Caught between such unprecedented challenges as negative interest rates on the one hand and potentially disruptive fintech innovations on the other, financial industry players worldwide face many novel obstacles.Since government regulation, the actions of central banks and international bodies strongly influence the environment financial industry players operate in, industry leaders are eager to hear leading officials’ thoughts first-hand. The Asian Financial Forum 2020 (AFF), organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and running on 13 and 14 January, features heavyweight speakers from a wide range of governments and international agencies.The 13th AFF will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) under the theme “Redefining Growth: Innovation ∙ Breakthrough ∙ Inclusiveness”. Global financial experts, policymakers, business leaders and economists will examine topical issues in the global economy and explore new opportunities. Delegates will hear discussions on a wide range of issues such as the new global economy, fintech, sustainable and inclusive development and green financing, offering participants a head start in identifying new economic challenges and opportunities.
Building on advantages
Commenting on the importance of the AFF, Patrick Lau, HKTDC Deputy Executive Director, said: “With its diversified advantages, Hong Kong continues to provide a good business environment for companies and financial institutions from around the world. Innovation and technology are having a profound impact on financial development. We are now seeing technology companies starting to launch banking businesses, while banks are introducing innovative technologies to stay competitive. The AFF facilitates innovative and inspiring exchange, connecting different stakeholders in the finance-related industries and helping to create new business opportunities.”
Yellen shares perspectives on central banks
At the keynote luncheon on the first day of the AFF, one of the highlights of the event, former Chair of the Board of Governors of the United States’ Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen, will be the keynote speaker.Dr Yellen is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Hutchins Centre on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution. From February 2014 to February 2018, under the Obama and Trump administrations, she served as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Fed, making history as the first woman in that position. Prior to her four-year term, Dr Yellen served as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and, from 2004 to 2010, as President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. At the AFF, Dr Yellen will share her perspectives on the independence of central banks and implementation of monetary policy, in addition to hot topics such as her view on the global economy and the impact of the trade conflict between the US and Mainland China.
The keynote speaker at the luncheon on the second day of the forum will be Nobel Prize winner Abhijit Banerjee, who will address the subject of financial inclusion, sharing his perspectives on the economic policies and financial inclusion progress in developing countries, particularly in India.Mr Banerjee is an Indian-born American economist who, along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics for helping to develop an innovative experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.Mr Banerjee studied economics at the University of Calcutta and Jawaharlal Nehru University in India before gaining his doctorate at Harvard University in the United States. He has taught economics at Princeton University and, from 1993, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was appointed Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT in 2003.
The slowdown of the global economy has resulted in multiple sources of vulnerability such as unsustainable corporate debt, volatile capital flows and disrupted supply chains. This is leading to concerns over the possibility of a global recession in the near term. However, in the current low-interest-rate environment, policymakers may have less room to manoeuvre in trying to bolster the economy.To better prepare industry players for the market situation, the Policy Dialogue on the first day of the AFF will feature Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxemburg; Péter Szijjártó, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary; Michael D’Arcy, Minister of State at the Department of Finance of Ireland; and Vladimir Kolychev, Deputy Minister of Finance of Russia. These high-ranking politicians will share their thoughts and insights on policy responses for addressing weaknesses in the global economy.
Heavyweight speakers address topical issues
This year, four Panel Discussion sessions will be held in the afternoon of the first day, at which influential policymakers and business leaders will examine a range of topics, ranging from supply chain finance solutions and the unprecedented growth of asset and wealth management in Asia, to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and insurance.Heavyweight speakers at the sessions include Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority; Julia Leung, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Intermediaries at the Securities and Futures Commission; Winnie Wong, Board Member of the Financial Services Development Council; Suyi Kim, Senior Managing Director and Head of Asia Pacific of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Amy Lo, Co-head, UBS Wealth Management Asia Pacific; Bill Winters, Group Chief Executive of Standard Chartered PLC; Mike Wells, Group Chief Executive of Prudential plc; Ronnie Chan, Chairman of Hang Lung Properties Limited; Gerald Buckingham, Head of Asia Pacific of BlackRock; and Andrew Yan, Managing Partner of SAIF Partners.Sponsored by Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, the Breakfast Panel will discuss on “Hong Kong’s Changing Role as an Investment Gateway: New Trend, New Generation and New Strategy”. Panelists include Andrew Weir, Regional Senior Partner, KPMG Hong Kong, and Jim Lai, Vice President, Tencent Holdings Limited and Chairman, Fusion Bank Limited. Together they will explore the opportunities and risks Hong Kong faces against the backdrop of recent economic and geopolitical developments, looking at what the city should do to safeguard its position as a leading international financial centre.
Innovation and technology have had a profound impact on the development of the financial industry. The FinTech Showcase, launched last year, returns with nearly 60 local and overseas international financial institutions and technological enterprises, including Assured Asset Management, Nippon Electric Company (NEC), Ping An OneConnect and Standard Chartered, presenting a wide range of fintech innovations and cutting-edge solutions. The new FinTechHK Start-Up Salon will showcase a plethora of next-generation business ideas from fintech start-ups from Hong Kong and beyond.Also returning is the InnoTalks series which will explore technological issues relevant to the financial sector, including developments in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, financial innovation, investment technology and Internet security. The series will give industry players comprehensive insights into innovative fintech developments that can help to boost competitiveness.
Deal Flow Matchmaking
Another key feature at the 2019 forum was the well-received AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session, co-organised by the HKTDC and the Hong Kong Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. In 2020 it is expected that 200 investors and 500 investment projects will join one-on-one meetings, covering industries including manufacturing and green technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), fintech, digital technology, healthtech, infrastructure and real estate services, environmental protection and energy, education, food and agriculture.
The InnoVenture Salon will be featured for the third time on an expanded scale and with enriched content, making it the ideal platform to connect start-ups with potential investors and partners. Start-ups will showcase their products and ideas at exhibition booths and present their business plans at pitching sessions. The Global Investment Zone is another highlight not to be missed, gathering investment agencies from Canada, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the US and more to present investment opportunities in different sectors.