their key to success in doing business in Hong Kong. Selected companies will go through the program by meeting and following up with the relevant stakeholders – the government, regulators, investors, VCs, accelerators, associations, and institutions in one simple track. Companies will benefit from the basic business setup in Hong Kong to seize opportunities to expand and scale in the region.

Innovation Lab Tours. During the conference, there will be an opportunity to visit key innovation labs, hubs, accelerators, and incubators across Hong Kong.

Business Matching/Office Hours. Facilitated meetups and business matching will be available, as well as set office hours of key partners, regulators & government, allowing attendees to drop in at a time that suits them.

 
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Charles d'Haussy
Head of FinTech for InvestHK
said

“Hong Kong is a fantastic base for FinTech companies that aspire to a share in what is the largest FinTech market in the world – China. This year, we want to put the focus on Hong Kong’s vital position and appeal as a conduit to the Greater Bay Area, which comprises half a dozen cities and 70 million people around the Pearl River Delta. It’s a powerful proposition and working with Shenzhen is a great way to showcase the opportunities.”

With four stages, 100+ exhibition booths and 200+ speakers from across the world, the Hong Kong FinTech Week truly brings the East and West FinTech community together, seeking its business expansion to Hong Kong, China, and the APAC region.

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Hong Kong is one of the world’s most competitive economies

The Global Competitiveness Index by WEF places Hong Kong in 6th place among the world’s most competitive economies. In GCI 2017-2018, WEF confirmed the growing importance of China and India as centers of innovation. Greater access to mobile technology in China has fostered the expansion of the sharing economy, which is expected to reach 10% of the GDP by 2020.

Hong Kong SAR is the region’s only economy among the world’s top 10 in technological readiness. Moreover, Hong Kong has made the largest leap among the top 10 economies in the latest Global Competitiveness Report.

WEF emphasizes that Hong Kong is still endowed with the world’s best physical infrastructure, and its healthy level of competition and openness ensure extremely efficient markets (2nd), which in turn are supported by strong and stable financial markets (5th).

Hong Kong has also advanced its macroeconomic environment by slightly decreasing its inflation rate in 2016. Its most significant improvement can be observed across the business sophistication (11th) and innovation (26th) pillars, which is a step in the right direction given that the business community consistently cites their insufficient capacity to innovate as one of the most problematic factors for doing business.

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Anthony Sar,
CEO & Co-Founder of FINNOVASIA
said to the MEDICI team last year that

“Hong Kong is quite a costly place to run a startup. However, it is one of the most efficient cities in Asia, where decisions are made fast and you can expect a high-quality execution. The FinTech industry is quite developed in the city with more and more people joining the community. We believe that the community matters the most as human relations will outlast startups.”

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Hong Kong is one of the leading innovation and technology hubs

Hong Kong’s Science Park is set to play a leading role in the government’s drive to turn the city into an innovation and technology (I&T) hub as it was granted a major slice of the HK$50 billion funding package dedicated to hi-tech industries.

“To reinforce the role of the Science Park as Hong Kong's flagship technology infrastructure, I will allocate HK$10 billion to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC). Of this, about HK$3 billion will be used to construct research-related infrastructure and facilities, whereas the remaining HK$7 billion will be used for the HKSTPC to enhance support for its tenants and incubatees, and set up a Smart Campus in the Park, etc.”

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Paul Chan,
Financial Secretary of Hong Kong and
former Secretary for Development, Hong Kong SAR
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The center of gravity for Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) & FinTech investments in Asia

According to the World Investment Report by UNCTAD, Mainland China and Hong Kong SAR attracted the highest amount of FDI in 2016 among Asian economies – US$133.7 billion and US$108.125 billion, respectively.

In fact, Hong Kong has become the main target outside of China in the East Asian region for investors in the FinTech space, surpassing Singapore and Australia in the amount of money invested in the FinTech sector. In each of the last two years, Hong Kong saw its FinTech investment double: US$107.5 million in 2015, US$215.5 million in 2016, and US$545.7 million in 2017.

This immense growth in external investment is paralleled by efforts by the Hong Kong government as well.

Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, announced that

“the country will be channeling US$500 million towards financial services in the next five years, of which a portion will be allocated specifically to FinTech.”

