Asia embracing digital banking faster than elsewhere, and that includes Hong Kong, says HSBC

Before HKMA’s fintech initiatives were announced, there was concern that Hong Kong might be falling behind

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 3:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 4:04pm

When it comes to digital banking, the pace of change in Asia is faster than elsewhere in the world, and concerns that Hong Kong would be left behind are starting to fade, according to the digital banking chief at HSBC.

“Before the HKMA’s seven initiatives for fintech came out, there was definitely a concern that Hong Kong might have got left behind compared to what is happening in other markets like China and Singapore,” said Josh Bottomley, global head of digital for HSBC.

HKMA sets out seven initiatives in effort to bolster fintech

In late September Norman Chan, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong’s banking regulator and de facto central bank, announced a series of initiatives which he said would open up “a new era of smart banking” in Hong Kong.

These included a repackaging of the faster payments system to be launched in 2018, opening up the HKMA’s fintech supervisory sandbox to technology firms, and the creation of a new policy around opening up banks’ application programming interfaces to technology players.

“What has happened with the HKMA is a big step forward to allow Hong Kong in particular to create an environment where we can offer new services,” said Bottomley, citing HSBC’s PayMe payments service as an example, which he noted was used at the Clockenflap festival held in the city this weekend.

The peer to peer payments system ran into problems at its launch earlier this year, which a bank spokesman at the time attributed to difficulties dealing with the large amount of traffic.

However, on the whole, what is happening in Asia compares favourably to progress elsewhere, according to Bottomley, who was speaking on the sidelines of an INSEAD forum on Saturday titled “Re-imagine Asia: the new digital frontier”.

“I think the pace of change of what is happening in digital banking is happening faster in Asia, both on the consumer side and the regulatory side, and also when it comes adoption of technology like cloud,” he said. “If you extrapolate from that, you may see that financial services as a whole will innovate faster and go to a newer place.”

When it comes to technology in financial services, the pace of change in mainland China has been rapid, as shown by the latest flood of tech Chinese firms seeking to list in Hong Kong.


HSBC is also embracing fintech in its mainland China operations, and Bottomly said the bank has been using chatbots to help customers set up new accounts as part of the bank’s expansion in China’s south eastern Guangdong province.

“If there is a common set of questions, as you get when many customers are looking to open new accounts, then it is easier for a chatbot,” he said.