Gateway to the East: Cyberport CEO discusses the relationship between Hong Kong and UK FinTech

December 12, 2019 | FinTech

Written by FinTech Alliance

Gateway to the East: Cyberport CEO discusses the relationship between Hong Kong and UK FinTech

The FinTech Bridge programme enables companies in Hong Kong and the UK to gain insight and boost collaboration through relationship building and discussions.

On a trip to London supported by the likes of Accenture, DIT, Dun & Bradstreet, HKTDC and KPMG, Cyberport Hong Kong CEO Peter Yan sat down with us to discuss why the programme is so important and what’s next for FinTech in the UK and around the world.

“We want to gain a better understanding of the opportunities to expand business into this part of the world – through London to Europe or the UK itself, and vice versa,” Yan explains. “Our delegates are also keen to establish partnerships with UK companies who are interested in expanding into Hong Kong. We are also meeting with a wide range of organisations to learn more about the general FinTech experience, development and environment here.”

Hong Kong is widely known by global businesses as the gateway to China – and further afield – but Yan says while this is still the case, there’s actually a lot more on offer. “In the past, Hong Kong was interesting to many companies as a landing point for them to extend their business into mainland China, Southeast Asia et cetera… but now Hong Kong itself, because of the Greater Bay Area initiative, is relevant in terms of its domestic market – 10 times more than it was before.”

Supported by Dun & Bradstreet and Motive Partners, the Cyberport delegation have been discussing the importance of data, the UK’s approach to open banking, and opportunities to collaborate. A key point of interest is how governments and regulators can look to remove the barriers for FinTech growth both locally and globally. “In the past two years, the UK has already done a lot to facilitate Hong Kong companies expanding their businesses in this part of the world,” says Yan, adding that there will always be room for more.

“Some of the FinTech companies we’ve touched base with have given feedback about simplifying some of the paperwork, contact points and so on,” he adds. “Something that’s quite generic to any start-up company when you go to a foreign place to start your business is you want a one stop shop. This can be difficult since different companies have different needs and you will not be able to integrate everything under one company.”

Talent and skills were also high on the agenda, in particular the skills gaps that a changing ecosystem inevitably brings. “In Hong Kong, we have a decent level of talent in the FinTech area because we’ve always been the financial centre in our part of the world.” Hong Kong’s experts from financial institutions are now joining the FinTech foray and bringing their knowledge of the financial services industry – but there’s still a technical skills gap.

“We try to fill that gap by introducing more technology service providers and encouraging our startups to use their platforms and save development time,” says Yan.

By offering proven platforms and tools from opportunities to collaborate with tech providers, finance experts can focus on the solution development side. “Of course, there are companies that want to have their own proprietary technology developed,” Yan allows, “but those are less than 10% of the entire FinTech population. The majority now rely on technology service providers.”

This practice is mutually beneficial – technology service providers can now reach more potential customers for future growth. “It’s a win-win situation and we’ve done well in the past couple of years,” says Yan, adding that it has proved a way to not solve, but at lease minimise, the need for technology talent. A recent study indicated that Hong Kong especially lacks data and analytics talent. “That, I think, is a global situation,” says Yan. “Every economy now needs good data analytics people.”  

Looking ahead to the future of finance, Yan comments that open banking will continue to have a huge impact on the global financial services industry – and much can be learned from the UK approach. “Two years ago, I would say Hong Kong was lagging behind, but I think the government and in particular the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Insurance Authority and industry organisations are working hard to make sure we catch up.”

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