Innovation and technology is taking the world into a new era, opening up fresh opportunities in the upcoming economic powerhouse: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). For companies setting their sights on this vibrant region, a range of support is at hand in Hong Kong. Among them is global banking giant HSBC’s US$1.13 billion “GBA+ Technology Fund”, and US$700 million “GBA+ Healthcare Fund”, which provide flexible financing support for new-economy companies in the region.
Secrets of success
HSBC possesses insights on how enterprises can achieve success in the GBA, where it had started operating when the Pearl River Delta began to develop.
“The development of Hong Kong and Guangdong are inseparable,” remarked Frank Fang, Head of Commercial Banking, Hong Kong, HSBC.
“We opened the first representative office in Shenzhen as early as 1982. To date, we have around 50 branches in 21 cities in the Guangdong province,” he said.
“The advantage of having comprehensive coverage in the Greater Bay Area is that no matter which GBA city the Hong Kong customer has business or investment in, we can serve them all the same. On the other hand, we can also reach more customers in Mainland China and help them expand overseas markets through our services.”
After years of deployment, HSBC has become the largest international bank with the widest network in the GBA, Mr Fang said.
Hong Kong-Guangdong collaboration
Throughout the decades, the opening up of the mainland has catalysed Hong Kong's transformation from a manufacturing base into a service-oriented economy and an international trade and financial centre, laying a solid foundation for its development into an innovation and technology hub.
Mr Fang said Guangdong province and Hong Kong have respective and complementary advantages in innovation and technology, while China’s 14th Five-year Plan and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Development Plan will drive the cooperation of the two locations in innovation and technology to the next level.
"The biggest advantage of Guangdong province lies in production. Industrialists there can quickly commercialise new concepts from around the world and optimise products after launch,” Mr Fang said.
“For its part, Hong Kong provides outstanding talent. It has first-class universities, and indeed one of the world’s highest concentrations of world-class education institutes,” he added.
There are 16 “state key laboratories” (SKL) and six local branches of the Chinese National Engineering Research Centres in Hong Kong. In the 2021 Global Innovation Index (GII) report, Hong Kong’s ranking in the world jumped from 13th to 11th.
“Hong Kong gathers together professional service talents who can help obtain technology patents and conduct intellectual property trading, creating favourable conditions for scientific research,” Mr Fang noted.
"However, Hong Kong needs to rely on the production advantages and huge market of the GBA.
“There is this ‘0 to 100’ model, in which Hong Kong is responsible for the 0-to-1 phase, or product conception, leaving the commercialisation and production process, or the 1-to-100 stage, to Guangdong.
“This can greatly accelerate the commercialisation of scientific research results and increase the value of goods. In this way, the two places can complement each other to achieve a win-win situation," Mr Fang said.
To build on Hong Kong’s potential for technological innovation, HSBC launched "GBA+ Technology Fund” in 2019. The fund supports fast-growing innovation and technology companies in the Greater Bay Area, be they local or international. Sectors covered include e-commerce, financial technology, robotics and biotechnology. To accommodate growing customer demand, HSBC recently upsized the Fund from US$880 million to US$1.13 billion.
HSBC also rolled out a US$700 million debt financing scheme to support fast-growing, early-stage healthcare companies in GBA, covering sub-sectors of healthcare tech, healthcare services, pharmaceutical, medical device, contract services and third-party medical institutions. Together, HSBC has earmarked over US$1.8 billion in facilities for new economy companies in the vibrant city cluster.
“These young, high-growth companies engaged are unable to provide several years of financial reports to banks,” Mr Fang said. “In order to assist them in financing, we have some innovative ideas: The ‘GBA+ Technology Fund’ offers flexibility.
“When evaluating applications, in addition to being flexible, we will also consider other factors such as future capital injection, potential investors. In terms of ‘lending to borrowers without bricks’, we are ahead of the industry," Mr Fang said.
As start-up customers lack business experience, HSBC would line up professionals to help them solve operational issues and focus on production.
"These 'one-stop services' are actually beyond the scope of banking services, but we are happy to go the extra mile to help customers grow."
Helping SMEs connect to the world
Mr Fang noted that online shopping has ushered in innovative technologies and spawned a new economy, creating an e-commerce market and stimulating market demand for related payment and digital banking services.
"In recent years, e-commerce has developed rapidly in the mainland and Hong Kong, while cross-border transactions between the two places have grown especially fast,” Mr Fang said.
Through its “Account Connect”, “Credit Connect”, “Payment Connect” and “Service Connect” services, HSBC brings an integrated service experience to Greater Bay Area enterprises.
“In order to meet the increasing demand for cross-border payments in the region, HSBC has increased the speed with which it processes payments from Guangdong to Hong Kong. Payment instructions can now be completed within two minutes, efficiently connecting companies to opportunities in the GBA,” he said.
HSBC has also launched a mobile digital platform dedicated to addressing the cross-border business needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The HSBC GBA WeChat Mini Programme delivers a simple and unified digital service experience and provides customers with direct access to GBA-related market insights and knowledge together with other functions. Customers can also make real-time balance enquiries for both mainland and Hong Kong accounts.
HSBC x HKTDC
HSBC and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) are strategic partners, combining their vast networks of business contacts as well as market and digital expertise to help SMEs capitalise on the Greater Bay Area’s growth potential.
There is strategic cooperation in many aspects, including sharing practical information and in-depth analysis related to the GBA on their respective digital platforms, organising networking events in mainland Greater Bay Area cities, conducting proprietary research, and providing dedicated services.
For example, the HKTDC’s GoGBA one-stop platform includes a WeChat mini programme providing analysis reports on GBA business and markets. Part of the content will also be provided by HSBC VisionGo business-to-business digital community platform.
"The Hong Kong economy is transforming, and the GBA is strategically positioned to be an international innovation and technology hub. The cooperation between HSBC and the HKTDC in GBA development could not have been better timed.
“Together, we can even better connect suitable Hong Kong and mainland I&T companies, paving the way for further cooperation between the two places,” he said.
Early opportunities are the gateway to success and Mr Fang believes Hong Kong should capitalise on them.
Successful development of the city has been paralleled by reform and opening up of the mainland in the past 50 years, when the two economies have collaborated closely, especially in Guangdong province.
“The cooperation back then was in import, export and product processing,” Mr Fang said. “In today's new economic environment, the mainland provides Hong Kong with a huge market and opportunities for upgrading and transformation. These are the unique advantages that Hong Kong companies can enjoy.”
Mr Fang said that as a bank for Hong Kong’s business community, HSBC would continue to help companies focus on the Greater Bay Area, the Belt and Road Initiative and the international market.
“Our goal is that all companies in the Greater Bay Area regard HSBC as the preferred bank in the region. To this end, we are committed to providing a one-stop banking experience, with customers able to enjoy the same services wherever they are. These are the areas where we want to make breakthroughs in future, hoping to provide more convenient banking services for enterprises,” he avowed.