Whether it is enterprise blockchain technology or RegTech digital-first solutions, pioneering tech firms are pushing the boundaries to streamline processes, enable new business models and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of risk management and regulatory compliance.
According to Dr Duncan Wong, Founder and CEO at CryptoBLK Limited, which is incubated at the Hong Kong Science Park (HKSTP) and leverages blockchain in multiple areas including trade finance, while still in the early stages, the potential for blockchain applications are expanding rapidly. "People are exploring all sorts of uses. It’s just the beginning,” he says. Often associated with cryptocurrencies and digital assets, Wong explains that blockchain has two distinct facets: the technology that underpins cryptocurrency and digital asset networks; and the wider applications generally referred to as enterprise blockchain, which uses distributed ledger technologies (DLT) solutions to accelerate digital transformation in traditional industries.
"As a rule, enterprise blockchain is not dependent on a single technology, it can be an amalgamation of technologies that work together to connect a collaboration of stakeholder entities," Wong says. This is the exciting part. No one knows where it will lead to. Because blockchain provides a systematic means of organising and tracking data and putting it to use, it is suited to tasks such as real-time tracking of goods as they move and change hands through the supply chain. With blockchain poised to transform practices across a wide sweep of business sectors, Wong believes that, just like cloud computing did before it, enterprise blockchain will become a fundamental part of digital work and business processes. "We are not there yet, but further down the road, enterprise blockchain solutions will be a part of daily life."
Although they operate in different areas of the technology landscape, both Ngai and Wong believe that talent attraction and development of a talent pipeline is fundamental to a thriving innovation and technology ecosystem.
While Hong Kong enjoys an abundance of funding, strong research capabilities and access to the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and regional markets for the start-up sector, Wong believes more could be done to nurture talent through experience. While promoting the success of local "hero" companies is useful to raise awareness, promoting the global technology story is more important to help young people evaluate career opportunities. To excite, educate and engage young people of school age, opportunities could be created to provide hands-on experiences that demonstrate the various ways that technologies such as blockchain and RegTech can be utilised. "Young people need to get their hands dirty," says Wong who served as a professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and is tenured in the Department of Computer Science at City University of Hong Kong.
To increase the supply of FinTech talent, as part of its "Fintech 25" strategy, the HKMA aims to collaborate with various strategic partners to groom all-round FinTech talent, both students and practitioners, through various initiatives, including developing FinTech-specific training programmes and qualifications, as well as promoting joint projects between the industry and the academia. An example of such initiatives is the Industry Project Masters Network (IPMN) scheme. IPMN will be piloted this September to provide internship opportunities to postgraduate students to work on banks’ FinTech projects on federated learning and other artificial intelligence technologies.
Ngai also advocates promoting career opportunities awareness in the RegTech sector. In particular, the industry could work together to provide insights to help young people to develop an inquisitive and positive attitude to joining the sector. Too often, Ngai says, young people are put off from joining the RegTech start-up community because of a lack of job security. While Apiax is able to leverage its presence in different geographical locations to attract computer engineering, legal and compliance talent, in Singapore recruiting people for sales and marketing positions has proven to be a bigger challenge. "We need to encourage young people to look beyond the short-term and envision a rewarding and exciting future," Ngai says.