‘World-leading’ electronic wallet system linking Hong Kong banks to be launched next year

Hong Kong’s de facto central banker Norman Chan insisted city is not lagging behind on cashless payment, citing 1.7 million credit card and 14 million Octopus transactions a day

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 8:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 September, 2017, 8:36pm

A payment system to be launched by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority next year would be a “world-leading” platform linking banks and payment systems such as electronic wallets, according to the city’s de facto central banker.

Norman Chan Tak-lam was also confident the system would help Hong Kong recover lost ground in rolling out electronic payment systems, which have become vastly popular in mainland China.

His optimism drew mixed views from industry insiders – some welcomed the authority taking a more proactive role on adopting fintech, but others believed the measures were too late.

The Monetary Authority confirmed on Friday that the Faster Payment System (FPS) will be introduced in September next year, after years of discussion.

It would enable real-time transfer of money between banks, as well as electronic payment accounts such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Alipay is affiliated with Alibaba Group, owner of the South China Morning Post.

Speaking on Saturday, Chan, chief executive of the authority, boasted about the system’s convenience.

“For person-to-person payments, you only need the payee’s phone number or email address. Transfers can then be made 24/7, 365 days a year,” he said.

“From my understanding this is world-leading, if not the world’s first.”

He denied Hongkongers lacked electronic payment options at the moment, however.

“Hong Kong is slow off the blocks when developing person-to-person payment systems. But if you talk about cashless payment systems, we are not lagging behind,” he said, quoting 1.7 million credit card and 14 million Octopus transactions made daily.

QFPay Overseas, a mobile payment start-up which has rolled out Alipay and WeChat Pay at 3,000 sales terminals across Hong Kong, welcomed the decision.

Co-founder Will Leung admitted e-wallet services were slow to gain a foothold in Hong Kong, despite the presence of 13 providers already on the market.

“One of the main reasons is that they are not connected right now,” he said.

Leung was confident more merchants will come on board after the system goes live, as it boasts real-time clearing capabilities.

But Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Information Technology Federation did not understand why it took so long to roll out the system.

“This concept has been floated around for a long time. Now the authority says it will take another year – what have they been doing over the past year?” he asked.

He did not believe technical problems were behind the delay, as real-time transfers are always supported by certain merchants, such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s betting accounts.