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Where the mind meets the machine: rising role of technology in the age of FinTech
Financial Technology (FinTech) is transforming everything related to money-matters all over the world. Bankers, insurers, asset managers - the entire financial services industry is moving to digitalise their workflow and processes. FinTech brings along drastic changes – it’s a disruptive technology and a huge opportunity at the same time. For example, at the customer level, people can perform banking transactions anytime and anywhere on a smartphone without queuing up at the bank branches. At corporate level, banks are driving technological innovation by leveraging FinTech applications such as Blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, and quantum computing to enhance their operation efficiency and effectiveness. While this advancement is posing disruptive challenges to the industries, it is also leading the industry to a more cost-effective and resilient model.
Hong Kong is a leading international financial centre. We have a strong pool of financial professionals with in-depth domain knowledge. The circa 240,000-strong financial sector work force in Hong Kong are working for many world-class financial institutions; investors, and innovative start-ups have chosen Hong Kong for their businesses. Leveraging our sound financial and regulatory regime, network, unique geo-political advantage, talent pool, as well as highly developed information and communication technology and infrastructure, our City has the proven capability in developing itself into a premier FinTech hub in the region. Fortunately for us, we have an extremely supportive Government that has actively introduced and implemented initiatives to promote FinTech innovation, investment and deployment in Hong Kong.
For ASTRI, we endeavour to drive FinTech research and development (R&D) to strengthen the related infrastructure and ecosystem. In collaboration with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), we have set up the HKMA-ASTRI Fintech Innovation Hub which explores new FinTech solutions for the industry. Some of our notable FinTech solutions have not only been applauded by banking professionals but also been adopted in this market through industry collaboration. For instance, the HSBC-ASTRI Research and Development Innovation Laboratory has developed a FinTech application for Chinese character recognition that’s works with artificial intelligence. This helps to minimise and simplify the tedious and manual form processing tasks. We have also worked with Bank of China (Hong Kong) to develop the first-ever-in-Asia Blockchain-based Property Valuation Application which can simplify the valuation process and save cost and time.
We are committed to developing innovative and practical FinTech solutions that have economic potential for Hong Kong, Mainland China and the region. Likewise, the talents we groom today will also have massive impact on the future of our financial industry. Hong Kong can sustain and strengthen its status as a global financial hub if we build and groom our talent-pool for FinTech. Historically, Asia has not been a prolific ground for generating FinTech talent, compared to the US or the UK. If Hong Kong wants to position itself as the FinTech capital of Asia, we want lots of talented people to learn FinTech skills and gain the experience of applying those skills.
Being the largest R&D centre in Hong Kong, apart from conducting R&D, ASTRI is also well-placed to connect both the upstream and downstream of the FinTech ecosystem to collaborate with the universities and businesses. Recently, we jointly initiated the FinTech Career Accelerator Scheme (FCAS) with HKMA - a talent development scheme that provides practical training and work exposure to university students and equip them with practical FinTech skills and knowledge. We have also collaborated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, helping the university on the curriculum design and internship opportunities for the first-ever FinTech Undergraduate Programme in Hong Kong.
Innovation and technology is shaping the financial industry like never before. It is foreseeable that technology experts – especially FinTech professionals - will be playing an important role in the transformation of this industry. My advice to younger generation would be “Equip yourselves with the skills and knowledge, that is relevant for the industry you aspire to enter, and meaningful for the roles you wish to secure.” Without undermining the value of academic degrees, I believe a mere engineering degree or just an MBA may not be adequate for the jobs of the future. There is a growing demand for talents and professionals who are “all-rounded” in their approach, scientific in their mindset, and customer-centric in their planning. On the specific topic of FinTech, no matter what you study and which bank or tech-start-up you plan to work for, you must equip yourselves with the right skills, the right attitude. Never stop learning – because the industry never stops morphing!
Dr Frank Tong Fuk-kay, CEO, Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI)
Dr Tong is a Hong Kong-native Chinese national who received his undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral education from leading universities in the US. After a rich and successful career stint in the US where he was credited with an MIT Lincoln Lab thesis, over 200 research articles, and 19 patents, he returned to Hong Kong to take over senior research and academic roles in IBM Research and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Between 2001 to 2004, he was seconded from CUHK to ASTRI as Vice President of the Photonics Group where he successfully led the group’s spin-off and joined SAE Magnetics - a wholly owned subsidiary of TDK. From 2013 to 2014, he was the CEO of Hisense Broadband Multimedia Technologies, leading many successful mergers and acquisition of technology companies.