Hong Kong risks being left behind in the fintech revolution
The launch of Apple Pay in the city comes after the system and its competitors were already well established on the mainland and in the US.
Hong Kong has innovative and creative people and companies willing to embrace the latest ideas. It is an environment that should ensure our city is one of the world’s leaders in financial technology, the fastest-growing sector of the global economy. The launch on Wednesday of Apple Pay, the American company’s contactless mobile wallet system, would seem to confirm our position. Yet in Asia, the mainland and Singapore were chosen before our city for its introduction and competitors have still to announce when their platforms will be rolled out.
Being first to try out a new technology is not necessarily a sign of technological prowess; companies decide which market is best for them to first enter. But the lack in Hong Kong of platforms popular elsewhere that allow shopping and financial transactions without the need to carry a wallet has been glaring. Alipay and Tenpay are well established on the mainland and in the US, Apple Pay has fierce competition from Samsung Pay and Google’s Android Pay. In Japan, transactions will soon be possible with only a fingerprint and in South Korea, a smartphone app is all that is needed to withdraw cash from an ATM.
The Octopus card was long Hong Kong’s technological showpiece, a fare-paying system for the MTR that became a model for transport companies around the world. It was taken a step further to enable small cash payments and the idea has been taken up in cities across Asia. A recent innovation enables transfers to be made to and from the card through bank accounts using a mobile phone. But newer technologies have been developed and they promise even greater convenience.
As with any technology, success depends on how it is accepted by society. But all new ideas have to first be available and as the discord over the Uber taxi service shows, some people are willing to put self-interest ahead of the advances on offer. We will be left behind in the fintech revolution if we are not open to the latest innovations.