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Speech by FS at 2015 FinTech Innovation Lab Asia Pacific - Investor Day (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the 2015 FinTech Innovation Lab Asia Pacific - Investor Day at Cyberport today (November 4):

Paul (Chairman, Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, Mr Paul Chow), Jonathon (Group Technology Officer and Senior Managing Director of Financial Services, Accenture, Mr Jonathon Allaway), ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     We met last December when Accenture first brought the FinTech Innovation Lab to Hong Kong. So it is a great pleasure for me to catch up with everyone today.

     This is, however, a bit of a departure for me.  Normally, they bring me in at the beginning of an event. You know, like the warm-up act: a stab at humour, some juggling with the numbers, and a spirited, song-and-dance finish. Today, however, I seem to be the last man standing. But I figure that you are saving the best for last.

     Anyway, what I want to share with you, in fact, is about the story of beginnings. In the longstanding marriage between finance and technology, I'd say that the ATM, or automatic teller machine, was among the first born.

     The ATM's beginnings went something like this. About some 50 years ago, John Shepherd-Barron, a Scottish inventor, urgently needed to withdraw some cash from the bank. Unfortunately, he was one minute late. The bank doors were securely locked. His money inside.

     Bitterly disappointed, he returned home, decided to take a bath to cheer himself up. While soaking his sorrows in his bath, he had a flash of inspiration: if vending machines could dispense chocolate bars, why couldn't they dispense cash as well?  Simple idea.

     Later that year, he bumped into the Chief General Manager of Barclays Bank in the street. I'm sure, you can guess the happy ending to this inventor meets banker story. Yes, Shepherd-Barron managed to use 90 seconds to successfully pitch his idea for a cash dispensing machine, in other words, six times less than your 10-minute presentation time today.  

     Since the first ATM started operation in London, in 1967, that eureka moment that happened in Mr Shepherd-Barron's bathtub has been transformed into technology that has become a part of our daily lives.

     In the era of digital banking, we're not exactly focused on building machines anymore. Technology is revolutionising financial services, bringing us new challenges, as well as brilliant flashes.

     According to a recent Goldman Sachs report, an estimated US$4.7 trillion of revenue from traditional financial services companies is up for grabs by technology-enabled newcomers. FinTech's potential, in short, runs right off the charts right from the beginning.

     Which is why, in this year's Budget Speech, I announced the setting up of a Steering Group on Financial Technologies which is chaired by KC, who is with us today, comprising members from industry, academia, research and development and regulatory bodies.

     In operation since April, the Steering Group is now looking at the economic and business promises of FinTech for Hong Kong; it's looking, too, at what must be done to make Hong Kong a FinTech hub. We should have the Steering Group's recommendations in the next few months. And hopefully it would be able to solve some of the problems that Paul has just mentioned.

     In the meantime, we're looking at other beginnings, the beginning of a new wave of entrepreneurship, the new beginning of start-ups in Hong Kong. According to the latest statistics, there are now more than 1,500 start-ups in our city, an increase of nearly 50 per cent when compared with last year. They have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from VC (venture capitalists) from different parts of the world.

     Cyberport, for example now supports some 60 FinTech start-ups through its incubation and funding programmes as well as co-working spaces. And, in concert with Stanford University, Cyberport recently launched the Cyberport University Partnership Programme. And earlier this month, more than 50 students from five local universities completed a one-week, world-class FinTech entrepreneurship training course at Stanford.

     As for the seven FinTech start-ups selected for this accelerator programme, is it just me or has someone else noticed that many of them - Bitspark, Ironfly, Sparrro, Moroku - they sound like budding rock groups? Of course, if their FinTech technologies take off, that will be music to my ears. And to the financial services industry here as well. Indeed, in every one of these start-ups, I can see a Shepherd-Barrons of the FinTech world in the making.

     And that's just the beginning. After all, Hong Kong is one of the world's leading financial centres. We are also a major ICT hub. With the ingenuity of our start-ups - of all of you here today - and with the concerted efforts of the Hong Kong Government, as well as industry and academia, I'm quite confident that Hong Kong will find its place as Asia's FinTech capital, and one of the world's leading FinTech centres.

     My thanks to Accenture. It takes considerable innovation to create a programme this innovative, this promising. I wish you all the best of success in the coming year. And plenty of eureka moments - in and out of the bathtub.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:12


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