The Next Big Thing

Hong Kong’s financial tech start-ups to get boost with new bank-backed accelerator programme

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 May, 2015, 7:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 May, 2015, 7:15am

Hong Kong’s efforts to build up its credentials in financial technology innovation are primed for a big boost, with the opening today of an “accelerator” programme for start-ups in the field by management consulting giant Accenture. 

Ten major banks are lending support to this year’s edition of FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, which Accenture established in the city last June.

The Lab represents a competitive search for Asia’s leading start-up financial technology innovators, especially those involved in the areas of mobile payments, big data and analytics, risk management and compliance, alternative currencies, and social media and collaboration.

Applications will be accepted until May 31. Seven applicants will be selected for a 12-week course in Hong Kong that starts in August, which will help the start-ups accelerate product development, fine-tune business strategies and receive mentoring from top financial industry executives.

Banks participating in the Lab this year include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, China Construction Bank (Asia), China Citic Bank International, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, HSBC, JP Morgan, Maybank, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

“FinTech [financial technology] can lead to innovations in financial services that help make customers’ lives easier and banking less costly, which is what makes mentoring start-ups so exciting for us,” said Jon Allaway, Accenture’s group technology officer for financial services, who oversees the Lab in Hong Kong.

With increasing pressure to boost growth and cut costs, many large banks are now seeking to engage with promising ventures that offer technologies designed to improve efficiency in their industry.

Michael Leung, the chief information and operations officer at China Citic Bank International, said: “Some of the solutions that are available today were purely science fiction a decade ago.  This is why we are eager to support fintech’s development in Hong Kong.”

Accenture has estimated that global investments in financial technology ventures tripled to US$12.2 billion last year, from US$4.05 billion in 2013. Investments in Asia-Pacific financial technology ventures have also grown to US$767 million last year, from US$245 million in 2013.

“Participating in the Lab last year enabled us to have high-level conversations with C-suite executives at multinational banks and helped us crystalise our business plan for providing advanced technology for small business lending,” said Thomas DeLuca, chief executive at AMP Credit Technologies.

“Since graduating from the programme, we have attracted additional investors and expanded beyond Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines, recently entering the UK market.”

The Hong Kong-based programme was modelled on a similar initiative co-founded by Accenture and civic group the Partnership Fund for New York City in 2010. 

The New York Lab’s 24 alumni companies have raised more than US$160 million in venture financing after participating in the programme. One participant, InkTank, was acquired for US$175 million by software company Red Hat.

This year’s Lab schedule in Hong Kong will conclude at an “investor day” presentation in November before financial industry executives and potential investors.