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Hong Kong Fintech Week: Days 1 & 2
The second annual Hong Kong Fintech Week may have drawn to a close but for those who weren’t able to make it, here are some of the key insights.
Organized by InvestHK, Fintech Week Hong Kong 2017 gathered thousands of entrepreneurs, regulators, incubators, venture capitalists, and service providers to the former colony and among other things, further cemented Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s most vibrant fintech hubs.
Juwan Lee, CEO and Founder of NexChange, the curator of Fintech Week’s first two days, welcomed the packed crowd on day one before handing them over to keynote speaker James Lau, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and The Treasury.
Speaking on behalf of the Hong Kong government, Lau reiterated the nation’s continued support for fintech, adding that fintech firms are always welcome to “transform” Hong Kong’s financial centre and services.
Later in the day, former CFTC Commissioner and current NexChange Advisor Bart Chilton gave a rousing speech about bitcoin and various regulatory issues. Chilton said that bitcoin “may not be a scam,” but added that “the volatility is scary” and that he “would not be happy with the recent price machinations if I were a regulator.”
Dianrong CEO Soul Htite was also on hand and he spoke about big data and how his company has been using it to address the current lack of capital for small-to medium Chinese businesses. Apparently, only 10% of the Middle Kingdom’s 40 million SMEs have access to capital, and by using big data and blockchain, Dianrong is now able to fix that imbalance.
Turning to ICOs, PWC’s Fintech & Regtech Lead for China and Hong Kong, Henri Arslanian, emphasized the importance of implementing best practices in order for token sales to be a success. With more than a few sketchy ICOs going around, Arslanian noted that “bad apples” are the greatest risk in the ICO space as they undermine hard-earned trust.
Day two kicked off with a full main hall and an intriguing speech from Aviva Digital Chairman Chris Wei. After talking about the problems insurance companies face between their need to innovate and their dinosaurish legacy systems, Wei went on to dismantle the age-old adage that “insurance is sold, not bought.”
According to Wei, insurance is about understanding customer problems and then providing a solution, not the other way round. The key to this, he says, is to use data to eliminate a lot of the filings and questionnaires that confuse clients. Rather insurance companies must listen to their needs in order to build an innovative customer experience. Wei cited Zhong An as an example of an insurance company that has made it easier for customers to access its products.
Returning to the topic of legacy systems, Annette King, Co-Founder of Galileo Platforms, agreed with Chris Wei in that these systems an be a hindrance as they’re costly and make insurance companies less agile. She says blockchain can help these firms regain agility.
On blockchain, Rudi Spaan, President and CEO of AIG Hong Kong, called it a “wondercure” at the “Future of Insurtech” panel. Spaan emphasized the technology’s value as a method of creating trust, adding that “digital trust is essential.” Discussing his ideas on innovation, he says that it should really be done at a local level and that the CEOs need to “get out of the way” of the experts. Spaan and his co-panelists from Aegon Asia and Sun Life Hong Kong agreed that acquisitions aren’t the way to innovate. Rather, they should be investing in small doses here and there in order to remain nimble.
Later in the day, PWC China’s Financial Services Consulting Leader, James Chang, talked about innovation and the wealth management industry. Despite high demand from HNWIs, the space has been behind the curve when it comes to innovation, but according to Chang, that’s slowly changing. Chang talked about the potential benefits to be derived from robo-advisors, artificial intelligence, and passive investing. “This is one area where China hasn’t taken a significant lead on AI and robo-investment,” he said. “This is because China is less mature than other markets. China is still very retail driven, although it is moving to professional. The China market is also quite inefficient, so there’s room for active trading.”
A resounding success, NexChange CEO Juwan Lee said about Fintech Week Hong Kong 2017, “Hong Kong’s own Fintech Week was a truly collaborative effort among all the Hong Kong stakeholders to bring the world to our city. Over 4,000 participants from more than 50 countries came to learn, network and move the fintech ball forward.”