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[Financially] dedicated Government

The Government has introduced a number of initiatives in recent years to sharpen the competitive edge of Hong Kong's fund industry and diversify the management platform. These initiatives include removing constraints in the existing legal structure, providing a more facilitating tax environment, and expanding the distribution network.

The 2018-19 Budget set by Paul Chan, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong & former Secretary for Development of Hong Kong SAR, promises an allocation of HK$500 million for the development of the financial services industry in the next five years, providing necessary support for bond market development, FinTech, green finance, manpower training, and other aspects of financial services.

Hong Kong will continue to mature its areas of strength: namely biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city, and financial technologies. While last year’s budget allocated HK$10 billion for supporting I&T development, the new budget adds another HK$50 billion, out of which HK$20 billion will be used on the first phase of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation & Technology Park.

The technology park is expected to leverage the technological strengths of the Greater Bay Area cities. This will be done by helping mainland enterprises explore global markets while aiding overseas firms in Hong Kong venture into the mainland.

HK$10 billion will be injected into the Innovation & Technology Fund (ITF). The ITF's financial support for I&T development in Hong Kong has increased from about HK$700 million in 2013-14 to HK$1.5 billion in 2017-18.

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Financial support for the startup community

HK$200 million will go to Cyberport to enhance the support for startups and promote the development of the digital technology ecosystem.
Cyberport is going to launch an "easy landing" program to attract multinational companies (including overseas and Mainland leading internet enterprises and FinTech companies) to set up offices and R&D units in Hong Kong.

It will also roll out a new support scheme, offering financial assistance of up to HK$200,000 for each eligible startup to conduct market research and promotion, as well as participate in business missions, trade fairs & exhibitions, etc., outside Hong Kong. The financial assistance offered under Cyberport's incubation program to individual startups will also increase by 50% to HK$500,000.

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Hong Kong's regulatory push into the "New Era of Smart Banking"

In his keynote speech at Hong Kong’s annual banking conference, HKMA’s Chief Executive Norman T.L. Chan spoke about the “New Era of Smart Banking” in Hong Kong.
The HKMA Chief Executive outlined the efforts being made by and results seen from the HKMA to advance innovation in FinTech through sandboxes, talent searches, open API, virtual banking, and R&D. Mr. Chan outlined a set of future plans to enhance e-commerce, which were standardized through a common QR code system for payments.

In efforts to promote wider standardized usage of mobile retail payments, the Working Group on Common QR Code Standard for Retail Payments in Hong Kong was established in October of 2017. Known as the “WG,” the group’s goal is to develop a common QR specification to standardize retail payments. This project would have the ability to enable a common QR code which could facilitate payments across various payment schemes, e-commerce, and banks. It would also enable smaller businesses to adopt the QR code as well.

“A common QR code standard will facilitate merchants, especially SMEs, in using one single QR code to accept different payment schemes. This would certainly help promote the wider use of mobile retail payments in Hong Kong.”

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Norman Chan,
Chief Executive, HKMA

At the end of May 2018, the HKMA published revised guidelines for the Authorization of Virtual Banks after consulting with 25 financial and technology authorities of the country.

All parties supported the introduction of virtual banking in Hong Kong and most agreed that virtual banks should be subject to the same supervisory requirements applicable to conventional banks. Revised Guidelines enable both financial and non-financial firms to operate a virtual bank in Hong Kong with local incorporation.

“We are pleased to have broad support received during the public consultation for the development of virtual banking. We hope to be in a position to start granting licenses to virtual banks towards the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year.” – Norman Chan, Chief Executive, HKMA

Since the HKMA announced its intention to encourage virtual banking in Hong Kong in September 2017, it has received inquiries and indications of interests from over 50 companies.

Another initiative started in Hong Kong as part of the "New Era of Smart Banking" is the mentioned earlier formulation of a framework for an Open Application Programming Interfaces (API).

Open APIs would allow for a stable standard environment for finance and technology for all types of use cases. For example, this could enable websites and apps to integrate payment services or allow bank customers to use third-party applications to analyze their cash flow.

The implementation of such open API technology would enable individuals, companies, apps, and institutions of all types to reach universal connectivity. Since the benefit of such technology is dependent on its widespread adoption, HKMA and the Hong Kong government aim to incentivize and potentially mandate the usage of the open APIs.

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Faster payments scheme

The HKMA is prepared to launch a Faster Payment System offering a 24-hour real-time payment function. This will allow banks and Stored Value Facility service providers to provide real-time, round-the-clock, cross-institution payment and fund transfer service to their business & personal customers.

