HK to promote Chinese mainland's fintech companies abroad

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Hong Kong can help promote financial technology or fintech companies of the Chinese mainland globally and create access to international finance, a key department-level official of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said.

Charles d'Haussy, head of fintech at Invest Hong Kong, which is responsible for foreign direct investment or FDI, said the mainland's fintech sector is set for explosive growth, and can do with some guidance from Hong Kong, which has gathered tremendous expertise in the field over the years.

"The fintech in the Chinese mainland is business-to-customer or B2C, mainly coming from e-commerce giants such as Tencent and Alibaba. But Hong Kong is totally different and has been a business-to-business or B2B player since the beginning. The two different fintech ecosystems are complementary," d'Haussy said in an exclusive interview to China Daily.

He said Hong Kong is a melting pot of local companies, businesses from the Chinese mainland and foreign companies. "Hong Kong brings Chinese mainland companies more exposure to international finance and the global market. The place is really good for competition, creativity and innovation."

According to d'Haussy, many Chinese mainland technology companies use Hong Kong to start their international operations. He cited Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei as examples.

The local stock exchange's policies on initial public offerings allow technology firms that have shares with different voting rights to go public in Hong Kong. This will likely drive more Chinese mainland companies from the New Economy sectors to list in Hong Kong. For instance, on July 9, technology major Xiaomi Corp listed in Hong Kong, he said.

Hong Kong has pledged full support to the fintech sector and has rolled out relevant policies to attract professional talent from the mainland, said d'Haussy.

Visas and working permits for non-local professionals hired by technology companies in Hong Kong are issued in just two weeks, he said.

Moreover, Hong Kong is building infrastructure like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge and high-speed train links to the mainland, to deepen cooperation between the fintech sectors of the mainland and Hong Kong, he said.

In 2016, Invest Hong Kong set up a fintech team to encourage leading fintech companies, entrepreneurs, investors, and startup accelerators from the Chinese mainland and foreign countries to set up or expand businesses in Hong Kong.

Official data showed investment in Hong Kong fintech firms more than doubled to $546 million in 2017 from $216 million in 2016, putting it well ahead of Singapore and Australia.

In 2017, global investment in fintech companies reached an all-time high of $27.4 billion, up 18 percent year-on-year.

Mobile payments are still nascent in Hong Kong, a contrast to the Chinese mainland where they are used to settle bills in all kinds of daily transactions.

Both Alipay and WeChat Pay, which lead mobile payments in the mainland, entered Hong Kong last year, and have intensified market competition.

d'Haussy said Hong Kong residents have got accustomed to using the Octopus card, a contactless stored-value card that provides customers a simple, safe and secure way to pay.

They could use Octopus cards to travel, shop and dine without the hassle of cash, so it is difficult to change the local residents' paying habits, according to d'Haussy.

However, Tim Lee, founder and CEO of Beijing-based e-payments startup QFPay, a long-time partner of Alipay, said Hong Kong residents are ready to embrace the new technology. This is expected to give momentum to the city's digital payment platforms.

d'Haussy has a suggestion for Hong Kong companies looking to expand in the mainland. "Start from Shenzhen," he said.

Before joining Invest Hong Kong, d'Haussy gathered 13 years of experience in Hong Kong's private sector, having set up his company. He also held a number of management roles elsewhere.

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