Citigroup joins hunt for fintech innovators in Hong Kong to help further transform banking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2015, 3:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 3:17pm

American banking giant Citigroup has launched a new accelerator programme in search of innovative, financial technology focused software developers and start-ups in Hong Kong and other markets in Asia-Pacific.

Citi Mobile Challenge Asia-Pacific, part of a global initiative that was introduced in the United States, Argentina and Colombia last year, is a next-generation accelerator that aims to dig up promising young firms to help transform the way banking operations are conducted.

It combines a competition with a business incubator scheme to ensure those start-ups with the most potential get the opportunity to take-off. Registration for the upcoming contest will run from August 19 to September 2, the company said.

“Asia is home to a fast-growing fintech community, and this initiative will help accelerate and uncover new and exciting opportunities for Citi to develop transformational approaches to banking,” Weber Lo, Citi’s chief executive for Hong Kong and Macau, said on Thursday.

READ MORE: Hong Kong 'ideally placed' to become fintech start-up hub: experts

The company is connecting directly with new innovation hubs to “integrate new solutions into our digital business in markets all over the world,” said Jorge Ruiz, who heads up the digital acceleration global programme at Citi’s consumer banking operation.

New York-based Citi is not the first major player to step into Hong Kong’s jostling market of local and foreign incubators in the tech field that are bidding to discover advanced apps and services designed to improve efficiency. 

Global consulting firm Accenture established its FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong last year as a competitive search for early-stage companies that are developing new financial technology services for the region.

According to Accenture’s estimates, investments in financial technology ventures in the region more than tripled to US$767 million last year from US$245 million in 2013.

Singaporean bank DBS lists among the other big names who have thrown their hats in the ring. It established a start-up accelerator in the city this May in partnership with local innovation incubator Nest. Fintech applicants from around the world can apply for the programme, it said. 

To test its line-up of talent, Citi will provide developers with a variety of application programme interfaces they can use to create apps which offer new mobile banking and payment solutions that work with the company’s digital financial services platform. 

Groups of about 20 will be invited to demonstration events in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and Bangalore, where a panel of industry experts will evaluate the prototype solutions and determine the finalists.

These will then get the chance to take their technologies into production with Citi’s support. They will also be entitled to a share of US$100,000 in cash awards and services from a range of sponsors who will be announced at a later date, the company said.

“Citi Mobile Challenge has helped us connect with top developers across the world, and we are excited to bring this opportunity to Asia-Pacific,” said Lo.

Some 20 million digital banking transactions are conducted in the region every month, according to Citi’s calculations. That number is expected to double in five years.

Citi also found that 95 per cent of banking transactions in Asia-Pacific are now happening outside of brick-and-mortar bank branches. 

The company is targeting up to 10 million active digital customers in Asia within the next two years, it said.