At the end of June 2018, the HKMA published statistics on SVF schemes issued by SVF licensees for the first quarter of 2018, which state that the total number of SVF accounts in use was 49.01 million by the end of Q1 2018, representing a 4.9% increase from the previous quarter. The total number of SVF transactions was around 1.4 billion for Q1 2018, representing a 4.4% drop from the previous quarter.

The total value of SVF transactions was HK$39 billion for Q1 2018, which is slightly greater than the previous quarter (0.9%). Of the total transaction value, HK$20.4 billion was related to POS spending payments, HK$16.1 billion to online spending payments, and HK$2.5 billion to P2P funds transfers.

The total float & SVF deposit was HK$8.4 billion for Q1 2018 (5.9% higher than the previous quarter).

Compared to the end of Q1 2017, the total number of SVF accounts in use at the end of Q1 2018 was up by 16.6%, and the total float & SVF deposit was up by 21.9%. The total number and value of SVF transactions during Q1 2018 were up by 5.2% and 30.2% respectively year on year.

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Focus on R&D – The competitive advantage of research in the business space

The government will also allocate HK$10 billion to support the establishment of two research clusters on healthcare technologies and on artificial intelligence and robotics technologies. The goal of this is to attract the world's top scientific research institutions and

technology enterprises to Hong Kong for conducting more midstream and downstream R&D projects in collaboration with local universities and scientific research institutions. Such clusters will pool and nurture more technology talent in Hong Kong, Chen shares.

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Hong Kong – A melting pot of unmatched talent

A talent pool is a foundation of any competitive hub, and Hong Kong's FinTech community is unmatched in its vibrancy, the plethora of events, the meetups, the organizations, and the virtual hubs. They’re specifically tailored to facilitate top talent development and acquisition, as well as create a conducive environment for business to adopt and

push innovation into the market. Hong Kong is home to 13 institutions of higher education and universities which award academic degrees. Currently, five Hong Kong universities are featured in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings top 100 list, demonstrating the high quality of its education system.

Top universities in Hong Kong offer undergraduate and advanced degrees in FinTech:
1. THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG (HKU)

The University of Hong Kong (HKU), one of the world’s leading universities, along with collaborators SuperCharger, Cyberport, CFTE, UNSW Sydney, Microsoft, and ACMI, introduced Asia’s first FinTech MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): Introduction to FinTech. Introduction to FinTech is a six-week online course on FinTech that provides a foundational understanding of the forces that are shaping the world of financial services. About 13,000+ students have enrolled in the course within one day of its launch. By the end of June, HKU FinTech MOOC reached 20,000 registrations in 190 countries.

During the six-week free program, students will be introduced to the major areas of FinTech and the impact of technologies on the financial industry.

The program also covers the role of regulation in the current transformation and will provide an introduction to the main concepts of RegTech. The FinTech MOOC will give students the keys to understand what’s happening in finance today.

HKU also offers a FinTech Course in the form of a series of video lectures, case studies, and assessments across major areas of FinTech including payments & emerging technologies, digital finance & alternative finance, FinTech regulation & RegTech, data & security, and the future of data-driven finance, as well as the core technologies driving FinTech including blockchain: AI and Big Data.

2. THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG (CUHK)

The Faculty of Engineering of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) launched a new four-year undergraduate program in FinTech in the 2017/18 academic year. It aims to nurture leadership and entrepreneurship among the next generation of local talent in support of Hong Kong’s endeavor to grow into an international FinTech hub.

"The program aims to educate and equip students with the essential knowledge and capabilities to apply technological innovations to financial services, as well as to nurture leadership and entrepreneurship for the next generation of financial talent in support of Hong Kong’s development into an international FinTech hub. We expected to admit 25 students each year. But the program turned out to be a favorite among applicants. In the end, a total of 43 new students were admitted." – Professor Chen Nan, Director of CUHK’s Bachelor of Engineering Program in Financial Technology.

3. THE HONG KONG UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (HKUST)

HKUST Business School Executive Education Office offers a FinTech for Non-Technical Executives & Professionals program. Targeted at non-technical executives, this program presents the fundamental concepts of core technologies to facilitate the development of an appreciation of the underlying technology enablers.

