[Sponsored Article] When he was still a PhD student, Rao Xiang founded Axon Technology, a company that applied data engineering and machine learning into the field of telecommunications back in 2003 – a time before ‘big data’ had been coined as a term. Always ahead of the trends, Rao helped banks and insurance firms in China evaluate the creditworthiness of tens of millions of potential customers, before fintech became recognized as a solution for inclusive finance. In the past, it was not easy for Chinese citizens to access financial services, unless they were highly educated and had stable jobs with either the government or large established companies. The value of personality worthiness Axon Technology, with its headquarters in Nanjing, makes creditworthiness possible for any Chinese citizen who has a mobile phone number. With AI-enabled solutions, the company has created a new and improved creditworthiness score or a personal credit rating, known as pinzhi (品值), which is roughly translated as “personality worthiness”. “Everyone deserves a chance to receive financial services. We help anyone overcome the barrier and become a bank customer,” says Rao. Axon Technology’s pinzhi assessment service is able to evaluate a person’s phone usage behavior, by using prediction models and Internet usage data of mobile phone users. Today, all three major telecom giants in China are among Axon’s clients and partners. “From delivery couriers to restaurant waiters, as long as they have a mobile phone, we can generate a credit worthiness profile for them with their data,” he says. “And with a personal credit rating, a wider community can access to financial services, which means a better chance for a person to improve his or her quality of life.” Axon Technology’s client portfolio includes some household names in the fintech sector in China, including Ping An Group, China Merchant Group and 58.com Financial Services. Recently, its service has been rolled out for mainland liquor giant Kweichou Moutai. In 2019, Axon Technology broadened its client base to include small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). Its AI-driven, cloud-based technology can become a robust customer management system for SMEs. The company provides powerful analytics for SMEs, with a view to reducing their customer acquisition cost and better understanding existing customers’ behaviors. A plug-and-play Axon Technology enables SMEs and retailers to provide their customers with products such as free product trials, pay by instalment, and buyer’s insurance. “SMEs don’t have the resources to develop platforms on their own,” Rao says. “We offer a plug-and-play solution that combines AI, blockchain, cloud and data technologies.” Riding on the wave of technological innovation, Rao’s company has flourished during the past 15 years. Rao started his business when he was working on his PhD degree in Information Technology at the Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and later decided to pursue an EMBA at HKUST. Rao says his EMBA experience has expanded his network and broadened his mind. “My undergraduate degree is in IT and my career has been built in the field of telecommunications, so everyone I knew was in the telecom or IT fields. That changed when I came to HKUST,” Rao says. “My EMBA experience was a time of friendship without borders. Our classmates came from different sectors, different regions and backgrounds. We shared similar values and enjoyed the excellent learning environment at HKUST.” Rao decided to study at HKUST because of its strong reputation and world-class faculty and curriculum. “Hong Kong has always struck me as a vibrant city, with its openness and inclusiveness,” he says. His advice to future EMBA students and those who want to become entrepreneurs is to keep an open mind. An open-minded attitude is essential for both learning and leadership, Rao says. Rao’s belief enables him to develop a boarder perspective, and a vision to predict some game-changing technologies for his company, past and present.