Hong Kong: New initiatives set to boost fintech

Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit

As one of the world’s leading financial centres, Hong Kong has evolved into a prime location for the fast-growing fintech sector in just a few years. In 2017, we had only 180 fintech companies and some 2,200 startups. Today, we are home to more than 600 fintech companies and over 3,700 startups. We also witnessed the birth of 12 unicorns. The consumer fintech adoption rate in Hong Kong reached 67%, which is one of the highest in the world. I am delighted to learn that KPMG ranks Hong Kong amongst the world’s top 10 technology innovation hubs outside Silicon Valley over the next four years.

In taking stock of our rapid development of fintech, I shall express my appreciation to the tremendous efforts made by our two I&T (innovation and technology) flagships, Cyberport and Science Park in nurturing our local fintech community. Cyberport, as the local I&T landmark, hosts the biggest fintech community in Hong Kong. To date, its fintech cluster comprises nearly 400 fintech companies specialising in blockchain, mobile payment, programme trading, etc, and it helped incubate two fintech unicorns. Cyberport is not just a venue for new joiners. Last year, Cyberport was entrusted by the Government to implement the Financial Practitioners FinTech Training Programme, providing fintech-related training to over 1,200 practitioners from the banking, insurance and securities sectors.

We understand one of the major challenges to startups is to obtain sufficient funding to transform innovative ideas into real business. To drive further fintech adoption, we have just announced to support the launch of the Monetary Authority’s (HKMA) Fintech Supervisory Sandbox 3.0 through the Public Sector Trial Scheme. We will provide a maximum of $1 million in funding to local technology firms for each eligible project supported by the HKMA. Eligible local technology firms may apply for funding if the trial projects are assessed to have the potential to support the HKMA’s regulatory and supervisory work in areas such as regtech and cybersecurity, or related to and can enhance the HKMA’s infrastructure projects under the Fintech 2025 strategy. In addition to the financial support to local firms provided by the Government, Cyberport has also launched a number of funding schemes to offer assistance to fintech startups to cater for their needs at different stages of development over the years. For example, Cyberport launched its Creative Micro Fund in 2009 to provide a seed funding of $100,000 to each individual project to convert innovative concepts into prototypes. Earlier this year, an additional $200 million was injected into the fund to enable more promising startups, including fintech startups, to prosper. On the other hand, since its implementation in 2005, the Cyberport Incubation Programme provides comprehensive financial, technical and business advisory support to technological startups. All these efforts have helped catalyse the phenomenal growth of our fintech community.

In addition, the Science Park also accommodates some 80 companies engaging in the R&D (research and development) of various fintech solutions, covering regtech which uses information technology to enhance regulatory processes, investment and wealth management and e-commerce. To help capitalise on new growth opportunities and cross-industry innovation, the FinTech Centre of the Science Park was officially opened in January this year at the InnoCentre. Since then, the FinTech Centre has served as a focal point for all stakeholders to co-create projects for the financial sector with advanced technologies. Another major initiative was the launch of the Banking, Financial Services & Insurance Accelerator, in January, which helps bridge financial companies and technology ventures in the Science Park to develop fintech solutions and create a wide range of new business opportunities in the world of banking, financial services and insurance. I believe we will soon witness many eye-opening business solutions in the market.

Talent is another key to I&T development. On one hand, we are attracting talent from all over the world to Hong Kong via our Global STEM Professorship Scheme and Technology Talent Admission Scheme. On the other hand, we are eager to train up our next-generation I&T talent from primary schooling all the way to tertiary education. We launched the Knowing More About IT Programme in primary schools and the IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools Programme to cultivate students’ interest in I&T through various extracurricular activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), whereas university students can experience I&T-related work and explore career opportunities during their studies under the STEM Internship Scheme. Over 4,000 students have benefitted from this scheme since its inception in 2020. Incidentally, this year marks the seventh anniversary for the Cyberport University Partnership Programme. Since its launch in 2015, over 300 youth entrepreneurs received fintech focused entrepreneurship training from renowned overseas universities, and 68 teams successfully obtained seed funding from the Cyberport Creative Micro Fund.

To sustain our university graduates’ interest to join the I&T industry, we have also launched different schemes to encourage them to pursue a career in I&T upon graduation. For instance, we launched the Research Talent Hub programme with 5,400 research positions offered to university graduates over the past four years. This is not the finishing line but we are striving to create a fervid I&T environment in the community. We have just organised the first-ever City I&T Grand Challenge competition, which attracted more than 740 submissions under the two topics of environmental sustainability and social connectivity from over 1,200 local and non-local contestants on an individual or team basis. We will conduct trials of some of the winning solutions at government departments or public organisations where appropriate. We will certainly keep our momentum in nurturing, attracting and retaining talent.

Our efforts in driving fintech development are definitely not limited to what I have just shared with you. The country’s 14th Five-Year Plan has firmly expressed the central government’s clear support for Hong Kong’s development into an international I&T hub. In response, the Chief Executive has earlier announced a series of forward-looking I&T initiatives in her 2021 Policy Address, which include the earmarking of a number of sites for I&T development, promotion of R&D and pooling tech talent, and provision of support for startups in gaining a foothold in the Greater Bay Area. All these new initiatives will give our I&T ecosystem, including our fintech cluster, another big boost.

Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit gave these remarks at Hong Kong FinTech Week 2021 on November 4.



This story has been published on: 2021-11-04. To contact the author, please use the contact details within the article.



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