The program also covers regulatory issues and challenges. Participants have the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with members of the FinTech community to broaden their understanding.

HKUST also offers a FinTech Foundations and Overview course of Coursera.

4. CITY UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

CityU has experience organizing workshops and festivals for FinTech-focused professionals — Python Programming for FinTech, Development of ePayment and Digital Currency, CityU Digital Business Innovation Festival, CityU MBA SHARP Forum, etc.

Additionally, the CityU Department of Economics and Finance organizes visits to companies and places of special interests for its students. For example, this includes the HKMA -ASTRI FinTech Innovation Hub, Cyberport FinTech Smart-Space & Entrepreneurship Centre, and Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone.

5. THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

PolyU offers a two-year full-time government-funded top-up degree program. Subjects include Programming for FinTech Applications, Computer Systems Security, Business Finance, FinTech Seminar and Case Study, E-Payment and Cryptocurrency, Crowdfunding and E-Finance, Big Data Analytics, and Emerging Topics in FinTech.

In April 2018, PolyU, AMTD Group Company, and AMTD Foundation jointly launched Hong Kong's first university-industry collaborated FinTech Centre.

The FinTech Centre will conduct FinTech-related research, consultancy, and training projects for the financial industry, provide support to startups, facilitate exchanges among local Chinese mainland & overseas experts, and offer FinTech education for students, financial personnel & the public.

In addition to the 200+ academics of PolyU Faculty of Business specialized in key disciplines of business (accounting, finance, management, marketing, logistics, and transport), the FinTech Centre will also have cross-disciplinary support from experts of other PolyU faculties/departments including computing, engineering, and applied mathematics.

The FinTech Centre will also benefit from over 550 alumni and students of PolyU's flagship doctorate programs in business administration (DBA) and management (DMgt). PolyU's DBA, launched in 1996, is the first doctorate program of its kind in the region.

6. HONG KONG BAPTIST UNIVERSITY

HKBU offers a Contemporary Issues in Finance: FinTech course, which aims to provide students with the fundamental concepts and research issues of FinTech. This course gives an overview of the latest development of the application of technological innovations to financial services. It includes the topics of blockchain technology, crowdfunding, digital wallets, online payment systems, peer-to-peer lending, robo-advisors, and the regulatory issues in FinTech.

HKBU also runs an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp (the Autumn 2018 application period is set to take place between September 5 – October 11, 2018) for its full-time students, in which selected applicants (limited to 35) can form teams, pitch ideas, attend interactive lectures such as Design Thinking, join workshops conducted by UC Berkeley consultants, receive one-on-one mentoring from industry experts, and learn in a collaborative environment.

As part of the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in mid-August 2017, 12 HKBU students traveled to UC Berkeley to participate in a five-day intensive boot camp. Students had to first pitch their ideas successfully at the three-day HKBU Entrepreneurship Bootcamp 2017 held on HKBU campus earlier in April. Representing HKBU were three student teams and one startup team. The student teams included WorldClass, an online tutorial platform; Homeal which uses a sharing economy model to connect cooks to customers; and Ledo Ads, an end-to-end service for placing advertisements on previously idle spaces such as restaurant tabletops. Cathay Photonics, the startup team and namesake of the company set up by Professor Cheah Kok-wai, Chair Professor of Physics, outpitched 22 other teams from 20 countries.

7. THE OPEN UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

The Open University of Hong Kong is offering a Bachelor of Business Administration with Honors in Financial Technology and Innovation Program.

The program is designed to provide students with quality education in theoretical/practical knowledge and skills to help them apply technological innovations to a changing business environment, especially the financial services industry, so as to equip them to take up positions of responsibility, leadership, and consultancy in the financial services industry.

The program aims to prepare students for the challenges in the international business environment. In view of this, a Global Immersion Program is held to provide students with opportunities to study and travel abroad, be exposed to the language of global business, engage with global issues, and eventually become empowered global citizens.

8. LINGNAN UNIVERSITY

In June 2018, in order to help nurture talents to meet the growing needs of FinTech in Hong Kong, Lingnan University joined the FinTech Career Accelerator Scheme (FSAC), a talent development scheme jointly launched by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI).

Other universities that participated in the Scheme include City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, and the Open University of Hong Kong.

