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The Highlights of Hong Kong FinTech Week

A Bitcoin on a pink and blue pastel background.

Building on the success of the previous year, Hong Kong's second annual FinTech week did not disappoint, exciting both the regional and global FinTech scene. Led by InvestHK, along with key programme partners, NexChange and Finnovasia, it was well attended by over 4000 people spanning 50 countries including entrepreneurs, regulators, incubators, venture capitalists and service providers.

Over 300 speakers shared key insights on two main themes - blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) – with several subcategories including InsurTech, WealthTech, Cyber Security and Initial Coin Offerings (ICO). Here I’ll share with you some insights from the presentations I attended.

Day 1 - Key Highlights

The main theme running throughout the day was blockchain.

In his keynote address, Bart Chilton, former Commissioner of CFTC, shared his rather candid views on the volatility posed by cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and the understandably hard lined position of regulators. “Bitcoin may not be a scam, but the volatility is scary. I would not be happy with the recent price machinations if I were a regulator.”

Soul Htite, CEO of Dianrong, spoke about big data and how Dianrong now uses blockchain to track transactions in China.
Henri Arslanian, FinTech & RegTech Lead for China and Hong Kong at PwC, shared his thoughts on the use of ICOs. He emphasised the need for the implementation of best practices if we are to build an ecosystem of trust. In his own words, “bad apples are the biggest risk” because they undermine trust.

Day 2 - Key Highlights

Riding on the wave of the Blockchain momentum from the first day, day two’s focus extended to InsurTech and WealthTech.

In the morning’s keynote, Chris Wei, Executive Chairman of Aviva Asia and Global Chairman of Aviva Digital, emphasised that in the absence of innovation, insurance customers default to size, that is, they will choose the biggest players. He shared Aviva’s secret to success, which was the need to innovate such that they had to completely split its digital from its legacy business. He went on to correct one of the most common mistakes in the insurance industry: “Insurance is sold, not bought”. In alignment with Aviva’s customer-centric focus, he explained that insurance is about understanding customer problems and then providing a solution, not the other way round. He redefined the paradigm to “insurance is bought, not sold”. To help facilitate this shift, he named effective data as one way of doing this.

Annette King, Co-Founder of Galileo Platforms, reiterated Chris Wei’s point that legacy systems make agility difficult and very costly. "Blockchain provides incredible agility, in terms of timeframe and cost, and time to get to market.”

The afternoon keynote was given by Andy Hsu, Client Solutions Lead for Greater China at Facebook. He cited statistics showing that 2.5 billion people are not part of the formal financial system. This presents an opportunity for Facebook and the financial community to find a solution. He emphasised the need for “efficiency, scalability and profitability in a mobile-first world.”

On the topic of WealthTech, James Chang, Financial Services Consulting Leader, PwC China, mentioned how the wealth management sector has been slow to innovate. There still exists a lot of resistance from managers but this is fast changing.

On reflection of the first two days, I believe that Hong Kong FinTech Week certainly met all expectations on exploring disruptive innovations in the industry. As IT consultants within the financial services industry, we need to become more aware of the challenges and opportunities presented by these disruptions happening in our very own backyard. In this way we can be better prepared to adapt and respond to our clients' changing requirements in a way that adds value in an evolving ecosystem that demands agility. In the words of Henri Arslanian, FinTech & RegTech Lead, China/HK and U.S. Liaison, PwC, “Hong Kong has all the ingredients to become a global FinTech Centre. FinTech Week is a great example of the FinTech community coming together to celebrate Hong Kong and showcase its potential.”

For further information, please visit www.fintechweek.hk

Featured image credit: Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash 

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