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HSBC launches Safeguard app competition in HK

Diana Cesar, Chief Executive, HSBC Hong KongHSBC launched an app competition yesterday, as part of the bank's Safeguard program, a global initiative to fight financial crime.

The competition aims to encourage young and upcoming local technology talent to develop app prototypes to solve real time challenges for banks in ensuring they have up-to-date customer information.

HSBC CEO for Hong Kong Diana Cesar said up-to-date, accurate information is a critical weapon for helping banks prevent criminals from accessing the financial system.

“HSBC’s aim is to harness local talent and technological know-how to help us collect up-to-date information about customers in a way that is simple and convenient for them. I cannot wait to see the great ideas that emerge,” she said.

According to the UN, criminals launder an estimated up to US$2 trillion globally each year while engaging in activities such as human trafficking, terrorism and the trade in illegal drugs. Criminals also harm the Hong Kong community from fraud schemes such as CEO fraud – involving fraudsters impersonating high-level employees and instructing employees to make illicit wire transfers.

To counter these threats HSBC has been encouraging customers to update their information, but to minimize inconvenience the bank seeks to use technology to make the process as smooth as possible.

To accommodate this, the app competition is based on the premise of using technology to synchronise changes in personal information with a bank's records, and of finding the best way to contact business customers, particularly when they are away from the city.

Engaging local community

The app competition aims to tackle two challenges using technology: update personal information changes among the retail customers; enhance the ability to contact the right person of the business customers' companies. 

Contestants can tackle one or both challenges. But they must be either students from local institutions or startups with business registered in Hong Kong between 2012 - 2016. Contestants will have until October 31 to submit their entries to the competition.

ASTRI is acting as technology enabler for the competition. It is supplying APIs for the challenge to help participants develop their app prototypes for either iOS or Android. According to Mei-kei Ieong, CTO of ASTRI, it has developed a blockchain-based virtual platform based on R3 Corda. Contestants can install this platform on their own computing equipment to enable the app devleopment.

Entries will be reviewed by a group of HSBC specialists and a shortlist of finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of banking and technology experts during a demo day in early December.

Prizes on offer for the first, second and third-placed solutions include up to HK$100,000 for student participants and up to HK$300,000 for the startup entrants, as well as the possibility of securing seed funding to develop their apps into commercial products.