The Scheme offers practical six-month or one-year internships for undergraduate and postgraduate students from the disciplines of Business & Finance, Computer Science, Science, Engineering, and Law, and who are interested in developing their careers in the FinTech industry. In The Scheme, interns will be co-supervised by the 12 joining banks, HKMA, and ASTRI on FinTech projects.

The program has around 70 openings offered by the 11 participating banks. The internship includes projects in cybersecurity, distributed ledger technology, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, biometric authentication, mobile app development, and more.

Aside from academics, the government has taken up the responsibility to cultivate innovation through the launch of the Technology Talent Admission Scheme, or TechTAS, with the goal to fill a gap in the global problem of talent shortage, Secretary of Innovation & Technology Nicholas Yang shared. In the first year of the program, 1,000 people will be admitted and employed by applicant companies and institutes on both a full-time and intern basis. The program aims to cultivate growth in the research and development of various science and technology sectors, including financial technologies.

In an effort to keep up with the growing demands of the FinTech industry, the HKMA also launched an updated version of the FinTech Career Accelerator Scheme (FCAS 2.0). The goal of the program is to advance FinTech talent in Hong Kong through initiatives like entrepreneurship camps, internship programs, gap year programs, and graduate programs.

“FCAS 2.0 presents rewarding career exposure for our young talents to learn the leading edge FinTech developments locally and internationally. The HKMA will continue to work with the FinTech community and other relevant parties to expand the talent pool and facilitate Hong Kong to move into the new era of Smart Banking.”

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Mr. Norman TL Chan
Chief Executive of the HKMA

In additional efforts, the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, created in June 2017, has seen success in their three main initiatives to Advocate, Collaborate, and Educate in the FinTech space. In March of 2018, the group appointed its first board of directors, led by Chairman Henri Arslanian. The group, which has grown to represent over 1,000 members and 160 organizations, has recently celebrated its anniversary and aims to continue attracting members, companies, and support through its meetings, events, and publications.

With goals to advocate, collaborate, and educate, the Association made partnerships with many local organizations including Cyberport and Hong Kong Science Park as well as organized demo days to connect FinTech startups with financial institutions in Hong Kong.

  • Represented the community with government authorities, including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Securities & Futures Commission, the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, and the Insurance Authority.
  • Participated in numerous regulatory consultations, including virtual banking and open APIs. Signed MoU with seven other FinTech associations, including Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Switzerland and Australia, and is in discussion with 10 more.
  • Entered partnerships with local organizations to promote the startup and technology ecosystem: Hong Kong Science Park, Cyberport, WHub, Metta, and the Hong Kong Internet Finance Association.
  • Launched a new committee to focus on Hong Kong’s role in the Greater Bay Area scheme.
  • Held demo days to connect FinTech startups with corporates on specific areas such as InsurTech and KYC/AML.
  • Organized events with over 2,000 attendees.
  • Worked with universities to support FinTech programs and promote careers in the industry: the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Lingnan University.
  • Organized summer internship programs for SMEs and startups.

Not only are Hong Kong's private and public sectors actively involved in developing and supporting top talent, but Hong Kong also hosts some of the most important FinTech events in the region, bringing together renowned industry experts, talented tech professionals, and international businesses. Such events include HK FinTech Week 2018, Cloud Expo Asia Hong Kong 2019, Finance Disrupted: Asia 2018, RISE Hong Kong 2018, FinTech O2O Global Summit, and more. More FinTech or startups events can be found on Hong Kong FinTech and StartmeupHK. Hong Kong hosts a variety of ventures and regularly organizing events, closely following and sharing industry insights with the community of entrepreneurs, banks, and the VCs:

Next Money (900+ members), Hong Kong FinTech, Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS), Cyberport, FINNOVASIA, NexChange. Moreover, Hong Kong is a strong connecting point between international and local talent. It's a melting pot, bringing together technology professionals from a number of Western countries, and has an active European presence. The population of the European community (including UK, France, Germany, and Italy) is over 60,000 in Hong Kong. Due to its strong European heritage both currently and in the past, Hong Kong has exceptional knowledge of both international and Chinese markets. Europeans staying in Hong Kong experience a vibrant culture mix of Asian and Western Culture and enjoy a very high standard of living.

“The Hong Kong FinTech ecosystem has become quite vibrant. This is a function of the pieces of the ecosystem developing and coming together with more favorable government policies, funding, talent, and demand from financial institutions.”

