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Banking & Finance

Hong Kong needs more financial innovation to effectively tap Greater Bay Area opportunities

Critics say the government’s push for innovation is mere talk that lacks real supportive measures

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 4:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 11:22pm

Hong Kong’s finance industry should offer more innovative financial products by harnessing information technology to tap opportunities in the “Greater Bay Area”, according to a senior banker serving the region.

Doing so would help the sector maintain its competitive edge in the area that covers Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities in the Pearl River Delta, Ginger Cheng, the China head of large and mid-cap corporates at Singapore’s DBS Bank told the Asian Financial Forum on Tuesday.

“The Greater Bay Area is the most market-driven area in China, evidenced by how its private enterprises have developed over the years into global players … Hong Kong’s role is to provide the financial products and services needed by companies in the region to further advance themselves,” she said.

China’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ integration scheme

“I see a lot of innovation in financial services in China … I met many financial technology firms in Shenzhen, they are offering traditional banking products in an entirely different and more automated way,” she said. “This is an area Hong Kong needs to catch up on.”

While Hong Kong has access to the technology and talent needed to do that, “the environment is not very encouraging” for innovation to happen, she added.

Cheng said with huge business potential in the Greater Bay Area, her business unit was aiming for revenue growth of 20 to 30 per cent this year in area. She noted that DBS’ Shenzhen branch recorded similar growth last year, albeit from a “relatively low base”.

I met many financial technology firms in Shenzhen, they are offering traditional banking products in an entirely different and more automated way
Ginger Cheng, DBS Bank

Ding Lei, chief innovation officer at HNA Innovation Finance Group, the commodities trading and financial services unit of Chinese aviation-to-property conglomerate HNA Group, agreed.

He said start-ups received more government support in Shenzhen, which has attracted huge pools of talent and capital that helped the city become a hub for artificial intelligence and big data industries.

“In Hong Kong, despite the government’s push for innovation, we don’t see much [actual] support for it,” he said.

In Hong Kong, despite the government’s push for innovation, we don’t see much [actual] support for it
Ding Lei, HNA Innovation Finance Group

Zhang Yuge, China Development Institute’s director of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said more local policies to promote economic cooperation between Hong Kong and the rest of the bay area were needed, as the Beijing-led Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) policy between Hong Kong and the rest of China has not been as effective as intended since it was introduced more than a decade ago.

“We need additional policies more suited to the local environments for more effective implementation,” Zhang said.

He expects Beijing to unveil a detailed development policy for the Greater Bay Area in March, pushed back from an original scheduled announcement in late 2017.

Can China’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ match US rivals?

The area’s gross domestic product is forecast to rise to US$4.6 trillion in 2030 from US$1.3 trillion in 2015, the most recently available figure and accounted for about one-eighth of China’s 2015 GDP, said Susie Cheung, co-convenor, Asia-Pacific Structured Finance Association.

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