Finnovasia was held on 30 May 2016 in Cyberport, Hong Kong. It is the premier event focusing on the current hot topic: FinTech. FinTech is the application of technology to solve problems in finance: antiquated procedure, expensive overhead, lapse in cyber-security and failure to fully digitize many processes. FinTech companies mostly want to work with banks and insurance companies to make things faster, cheaper and more accurate.
In Finnovasia we see representatives from banks, insurance companies, start-ups, regulators and accounting firm discussing the future of finance. Many ideas like cryto-currency and block-chains are truly revolutionary. Other topics like P2P and robo-advisors seem more evolutionary. All participants agreed that financial institutions will adopt more technology to improve efficiency, to deliver better products to clients and to lower the occurrence of errors and fraud.
One of very engaging panel discussion I attended was called “Building Sustainable FinTech Eco-system”. All the speakers were ladies involved in the tech area. For FinTech to prosper, you need few elements: support from the government, financial institutions that are willingness to adopt new technology, start-ups and supply of programmers. One of the speakers, Susanna Chishti from UK, discussed how London became the leading global FinTech center. London has always been strong in nurturing start-ups due to its entrepreneurship culture. London has also been blessed by the abundance of programming talents. The UK Government has been very aggressive in supporting FinTech companies by attracting FinTech companies to be located in London. London has supported the formation of many trade organizations like FinTech Circle, in which Susanna Chishti is the president.
Another speaker Ayesha Khanna, the CEO & co-founder of Keys Academy in Singapore, discussed an important aspect of the eco-system: education. Keys Academy has been running Fintech classes for the children. Ayesha wants to convey the message FinTech is a tool to solve financial problems. So problem solving skill is emphasized whereas the word FinTech is to be avoided so children understand the role of technology.
Joanna Cheung, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Tuspark Hong Kong/TGN, an incubator, talks about the unique position of Hong Kong as the bridge between the East and West. The low tax regime is highly attractive to many foreigners. Hong Kong is a major financial center in the world. As China is considered by many to be the leading FinTech country in the world, Hong Kong is often the stepping stone of many tech companies in China as they expand overseas. Many Chinese companies are currently opening offices in Hong Kong, creating opportunities for local start-ups to meet their needs. However, Joanna is also realistic, nothing Hong Kong has a scarcity of programmers. It has been very hard to bring Indian programmers to work in Hong Kong. Another challenge is the education system in Hong Kong. Students are not trained to be creative, to think outside the box. In other words, they are not really equipped to confront the new paradigm caused by FinTech.
London and Singapore are two of the leading global Fintech centers. Each of them succeeds because of a supportive government, a community of entrepreneur to exchange ideas, a pool of programming talent and the presence of many financial institutions which are willing to adopt new technology. Hong Kong must learn from the success of these places to stay relevant.