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Juwan Lee
Founder and CEO
NexChange
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The highly competitive taxation system of Hong Kong

At the end of March, the Government Inland Revenue Ordinance 2018 presented a two-tiered profits tax rates regime announced in the 2017 Policy Address. The profits tax rate for the first $2 million of profits of corporations will be lowered to 8.25%. The two-tiered profits tax rates regime will be applicable to any year of assessment commencing on or after April 1, 2018, promising tax-paying corporations or unincorporated businesses to save up to $165,000 and $150,000 each year respectively.

The two-tiered profits tax rates regime will benefit eligible enterprises with assessable profits, irrespective of their size. To ensure that the tax benefits will target SMEs, the application of the two-tiered rates is restricted to only one enterprise nominated among connected entities.

"It is the government's objective to adopt a competitive taxation system to promote economic development while maintaining a simple and low tax regime. The two-tiered profits tax rates regime will reduce the tax burden on enterprises, especially SMEs and startup enterprises. This will help foster a favorable business environment, drive economic growth, create job opportunities, and enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness. On the assumption that 20% of the tax-paying enterprises are connected enterprises, the tax revenue forgone arising from the implementation of the two-tiered regime will be about $5.8 billion per year or around 4% of the total profits tax received in 2016-17," a government spokesman said.

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Government-supported world-class sandboxes, fast-tracking innovation adoption by market participants

Government support does not end with financial aid and science centers. The sandboxes are one of the tools that the regulators use to allow financial institutions to gather real-life data and user feedback on their FinTech products/services in a controlled environment. Financial institutions can then make suitable refinements to their FinTech products/services to expedite the eventual full launch.

Three main sandboxes include:

Launched by the HKMA in September 2016, the sandbox allows banks and their partnering technology companies to trial their FinTech initiatives involving a limited number of participating customers without the need to achieve full compliance with the HKMA's supervisory requirements.

The sandbox allows banks and technology companies to gather data and user feedback in order to refine the regulatory environment, making it more favorable for the launch of new technology products, and reducing the cost of development.

THE HKMA HAS UPGRADED THE SANDBOX WITH THE FOLLOWING FEATURES:

A FinTech Supervisory Chatroom to provide feedback to banks and tech firms at an early stage of their FinTech projects;
Technology firms can access the sandbox by seeking feedback from the chatroom without going through a bank;
The sandboxes of the HKMA, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), and the Insurance Authority (IA) are linked so that there is a single point of entry for pilot trials of cross-sector FinTech products.

Banks and their partnering tech firms that use the FSS are able to gather real-life data and user feedback on their new FinTech products or services more easily so that they can make refinements to them as appropriate before the full launch. The FSS can facilitate banks and their partnering tech firms to rollout FinTech initiatives earlier, at a lower cost, and with better quality upon full product launch.

As of the end of May, the most transparent sandbox in Asia tested 32 new technology products.

Out of these cases, 24 pilot trials have been completed, and the products have subsequently been rolled out. Separately, banks have collaborated with tech firms in 18 trial cases.

Out of the total number of pilot trials, biometric authentication technology was involved in 7 pilots, soft tokens in 4, chatbots in 2, distributed ledger technologies in 4, and another 15 pilot-involved APIs, notification services via social media platforms, remote onboarding, etc.

Tasked with the duty to maintain Hong Kong’s status as a competitive international financial center, the SFC runs a regulatory sandbox to provide a confined regulatory environment for qualified firms to conduct regulated activities utilizing financial technologies.

The sandbox aims to enable qualified firms through close dialogue with and supervision of the SFC, to identify and address any risks or concerns associated with their regulated activities before their services can be provided to the greater public in Hong Kong.

The Insurance Authority (IA) has been proactively assisting market participants to tackle InsurTech related regulatory issues.
The IA has launched various initiatives to promote InsurTech development in Hong Kong. These include:

1. InsurTech sandbox;

2. Fast track for applications for authorization of new insurers owning and operating solely digital distribution channels;

3. InsurTech Facilitation Team;

4. Working Group on embracing FinTech in Hong Kong under Future Task Force.

Insurers testing new InsurTech initiatives under the sandbox can gain real market data and information of user experience in a controlled environment before launching them into the market. At the same time, the sandbox would provide inputs to the IA for refining its supervisory requirements, taking into account the latest technological applications by the insurance industry.

