Commonwealth Bank of Australia sets up lab in Hong Kong, plans to work with start-ups to drive fintech innovation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 6:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 6:28pm

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has launched an Innovation Lab in Hong Kong as the financial institution seeks to drive the fintech industry forward by connecting its customers with local start-ups to solve problems in the finance sector.

The lab provides space for start-ups to gather and discuss their ideas, and also offers a host of data tracking and live-testing facilities to start-ups who lack such resources.

It makes use of eye-tracking and other technology to help companies test and improve their digital platforms.

“[It] is a space where we can bring together people to co-create solutions,” said Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, group executive for institutional banking and markets at Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.

“It involves embracing the fintech community, whom we see as excellent partners for banks,” she added.

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Commonwealth Bank established its first Innovation Lab in Sydney in the middle of 2014. The Hong Kong venue represents its first such lab on foreign shores. Plans are in the pipeline for a similar space in London later this year.

“A lot of people talk about disruption and paint it as an either-or. It’s either the banks, or the fintech disruptors who are going to win, but we don’t see it that way,” said Bayer Rosmarin.

She said her bank can pass on its experience in banking and help fintech start-ups bring their ideas to market by testing them with the bank’s customer base.

The bank is now in talks with several fintech start-ups in Hong Kong to use its lab, Bayer Rosmarin said. She declined to reveal any names.

The bank has dabbled in fintech with a host of payment devices. Albert, an open-source tablet combined with a credit card payment terminal, is one of the company’s most popular payment devices for its corporate customers.

Businesses are able to develop apps for use with the Albert device to facilitate easier payments. For example, one of the apps on the Albert ecosystem allows diners at a restaurant to split the bill via the device.

According to the EY fintech adoption index, Hong Kong has the highest rate of fintech use with almost one in three respondents having used two or more fintech products in the last six months.

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“There are a lot of collaborative opportunities between institutions and start-ups. Hong Kong is a good place to talk about fintech and innovations that concern the financial sector as we are the financial centre of Asia … with talent in every aspect of the financial market,” said Professor KC Chan, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury in the Government of Hong Kong.

The launch of the Commonwealth Bank’s innovation lab comes at a time when the Hong Kong government has made a push to boost investment in innovation and technology.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his policy address last week that a new HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund will be set up to provide support to early-stage start-ups that require funding to bring their business to market.

The fund has a matching process, allowing for co-investment with private venture capitalists as it aims to increase private funding for local start-ups.

“The government will spare no efforts in promoting fintech and innovation [in Hong Kong],” said Chan.