Hong Kong has a new community-led fintech association

Henri Arslanian FinTech & RegTech Lead, China/ HK and US Liaison, PwCFintech activities continue to ring loud and clear in Hong Kong, as in other metropolitan cities around the world. The latest big bang to make it to the newsstand is the official launched of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong (FTAHK).

Not to be confused with or, the FTAHK is positioning itself as “the voice” of the community for the community. The FTAHK said the community represents financial services institutions, fintech startups, regulatory bodies (hopefully including standards bodies whose discussions and policies impact Hong Kong), educational institutions, incubators and accelerators, venture capitalists, as well as individuals or groups with interests in fintech.

Henri Arslanian, fintech and regtech lead for China and Hong Kong at PwC, said that while there are many small associations in Hong Kong catering to different areas of interest, for example bitcoin and digital finance, these are not synchronized.

“At one point we realized there is a need for one single interface for government, regulators and the broader ecosystem to interact with – a voice of and for the community,” explained Arslanian. It has to be member-driven, non-profit, independent, and has diverse representation from the broader community.

The three main goals of the association are advocacy for the broader fintech ecosystem, facilitate collaboration of the diverse parts of the community, and continuing education of leaders and the nurturing of future generation of talent.

At this early in its evolution, the association has organized itself into sub-committees each focused on a specific area including blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, design and experience, digital banking, financial literacy & inclusion, insurtech, payments, policy and advocacy, regtech as well as talent and diversity.

Each committee will be chaired by volunteers with the intent of bringing together interested parties from across Hong Kong to facilitate, mentor and educate on their subject areas. The association said the idea is to create a bigger, more interconnected ecosystem to benefit the wider Hong Kong community.

The association will maintain a council of advisers comprised of 15 professionals to whom the board and the members of the association can reach out to for advice. Arslenian noted that these advisers will not necessarily be based in Hong Kong but whose expertise, experience or connection can add value to the association.

The FTAHK will finance itself primarily from membership fees (see table below) and income derived from organization fintech related events. The association intends to hire full time staff including a paid CEO reporting to the board on the day-to-day operation of the board.

Karen Farzem, co-founder of and a board member to the FTAHK, commented that one of the earlier call to action of the association is to get the different views from the community on what is relevant, in order to identify what it needs to focus on first.

Claiming to emulate the entrepreneurial character of Hong Kong, the association aspires to strengthen Hong Kong’s status as a fintech hub. However, representatives from the FTAHK recognized that the association will need to avoid becoming another fintech mouthpiece - where activities, discussions take place and nothing happens after the event is concluded.

Around the region,fintech associations have sprung up to cater to the growing interest around financial inclusion, digital finance and greater financial transparency. These associations, including the Singapore FinTech Association, FinTech AustraliaAssosiasi Fintech Indonesia, FinTech Association of Malaysia, and Thai Fintech Association have all sprung up in recent years riding on the interest and monies that are converging around the financial services industry in each country, spurred by developments around digital finance.

It remains to be seen how the FTAHK can bring together the community given the differing and often divergent goals of the different players in the community including organizations such as FinTech Hong Kong - which positions itself as a single point of access for Hong Kong's fintech scene - a tenet of the FTAHK.

Hong Kong Fintech calls itself the nexus for growth and it actually the mouthpiece of Invest Hong Kong, a Hong Kong government department responsible for pursuing foreign direct investment initiatives for the city.

First published in Fintech Innovation