Key Fintech Takeaways from Hong Kong Budget 2024

Key Fintech Takeaways from Hong Kong Budget 2024

by February 29, 2024

In the wake of the epidemic, Hong Kong has seen a return to normalcy, bolstering economic growth and community spirit through mega-events. 

However, geopolitical uncertainties, high-interest rates, and evolving consumer patterns have dampened economic confidence, necessitating more robust efforts to stimulate economic recovery. 

Amidst these challenges, the Hong Kong Budget 2024 has unveiled several strategic initiatives to harness the territory’s unique position under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. 

This is to reinforce the territory’s position as a leading fintech hub and drive economic resurgence through innovation, technology, and green finance.

Digital transformation at the core of SME development

Digitalisation is identified as a crucial lever for economic recovery and competitiveness. The government’s investment in the Digital Transformation Support Pilot Programme is a strategic move to catalyse small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)adaptation to the digital era.

The programme focuses on the food and beverage and retail sectors and aims to subsidise SMEs’ transition to digital platforms, covering digital payments, online marketing, and customer relations.

The commitment to benefit at least 8,000 SMEs underscores a significant push towards embedding digital capabilities within the local business ecosystem.

The budget also acknowledges the indispensable role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong’s economic landscape. The SME Financing Guarantee Scheme, extended until March 2026, sees an additional commitment of HK$10 billion to alleviate the financial burdens on SMEs.

This initiative is a testament to the government’s commitment to ensuring SMEs’ liquidity and operational continuity, providing a safety net that encourages stability and growth.

Reinforcing global financial leadership

The budget strategically positions Hong Kong to capitalise on its established financial prowess by hosting major financial forums and events such as the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit and the Asian Financial Forum.

The introduction of Financial Mega Event Week, alongside initiatives like the Sponsored Overseas Speaking Engagement Programme, is designed to amplify Hong Kong’s appeal as a global financial nexus. 

These efforts attract international talent and investments and facilitate the sharing of Hong Kong’s success stories and financial market advantages on a global scale.

Championing green finance for sustainable growth

The Hong Kong budget 2024 strategically earmarks significant resources towards establishing the city as a frontrunner in green finance, aligning with global sustainability trends. 

The proactive extension and enhancement of the Green and Sustainable Finance Grant Scheme, now embracing transition bonds and loans with a generous subsidy pool of US$100 billion, underscores a dynamic push to enrich the ecosystem of green finance.

The endeavour further illuminates this commitment to set sustainability disclosure standards and orchestrate pivotal events such as “Hong Kong Green Week,” showcasing a commitment to transparency and international cooperation in the green finance sector.

Moreover, the government’s dedication to green development shines through the bolstering of the Green and Sustainable Finance Grant Scheme until 2027, facilitating the issuance of an impressive array of over 340 green and sustainable debt instruments. 

With a HK$400 million injection into the Green Tech Fund to support thirty innovative projects, this strategic expansion highlights a decisive move towards advancing green technology and sustainability, underpinning Hong Kong’s ambition to lead in the green finance domain.

New efforts boost access to e-CNY wallets, aiding digital inclusion

The digital economy, underpinned by data and technological innovation, is identified as a new driving force for economic development.

Initiatives such as establishing the Digital Economy Development Committee and launching a Digital Policy Office aim to accelerate the digital transformation of enterprises, enhance digital infrastructure, and ensure the safe and orderly flow of data. 

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s (HKMA) successful completion of Phase 1 of the e-HKD Pilot Programme, exploring domestic retail applications such as programmable payments, offline transactions, and tokenised deposits, paves the way for more inclusive financial services. 

The imminent launch of Phase 2 aims to delve deeper into innovative use cases, further bridging the gap between conventional and digital finance.

Project mBridge is another significant milestone, marking progress towards facilitating cross-boundary transactions using central bank digital currencies. 

The extension of e-CNY pilot testing in Hong Kong underscores the region’s commitment to enhancing cross-border payments’ efficiency and user experience. 

Hong Kong is progressing towards a more interconnected and inclusive digital financial ecosystem by enabling the public to quickly set up e-CNY wallets and top-up funds through the Faster Payment System.

Innovating for the future

The Hong Kong budget 2024 outlines a plan to harness innovation and technology as critical elements for economic expansion. 

By introducing schemes like the Green and Sustainable Fintech Proof-of-Concept Subsidy and dedicating HK$3 billion to Cyberport for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiative, the government showcases its intent to blend technology with sustainability and digital economic growth.

Launching a HK$10 billion New Industrialisation Acceleration Scheme reflects a commitment to nurturing industries vital for Hong Kong’s ambition to be a global innovation hub.

Cyberport, home to over 220 tech enterprises, including three unicorns, illustrates the region’s efforts towards developing a Web 3.0 ecosystem. 

The world’s first multi-currency tokenised bond issuance, worth HK$6 billion, and the push to establish a regulatory environment for stablecoin operations position Hong Kong at the forefront of digital finance and asset management innovation.

Central to the budget is the vision to expand the innovation and technology ecosystem with substantial investments in AI, including creating an AI Supercomputing Centre and a three-year AI Subsidy Scheme.

The focus on accelerating new industrialisation and supporting startups, alongside initiatives for Web 3.0 development and digital asset innovation, underlines Hong Kong’s strategic use of advanced technologies for its economic progress.

HK$300 million ‘iAM Smart’ business platform targets streamlined e-services

The government plans to introduce a platform known as the business version of “iAM Smart.” 

This initiative is designed to streamline the process for businesses to authenticate identities and verify signatures when using electronic government services or engaging in online business transactions. 

By simplifying these processes, the platform aims to enhance security, efficiency, and convenience, thereby minimising time consumption and reducing the potential for human error. 

With an estimated cost of around HK$300 million, the project is scheduled for a gradual rollout starting at the end of 2026.

Growth for startups in Hong Kong

In 2023, Hong Kong was a hub for startups, securing the second spot globally and leading in Asia for emerging startup ecosystems.

 The city’s startups have grown to approximately 4,300, a considerable increase since 2014. Employment within these startups has also jumped, now supporting over 16,000 jobs.

The Corporate Venture Fund from the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, which has invested around HK$400 million in 31 startups, is vital to this success. This move has helped attract about HK$12.6 billion in private investment, indicating a robust environment for startup growth.

New budget measures include the Co-acceleration Programme to bolster the ecosystem further to help startups expand and innovate.

Additionally, there’s a focus on digital inclusivity, with HK$100 million dedicated to digital training for 50,000 seniors, ensuring everyone can participate in and benefit from digital advancements.

Consolidating Hong Kong’s status as a financial powerhouse

The budget reaffirms Hong Kong’s role as an international financial centre, focusing on enhancing its offshore Renminbi business and deepening financial cooperation within the Greater Bay Area. 

The planned issuance of HK$120 billion worth of bonds, including green and infrastructure bonds, indicates an inclusive approach to finance, aiming to engage the public in sustainable development.

Initiatives to develop the bond market and mutual market access underscore a comprehensive strategy to strengthen Hong Kong’s financial infrastructure and services, ensuring its continued global competitiveness.

Strategic investments for future prosperity

The Hong Kong government is deploying a multifaceted strategy to reinforce economic growth, support SMEs, foster innovation, and promote sustainability. 

The allocation of substantial financial resources from the Hong Kong Budget 2024 across various sectors showcases a well-defined strategy to cement its position as a top global city, marked by resilience, innovation, and a commitment to sustainability.

Through these efforts, Hong Kong aims not only to navigate the current economic challenges but also to lay a solid foundation for future prosperity and competitiveness on the world stage.

Featured image credit: Edited from Unsplash