European fintech deals indicate change of stance towards booming industry by conservative Hong Kong

Treasury secretary says Hong Kong set to embrace innovation and technology to build an even stronger economy and more liveable city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 7:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 10:49am

Hong Kong is teaming up with British partners to boost its financial technology (fintech) sector as two deals were cut in London to strengthen the city’s role as a fintech hub in Asia.

A delegation of more than 70 participants – including top government officials and fintech industry players – were sent to London on a three-day mission that will end on Thursday to learn the experience of their British counterparts and explore areas for cooperation.

The high-profile mission, organised by the Hong Kong Cyberport and Monetary Authority, signalled a reverse from the authorities’ conservative stance towards the booming industry, as they have long been criticised for being too slow to adapt to the new business model due to its rigid regulatory approach.

TNG FinTech Group, Hong Kong’s biggest electronic wallet service provider, signed an agreement with Tranglo Europe Limited, a cross-border payment company in Britain, with an aim to expand its existing money transfer business to Europe.

Another deal was signed between the Hong Kong Institute of Financial Technologists of Asia (IFTA) and Certificate in Finance and Technology Limited in Britain, who planned to jointly launch a fintech professional training programme in Hong Kong by the end of next month.

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The signing ceremony on Tuesday came a day before Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s trip to encourage British investment in Hong Kong – her first trip to Europe since taking office in July.

“Through this mission, we will foster relationships with outstanding UK fintech companies and investors, and invite them to Hong Kong as their base for expanding into Asia and the ‘Belt and Road’ markets,” Dr George Lam, chairman at Cyberport, said. Lam was among the handful of Hong Kong business leaders and officials in London at the signing ceremony.

“Hong Kong is set to embrace innovation and technology, fintech alike, making it a policy priority for building an even stronger economy, a more liveable city,” Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau said, at the same event.

For Hong Kong fintech players, forming a partnership with local companies would give them easier access to the massive European market.

Alex Kong, chief executive at TNG, said the deal with Tranglo would facilitate the expansion of its money transfer services to Britain, marking the Hong Kong company’s first footprint in Europe. It currently operates in 13 Asian economies.

The partnership would allow TNG to broaden its client base, as 70 per cent of its customers were now transferring money to either the Philippines or Indonesia, Kong added.

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It also announced plans to invest US$20 million to launch a local electronic wallet in Britain, making it the first Asian fintech company to access the European market with a similar service.

Paul Pong Po-lam, chairman of IFTA, hoped to localise its British counterpart’s fintech training, as there were not many highly recognised courses in Hong Kong.

“The British firm’s courses are quite well recognised in the UK, the US and Europe,” Pong said.

The co-hosted programme will be offered in the form of online courses, with a price tag of US$6,000.

Tony Cheung was reporting from London