FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY
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Investing

Lack of talent pushes fintech firms to look to mainland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 April, 2017, 9:34pm

A lack of available talent in Hong Kong forced one of the city’s leading financial technology firms to look to mainland China to hire staff.

“If you’re looking for the type of people who know how the internet works, how mobile apps work, and have experience of building apps with tens of millions of users, that’s the type of experience you can only find in mainland China,” Li Ting, chief executive of Yunfeng Financial Group told the South China Morning Post, speaking after the launch of Yunfeng’s new robo-advisor application.

“The app is to enable global investment, so Hong Kong is the right place for us to be based, but the reason we have so many developers in Beijing and Shenzhen is that we can’t find the people in Hong Kong. If we wanted five, it might be OK, but a hundred is not possible, they just don’t exist [in Hong Kong].”

Yunfeng Financial was formally the brokerage Reorient Group, but was renamed in 2016, following investment from Yunfeng Capital, a private equity firm set up by Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba and David Yu.

Alibaba also owns the South China Morning Post.

Following the investment, Yunfeng retained Reorient’s corporate finance business, but has looked to transform itself into a fintech company offering both business-to-business and business-to-consumer services. The Youyu Robo-advisor, which was launched on Thursday, operates on Yunfeng’s investment platform, and customers can either choose to follow the robo-advisor’s advice, or make their own investments.

“Almost all our employees who use the app have deviated from the model portfolio, but, so far, none has been able to beat it,” said Li.

Financial technology has become an important battleground as Hong Kong competes with Singapore to be Asia’s premier financial services hub. Many observers see Hong Kong as lagging behind both Singapore and mainland China, though last year the HKMA, Hong Kong’s de facto central bank launched a number of initiatives, and Hong Kong also held its first “Fintech week”.

Nonetheless, talent remains a fundamental challenge for fintech firms in Hong Kong, with some experts attributing the problem to graduates, their parents, and even their parents in law’s preference for a career at a more traditional employer.

Mainland China’s fintech sector however has evolved rapidly, and Li said that in general the mainland and the US were the two most advanced markets in the world for fintech by a number of different metrics, be they number of users or the services being provided.

“In the payments space, China is the most advanced market in the world,” Li added.

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