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AFF looks to digital future

Finance & Investm...e-businessAsian Financial F...Start-upsFinancial Service...

Leaders from the world of finance will gather at an appropriately online conference to plot the way forward.



As the COVID-19 pandemic drives change across the world, the financial industry has been far from immune. The steady march of digitalisation which had been reshaping the global financial world has turned into a sprint.

Paul Romer
Paul Romer, 2018 Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences

To help professionals in Asia navigate their way through this new, digital, world, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is holding the 14th Asian Financial Forum (AFF) on 18 and 19 January next year. In line with the digital topic, the keynote speaker on the first day will be Paul Romer, 2018 Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences and policy entrepreneur, who previously served as Chief Economist at the World Bank and is currently University Professor in Economics at the University of New York.

He was the co-recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2018 for his work “integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis”, which integrated ideas and innovation into economic models for the first time, making clear the societal benefits possible when people join together and collaborate in new ways. Prof Romer will analyse the current state of the global economy and posit the path towards a new and sustainable growth engine.

To accommodate travel restrictions, the AFF will be held virtually. Under the theme “Reshaping the World Economic Landscape”, the forum will examine the challenges at hand and work out strategies for the road to recovery and beyond with more than 150 influential global financial experts, policymakers, business leaders, economists, investors and entrepreneurs.

The most pressing issues of the day will be addressed during AFF 2021, including the post-pandemic recovery, sustainable development, responsible and impact investment, fintech, 5G, entrepreneurship and venture investment, and asset and wealth management. Moreover, the AFF’s virtual platform will offer comprehensive business showcasing, networking and matchmaking services, including the Fintech Showcase, FintechHK Startup Salon, AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session, InnoVenture Salon and Global Investment Zone, providing interactive connections between global investors, project owners and start-up enterprises.

Tech trailblazers discuss innovation

Alexis Ohanian
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and Seven Seven Six

Innovation and technology are fundamentally impacting the financial industry and will be a key focus at AFF. Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit and Seven Seven Six, and Luc Julia, Co-creator of Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, will share their insights on innovation, technology and investment on the second day.

Mr Ohanian and fellow co-founder Steven Huffman started the entertainment and social news aggregation website Reddit, which is the third most-visited website in the United States and ranks sixth in the world. In 2016, he co-founded Initialized Capital with Garry Tan, an early-stage venture capital unicorn that now has more than US$500 million under management and a portfolio with a market value of $36 billion. Mr Julia, in addition to being the co-creator of Siri, was also Chief Technology Officer at HP, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President at Samsung and has co-founded a number of start-ups in Silicon Valley. He has been recognised as one of the top 100 most- influential French developers in the digital world.

Luc Julia
Luc Julia, co-creator of Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant

To help worldwide business leaders keep abreast of and capitalise on the latest developments, and to enhance their competitiveness, the AFF will spotlight a broad range of topics related to innovation and technology, including central bank digital currencies, blockchain, regulatory technology (regtech), the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, financial inclusion, investment technology and cyber security.

Global economic prospects

Stephen A Schwarzman
Stephen A Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone

Pandemic-induced disruptions, coupled with various geopolitical issues, have destabilised the global economy. Influential global financial policymakers and business leaders will take part in more than 50 panel sessions and fireside chats to analyse the latest trends and market developments, including Stephen A Schwarzman, Chairman, CEO and Cofounder of the Blackstone Group; Jean Lemierre, Chairman of BNP Paribas; Philippe Brassac, CEO of Credit Agricole SA; Urs Rohner, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Credit Suisse Group; Mark E Tucker, Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings; Howard Davies, Chairman of the NatWest Group; José Viñals, Group Chairman of Standard Chartered; Wong Kan-seng, Chairman of United Overseas Bank; and Zhang Lei, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Hillhouse Capital Management Group.

The pandemic has also intensified interest in sustainable investment and environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration among global investors. Experts such as Vineet Rai, Founder and Chairman of Aavishkaar Group; Jennifer Pryce, President and CEO of Calvert Impact Capital; George H Walker, Chairman and CEO of Neuberger Berman Group; Jean Raby, CEO of Natixis Investment Managers International; and Amy Lo, Chairman, Executive Committee of the Private Wealth Management Association and Head and Chief Executive of UBS Hong Kong Branch, will examine evolving demands and solutions.

AFF 2021 will also inaugurate the series “Dialogues for Tomorrow” to survey the impact of COVID-19 on, and the outlook for, various sectors such as banking, insurance, fintech, energy, healthcare, food and agriculture and big tech.

Online showcase for latest innovations and investment opportunities Co-organised by the HKTDC and the Hong Kong Venture Private Equity Association, the AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session will return in a virtual format to arrange more than 700 one-on-one meetings between worldwide investors and project owners representing opportunities from a wide range of sectors, including Internet of Things (IoT), digital technology, healthtech, fintech, education, environment and energy, food and agriculture, infrastructure and real estate.

Moreover, the Fintech Showcase, FintechHK Startup Salon, InnoVenture Salon and Global Investment Zone will present the latest trends in financial innovation, next generation business ideas and investment opportunities across regions and sectors from more than 100 local and overseas international financial institutions, technology enterprises, start-ups and investment agencies such as Standard Chartered plc, HSBC Holdings, Cyberport, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, PAO Bank and Airwallex.

The InnoVenture Salon will continue to empower worldwide start-up enterprises by building connections with international investors, potential business partners and financial regulators. It will also present the inaugural “AFF Accelerate”, an open innovation challenge jointly organised by the HKTDC, 500 Start-ups and FWD Group. The challenge will invite global fintech and insurtech innovators to devise tomorrow’s business solutions for the global insurance industry, particularly in areas such as agent recruitment, lead generation and payments.

As Asia’s premier forum for the global financial and business community, the AFF will help participants establish connections and explore investment opportunities with worldwide counterparts at the beginning of the new year. Participants who register on or before 31 December 2020 can enjoy an early-bird discount, while registration arrangements for media representatives will be announced in early January.

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