The government needs to play a more active role in nurturing financial technology development to maintain Hong Kong’s position as a financial hub, said Chan Ka-keung, the WeLab virtual bank chairman and former Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury. “The government needs to be bold. They have not been bold enough in fostering technology development in Hong Kong,” said Chan during a panel discussion at the South China Morning Post’s Redefining Hong Kong Series on Wednesday. “Hong Kong has to be a fintech hub; if you are not a fintech hub you will no longer play any role in finance in the next decade. Hong Kong must ‘further boost fintech development’ to stay ahead of Singapore “Every financial centre has to be a fintech hub. Today, fintech is part of the finance environment. There is no way you cannot use technology, artificial intelligence, data to improve financial services. Fintech is already very much ingrained in every financial centre.” The discussion, titled “Asia’s fintech hub – Hong Kong’s future as the region’s financial centre”, focused on the development of the city’s fintech sector and the need to nurture and attract talent. Speakers at the panel session said the city’s regulators must be bold and adventurous in pushing for the development of the sector, while being mindful of the need to protect consumer interests at the same time. The government and regulators were also urged to develop a mechanism to help retool people in the financial services sector in Hong Kong so they can leverage their expertise to launch start-ups. “We need people who actually want to be in the technology area. Universities and educational institutions like the Vocational Training Council have to be very serious about educating and training up tech talents,” said Chan. Fintech unicorn WeLab bags Hong Kong’s fourth virtual bank licence “We cannot just rely on the talent in the Greater Bay Area and Shenzhen, because if we do not have local talent, it would be very difficult to maintain Hong Kong’s position as a fintech hub.” Hong Kong enjoys certain advantages in the fintech space, including the transparency of its legal and regulatory regimes, said Jack Chan Hoi, EY Greater China financial services managing partner and EY Greater China regional managing partner-elect, also speaking at the conference. “[Hong Kong] has a very deep pool of capital, and we also have a very simple and straightforward tax system,” he said. But he warned that the city lacked a centralised and coordinated mechanism for directing its many start-ups towards a common goal. “How we are going to nurture and attract talent in the technology space will be key to position Hong Kong as a fintech hub in Asia,” he added. While speakers on the panel acknowledged the recent political turmoil could damage Hong Kong’s efforts to attract talent, Edith Yeung, managing partner at blockchain venture-capital fund Proof of Capital and adviser at 500 Startups, believed the crisis could also provide opportunities to develop local talent in the city. “It is a problem. But this is actually the best time for us to train our own people on technology,” said Yeung. “Whatever role or brand we want Hong Kong to be, we need to stand up for ourselves and train our own people. The outside world may see Hong Kong as a dangerous place for a few more months or even a year, but this is the time for us as Hongkongers to really build ourselves up and have an identity to the world to attract more people to come.” For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters , subscribe to our award-winning Inside China Tech podcast , and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report . Also roam China Tech City , an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus .