Hong Kong, as an international financial center, is positioned to play an important role in the building of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), says Jessica Tan, Co-CEO of Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China, Ltd. (hereafter “Ping An” or the “Group”, HKEX: 02318; SSE: 601318).
Ms. Tan, speaking last week at Hong Kong Fintech Week, said realizing full potential of the GBA, integrating Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, means overcoming three key challenges: dealing with multiple regulatory jurisdictions, supporting SMEs who drive cross-border trade, and enabling the flow of skills and talent.
“The GBA is a huge and exciting area,” Ms. Tan said. “I really hope we can take advantage of this, particularly Hong Kong as an international financial center.”
Regulatory cooperation needed
Across the three jurisdictions of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, there are multiple government departments, each with their own standards and procedures, Ms. Tan said. Technologies, such as blockchain, can be used to create interoperable standards, enabling data to be shared across different systems for transactions in areas such as supply chain, trade finance and healthcare.
“Hong Kong could actually take the lead because it’s one of the international hubs to create such a platform to consolidate Hong Kong’s own various government data,” she said.
Ping An also has experience in supporting governments: Group associate company OneConnect provided the technology for a platform for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) launched in Guangdong Province to address the issues of “difficult, expensive and slow financing” of SMEs. Companies registered their assets, liabilities and transactions in real time with a wide range of government departments and were able to get easier access to credit from banks and other financial institutions. Now the platform has served over one million SMEs and dispersed over RMB 68 billion of loans.
Providing cross-border trade and financial services for SMEs
More than half of the trade within the GBA comes from small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), Ms. Tan said. Financial institutions could streamline their processes to offer SMEs better and faster access to credit.
“In reality, a lot of the economic activity is not just done by big multinationals, but SMEs,” she said. “SMEs are not yet equipped with the ability to operate across the region seamlessly. They need help to lower the cost of doing business. This is where financial services can play a part.”
Ping An OneConnect Bank (PAOB) is focused on supporting SMEs. Capitalizing on Ping An Group’s technological prowess, the Bank provides online and smart cross-border financial products and service experiences to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao investors. Of its customers, 25% have never borrowed from a bank before, and of the 75% who have, 60% of those have never had non-collateralized lending. PAOB is streamlining its lending process with a risk model based on trade and other data, making the application process as short as a few days, down from one to two months. PAOB’s average non-collateralized lending facility is now HKD1.7 million.
Grooming Cross-border Technology Talents
Thirdly, the GBA needs cross-border flow of skills – including individuals and small fintech companies, Ms. Tan said.
Ping An is launching an internship program to give young financial services and technology professionals experience working cross-border. It also has an incubator accelerator for small fintech companies, OneConnect’s Gamma O platform, to give fintech start-ups access to the cutting-edge technologies, such as open application programming interfaces (APIs) applying big data and artificial intelligence, and the opportunity to produce their own innovative solutions for financial institutions using the platform.