Fintech — there’s nothing much to discredit HK for
Fintech is a hot topic that has been touted as the new frontier in the development of Hong Kong’s financial services industry and the next battleground in the fight with Singapore for supremacy as the region’s international financial center.
But hardly anyone in the industry, academia or bureaucracy has been able to draw up a fintech road map to show how Hong Kong should proceed, other than grumbling about the city’s backwardness in this area when compared to neighboring economies. Even that accusation is hardly justifiable as most consumers in financial services aren’t finding anything lacking.
Fintech covers everything from the familiar ATM machines to internet banking. Perhaps, Shenzhen offers a much wider range of online services than Hong Kong, but that’s due more to meeting consumer demand than technological superiority.
Hong Kong consumers aren’t all that smitten by online convenience. Many still prefer doing things the old- fashioned way simply because it’s so easy to do it.
Some years ago, internet banking was an instant hit on the Chinese mainland because the services offered by traditional banks were widely seen to be less than efficient. A colleague of mine opened an internet bank account because she could send money to her parents in another province through the computer in the comfort of her home. Doing that at a traditional bank would invariably entail being stuck in long queues and the tedious chore of filling up forms.
There’s no such problem in Hong Kong. The last time I had to go to a bank was a few years back to arrange for the auto recharging of my Octopus card.
In this free market environment, banks and other financial institutions aren’t a sleepy lot that would remain blissfully oblivious to their counterparts in other economies racing past them. Neither would they, being hardnosed business people, spend money on introducing a service just to win bragging rights.
Those people who argue that Hong Kong is fintech deficient should point out specific areas where Hong Kong is falling behind other regional economies. Generalization is not going to do anyone any good.
The oft-cited accusation of Hong Kong lagging behind its rivals in fintech development may not be justifiable, and those who hold that view should point out specific areas where Hong Kong should improve to better serve the customers, experts urged.