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Hong Kong's strong international ties

Hong Kong is one of the most networked FinTech hubs around the world, continuously forging ties with international forward-thinking authorities.

imageimageHong Kong + UK

At the end of March, InvestHK in conjunction with the UK Department for International Trade ran the inaugural InvestHK UK FinTech Awards.

Last September, the UK FinTech Awards 2018 followed the launch of the UK-Hong Kong FinTech Bridge (“the Bridge”) to foster closer collaboration at a government, regulator, and business level in the FinTech sector.

The competition received 30 submissions from companies based in the UK and drew interest from the global FinTech community with inquiries from FinTech firms from overseas, including Singapore, Australia, and Ireland.

“We are excited to see how the Awards connect top UK talent with the rapid FinTech development in Hong Kong. Many of them match well with the strong FinTech sectors of Hong Kong, such as RegTech, InsurTech, Blockchain, and CreditTech. We strongly encourage ambitious overseas companies to join the flourishing FinTech scene in Hong Kong for their business expansion in Asia.”

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Charles d’Haussy
Head of FinTech
InvestHK

Hong Kong-UK relationships go even further; at the seventh private sector-led Hong Kong-London Financial Services Forum, Hong Kong and London announced that the City of London (CoL) had joined as a partner of the Infrastructure Financing Facilitation Office (IFFO) of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). This will enable IFFO to draw on CoL's strong network of financial institutions in London to facilitate better exchanges of ideas and experiences and further strengthen the global dimension of IFFO's work in promoting infrastructure financing and investment activities.

Hong Kong and London also agreed to further explore the digitization of trade finance, and London participants welcomed the global trade finance platform based on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) the HKMA is developing with the industry.

imageimageHong Kong + Poland

Earlier in March, HKMA and the Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) exchanged a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance FinTech collaboration between the two authorities, with a view of strengthening cooperation between the two places in promoting innovative financial services.

Under the MoU, the HKMA and the KNF will collaborate on joint research projects, information exchange, mutual consultations, and expertise sharing.

imageimageHong Kong + Switzerland

Another regulatory authority has been building close international tie-ups – in February, The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) made an agreement with the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to establish a framework for cooperation on financial technology, under which SFC and FINMA will cooperate to share information on emerging FinTech trends, developments, and related regulatory issues, as well as information on organizations which promote innovation in financial services.

Moreover, the agreement allows for a bilateral mechanism for referrals of innovative firms seeking to enter one another’s markets.

Earlier, in January, Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer and Mrs. Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR, met in Bern to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the area of financial markets and to exchange views on international financial and tax matters. Authorities and private sector representatives from Hong Kong and Switzerland signed three MoUs during the meeting.

As part of the set of agreements, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) signed an MoU with the HKMA to enhance FinTech collaboration with a goal of facilitating financial innovation in two markets. Another agreement was signed by the Hong Kong Private Wealth Management Association (PWMA) and the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) to further collaborate to promote the development of private wealth management in Switzerland and Hong Kong.

imageimageHong Kong + Australia

Australia is another important ally of Hong Kong's in boosting investments and partnerships between companies in respective economies.

The FinTech Association of Hong Kong and FinTech Australia have signed an MoU this January with an aim of strengthening the ties between each other’s financial technology industries. The collaboration is intended to lift support for investment, partnerships, and expansion into each other’s markets.

imageimageHong Kong + Abu Dhabi

At the end of June 2018, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, the International Financial Centre in Abu Dhabi, and the HKMA signed a cooperation agreement to jointly promote and enable financial services innovation and to accelerate cross-border FinTech business opportunities in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With this agreement, ADGM has established strategic FinTech collaborations with 11 leading regulators to advance innovation and FinTech growth globally.

The new agreement will allow the HKMA and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of ADGM to collaborate and refer innovative businesses and activities to each other’s market, facilitate greater sharing of relevant information, provide support in the authorization processes where appropriate, and explore projects that are mutually beneficial to both jurisdictions.

HKMA + MAS collaboration for the development of the Global Trade Connectivity Network (GTCN)

In November 2017, the HKMA and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) exchanged an MoU on the joint development of the Global Trade Connectivity Network (GTCN), a cross-border financial infrastructure platform based on distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Total global trade was US$16 trillion in 2016, of which 80% to 90% required trade finance. In reality, however, only US$4 trillion worth of global trade was financed, leaving a huge financing gap. Trade finance involves many stakeholders, including buyers and sellers, and their respective banks, shipping companies, and government authorities. The HKMA, acting as a go-between, helps to draw in various stakeholders to the platform and enhance its coverage.

