Hong Kong programme hopes to unearth next fintech blockbuster

Ten technology start-ups selected for a 12-week mentorship programme, backed by 18 major financial heavyweights

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 July, 2017, 7:09am

Ten technology start-ups, including companies from Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and the United States, aim to introduce innovation that could help financial institutions in the Asia-Pacific improve their efficiency, bolster cybersecurity and offer more customer-friendly services.

A system that consolidates and analyses insurance policies from different providers in one place for customers, a blockchain platform that enables users to share data securely and a micro-insurance platform that offers low-cost coverage on demand are among the hopefuls taking part this year in the region’s largest financial technology accelerator programme.

Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, being held in Hong Kong for the fourth consecutive year, selected the 10 for a 12-week mentorship programme, supported by 18 major financial institutions.

“Asia provides unique challenges and opportunities that are driving true fintech innovation here,” said Evangelos Kotsovinos, the Asia head of infrastructure and China chief information officer for Morgan Stanley.

"Working with labs such as Accenture’s is a great way for Morgan Stanley to identify technologies that can help us grow and evolve our business, but also to give back to the community by advising start-ups on how to commercialise their technology to meet the demands of a global financial services firm.”

This year’s participants in the programme are South Korean blockchain infrastructure provider Blocko; Hong Kong-based CoverGo, which automates manual insurance processes; FutureFlow, a US specialist in countering money laundering and terrorist financing; American start-up KapitalWise, which offers a micro-investment platform; and Singapore-based, which provides a micro-insuance buying and claims platform.

The financial services industry will see more change in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100. And that transformation is being driven by a group of smart insurgent start-up companies
Anand Sanwal, the chief executive of venture capital database service CB Insights

The other selected start-ups are Red Pulse Technologies, a Hong Kong and Shanghai-based market intelligence platform covering China’s economy; Sherlock Garden, an Israeli firm focused on detecting compliance, ethics and confidentiality breaches; Starling Trust, a US regulatory technology start-up; Stash, a healthcare and insurance technology provider from Singapore; and Tymbals, and an Australian insurtech company that has created a so-called probability network to calculate enterprise risk.

“The financial institutions in the FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific select start-ups who are trying to address, in a practical manner, current real-world fintech challenges facing the industry,” said Piyush Singh, Accenture’s senior managing director of financial services for Asia-Pacific.

The FinTech Innovation Lab is geared for entrepreneurs developing disruptive technologies for the financial services sector, including so-called big data and Internet of Things, analytics, identity management and blockchain, the digital ledger technology behind cryptocurrency bitcoin.

The principal backers of this year’s staging of the Accenture accelerator are HSBC, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Macquarie Group, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Societe Generale and Sun Life Financial.

Other supporting organisations include China Citic Bank International, China Construction Bank, Manulife, Maybank, Point72 Asset Management, Siam Commercial Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.

Cyberport, which houses the largest fintech community in Hong Kong, will provide the workspace to participating entrepreneurs, while accommodation in the city is being provided by J Plus Hotel by Yoo in Causeway Bay.

The programme will culminate in November, with a “Demo Day” presentation by selected participants in front of an audience of venture capitalists and financial industry executives.

The FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific is modelled on a similar programme that Accenture co-founded in 2010 with the Partnership Fund for New York City.

The Asia-Pacific Labs’ alumni companies have raised more than US$135 million in venture capital financing after participating in the programme.

“The financial services industry will see more change in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100. And that transformation is being driven by a group of smart insurgent start-up companies,” Anand Sanwal, the chief executive of venture capital database service CB Insights, said in a report earlier this month.

A list of the world’s top 250 fintech start-ups tracked by CB Insights raised nearly US$32 billion across 766 deals since 2013, the report said.

Among that list, Ant Financial Services Group was estimated to be the most well-funded fintech start-up, having raised US$4.9 billion over three financing rounds. Ant Financial is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.