Fintech Insights from the Asian Financial Forum 2023

Fintech Insights from the Asian Financial Forum 2023

by February 15, 2023

This year’s Asian Financial Forum (AFF) was held when the global economy faced many challenges. Against this backdrop, the forum provided a timely and unique platform for policymakers, business leaders, and experts to share their insights on the outlook for the regional and global economy and explore opportunities for cooperation. 

AFF 2023, themed “Accelerating Transformation: Impact. Inclusion. Innovation”, featured an expanded programme over two days. 

The forum discussed emerging new economic models from rapid fintech developments such as Web 3 and the Metaverse.

Fascinating perspectives on what lies ahead in 2023 were laid out as more than 7,000 financial and business leaders from over 70 countries and regions attended the forum virtually and in person.

Delegates at the Asian Financial Forum expressed their enthusiasm about attending the event in person. After a year of virtual meetings and events, they were eager to gather together to network and exchange ideas face-to-face.

Asian Financial Forum

Managing Director of World Alliance of International Financial Centres Dr. Jochen Biedermann said, “We have experienced the AFF whole virtually the last two years, but it’s a totally different experience if you are here in person and you can interact with the people and also see that Hong Kong is open for business again now.”

Co-founder and CEO of Protos Labs, Mr. Joel Lee echoed the sentiment and said that AFF provided an excellent opportunity for them to meet with key decision-makers, given the traffic and seniority of the participants.

Closing the fintech gap

Hong Kong has a strong foundation in traditional finance, and its high degree of digitalisation has positioned it well to embrace fintech. The city is home to a large pool of tech talent, and its pro-business environment and infrastructure are conducive to innovation.

In recent years, the Hong Kong government has supported the development of the fintech industry. It has enacted regulations to facilitate the use of new technologies and launched initiatives to promote fintech adoption.

Asian Financial Forum

During the “Fintech Innovation – How Hong Kong is Quietly Becoming a Pivotal Centre in the Region” session, Mr. Victor Yim, Head of FinTech at Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, said there were more than 400 fintech firms at the technology incubator, and 14 had stalls in the AFF InnoVenture Startup Salon.

The group highlighted the city’s strength as an international finance centre and how the city is primed to assume a leading role in the fintech industry across the APAC region.

He said the Hong Kong Monetary Authority was letting banks fast-track fintech development. Solutions developed in Hong Kong could be applied elsewhere, and a good example is WeLab, which has now opened up in Indonesia.

“Hong Kong is a leading market in fintech. If you can make it in Hong Kong, you can make it elsewhere,” said Mr. Victor Yim.

Meanwhile, Ms. Steffanie Yuen of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, said, “Fintech 2.0 is beginning to deepen the financial services being provided [in Hong Kong], we can work with the Greater Bay area to create an even bigger market.”

Dr. Crystal Fok, Head of the STP Platform at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, said that finding talent was a race against time, as too few were available. The Hong Kong SAR Government had launched its Innovation and Technology Blueprint, with talent competition a vital issue.

Global Spectrum: Inevitable Upgrade – Web 3.0 Enabled Meta-Future

Asian Financial Forum

The future of the internet, commonly referred to as Web 3.0, is a topic of much discussion in the tech industry. While it is difficult to predict the exact trajectory of the development of the web, Hong Kong indeed has the potential to play a significant role in shaping the future with Web 3.0.

In a session moderated by the Founder of MaGEHold/MaGESpire, Ms. Bowie Lau, representatives shared their thoughts on Web 3.0.

Group President of Animoca Brands, Mr. Evan Auyang said, “There is a differentiation between ‘money crypto’ and ‘tech crypto.’ The Wall Street money side of crypto certainly has taken a hit, but the tech side of crypto, which includes builders and Web3 companies building infrastructure and NFT projects, is still open for business. Although there is less money coming in, this is still a great time for builders.”

Co-Founder and CEO of Saga, Ms. Rebecca Liao, echoed the sentiment and said, “What excites me the most is the unknown. As technologists, our job is to create platforms for builders to go out, build those new models, discover new users, and truly create new joy and entertainment.”

Meanwhile, Co-Founder and CEO of OP3N, Jaeson Ma, believes that the future of Web3 is Hong Kong.

“Web3 removes the middleman and provides the tools and technology for creators to own and monetise their ideas once again. Ownership and empowerment will continue to be the key themes for Web3,” he added.

Fintech Unlimited – Everywhere, Everyone, Everything

In the current climate of expensive credit and wary clients and investors, how are incumbent and fintech sectors adapting? The “Global Spectrum: Fintech Unlimited – Everywhere, Everyone, Everything” session brought together representatives of both comprising BIS Innovation Hub, WeLab Bank, Two Sigma Asia Pacific, Standard Chartered Bank, Visa and the Daiwa Institute of Research to discuss the new realities.

Asian Financial Forum

The question of how incumbent banks adapt to innovation was asked by Moderator Ms. Bénédicte Nolens, Head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub, Hong Kong Centre.

Sir Peter Burnett, Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong)

Sir. Peter Burnett, Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), said that, in some ways, innovation was more accessible in developing markets. Fintech accelerated in developing countries since providing services without branch networks improved a bank’s reach. The first Standard Chartered virtual bank was in Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa – a rural, dispersed population could be reached through their mobile devices without a branch network.

“We’re at a bit of an inflection point in the fintech-incumbent – or dinosaur as you refer to them – world, where there is a great deal of collaboration combining the advantages of both,” he said.


“The external financial environment, to some extent, has forced this, and we can debate whether it’s the dinosaurs catching up with the disruptors or the disruptors working out a way they can bed down with the dinosaurs, but it doesn’t really matter.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of WeLab Bank, Prof. KC Chan, said the firm operated in Hong Kong and Mainland China and had bought a bank in Indonesia. WeLab aims for financial inclusion, making banking available to more people, and serves 55 million users in the three markets. The startup mentality gave advantages because the firm was closely connected to customers.