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Hong Kong Virtual Banks to Soft-launch by the End of the Year as Eight Have Been Licensed

Hong Kong’s first new virtual bank could potentially have a soft launch as soon as by the end of this year, according to Eddie Yue, CEO of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

Yue pointed out that Hong Kong’s financial technology has rapid development over the past three years. Hong Kong will further expand the application of FinTech in banking services, and make use of technologies like artificial intelligence, big data.

“Blockchain can effectively ensure the authenticity of trade documents and the effectiveness of enterprise information, thus facilitating financial institutions to identify the risks of small and medium-sized enterprises, finally helping h them to obtain the corresponding trade financing.”

By now, HKMA has issued eight virtual banking licenses, in addition to banking services, the application of blockchain technology in trading & financing, cross-border payment and regulatory technology is also the focus of the future development of Hong Kong’s FinTech.

The eight FinTech companies that obtained the virtual bank licenses are: Ant SME Services, owned by Ant Financial; Infinium, a joint venture owned by Tencent; Insight Fintech, a joint venture owned by Xiaomi and AMTD Group, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, Hillhouse Capital, and others; Ping An OneConnect, owned by PingAn; Livi VB, a joint venture between Bank of China (Hong Kong), JD Digits, and Jardines; SC Digital Solutions, a joint venture between Standard Chartered, PCCW, HKT and Ctrip; WeLab, a FinTech company based in Hong Kong; and  ZhongAn Virtual Finance, owned by ZA International.

Of the 1,000 online Hong Kong adults we researched earlier this year, 18% said they would consider switching to digital-only banks within the next two years; about 38% said they would likely not switch.  It’s not for security reasons or because they love their banks — it’s because they expect to switch to be a painful process. The competition between the virtual banks and the traditional banks brings technology innovation and service promotion. Although virtual banks do not have physical outlets and provide services through the Internet, they are still challenging to Hong Kong’s traditional banking business.

Previously, the subsidiary of Hong Kong Interbank Settlement Co., Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding with the subordinate institutions of the Digital Currency Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China, aiming to connect the trade financing platform based on blockchain with the trade finance platform of China’s central bank. The concept verification is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2020, which will provide more convenient trade financing services for the enterprises in the two places.

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