Sharing the background of the development, Howard Lee, Senior Executive Director of the HKMA, explained that together with a consortium of five banks in Hong Kong, the HKMA conducted a PoC project on the use of DLT to build a trade finance platform in Hong Kong in 2016. Since MAS was developing a similar platform, the two authorities have reached the agreement to link the two platforms.

The DLT trade finance platform has four revolutionary hallmarks:

1. Digitization of trade documents

2. Automation of processes

3. Sharing of required documentation & data among participants

4. Reducing the risk of human error and fraud

The GTCN platform will enable auto-verification of trade documents and real-time updates to all counterparties, enhancing the transparency of loan information and enabling the easy detection of any fraudulent documents. Banks would also be able to introduce more non-conventional trade finance products to catch the latest market trends, which can particularly improve the working capital of SMEs.

This cross-border platform will adopt an open architecture, which can accommodate different types of digitized trading standards and connect trading partners from around the world with DLT. Lee expects to formally bring the whole platform to the market in 2019.

HERE IS HOW BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES CAN SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY THAT HONG KONG OFFERS:

Hong Kong has a strong and supportive community of FinTech authorities and investors that offer an array of services to build a path for a business of any size into the APAC region. Some of the most important actors include:

1. InvestHK

2. FinTech Association of Hong Kong

3. Hong Kong Monetary Authority

4. Insurance Authority

5. Securities and Futures Commission

6. The Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong

7. Hong Kong Venture Capital and Private Equity Association

8. Cyberport

9. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP)

10. The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI)

Hong Kong also offers an array of accelerator programs and initiatives to support entrepreneurs, such as FinTech Innovation Hub by HKMA, FinTech Innovation Lab, IC Studio, the Betatron Startup Accelerator, Nest, DBS Accelerator, Supercharger Accelerator, Venturetec Accelerator, The Floor, Moment Accelerator in Hong Kong, FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, HKMA FinTech Career Accelerator Scheme 2.0, Startbase HK, Brinc, and Paperclip HK, Hong Kong’s first dedicated startup campus which uniquely combines accelerator programs with co-working spaces and offices.

The government has also set up a HK$2-billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund to co-invest with private venture capital funds on a matching basis in local technology startups. Also, a Technology Voucher Program with HK$500 million will be used to subsidize local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in using technological services and solutions to improve productivity or upgrade or transform their business processes. Cyberport will earmark HK$200 million to invest in its startups. Cyberport also launched the 5,000-square-foot Smart-Space FinTech co-working space for financial technology startups and companies last year.

Moreover, the HKSAR government also injected HK$5 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) in 2016, which benefits FinTech and other startups.

InvestHK has been spearheading efforts to strengthen Hong Kong as Asia’s leading international business and financial center. StartmeupHK is an initiative aimed at building the startup community that supports local entrepreneurs and attracts others from around the world, and it is starting to gain traction in its effort to promote Hong Kong as the right place to start a business.

Outlining the main reasons Hong Kong is a perfect place to start a business, InvestHK emphasizes the earlier-mentioned government support, strategic location as a gateway to the Asian market, low & simple tax regimes, world-class business infrastructure, business-friendly cities, availability of highly talented professionals, and other important markers identifying a perfect hub to start and grow a business.

For FinTech startups looking to explore opportunities for their businesses in Hong Kong, the dedicated InvestHK FinTech team in Hong Kong, the UK, and the US are the primary points of contact to receive free, confidential, and customized services & assistance:

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Charles d’Haussy

Head of FinTech

InvestHK

Follow Charles d’Haussy on Twitter

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Thorsten Terweiden

Deputy Head (FinTech)

(London, UK)

 

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Michal Kaczmarski

Manager, FinTech

(San Francisco, USA)

 

For more updates and initiatives on the Hong Kong FinTech ecosystem, you can always refer to the dedicated website and twitter.

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ABOUT AUTHOR:

Elena is a research professional with a background in social sciences and extensive experience in consumer behavior studies and marketing analytics. She is passionate about technologies enabling financial inclusion for underprivileged and vulnerable groups of the population around the world.

Elena Mesropyan

Global Head of Content, MEDICI