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Hong Kong to explore its own digital currency and keep testing China’s Digital Yuan

Plans fintech infusion for local banking sector, plus data-sharing infrastructure

Hong Kong has revealed a strategy to give its financial services sector a fintech infusion.

The sector is important to Hong Kong, as it accounts for around 20 per cent of GDP and seven per cent of employment. Hong Kong’s also important to China, as its markets are more open to the world than the Middle Kingdom’s own stock exchanges and banks. Chinese companies often seek Hong Kong listings to access foreign capital.

However, China’s recent actions to unwind the “one country, two systems” governance model for Hong Kong have led to much speculation about the future of the Special Administration’s financial services industry.

The new strategy, outlined this week by Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) CEO Eddie Yue, appears to assume that Hong Kong will remain a financial hub.

The CEO said the HKMA “will begin a study on e-HKD to understand its use cases, benefits, and related risks” and ensure the Special Administrative Region is ready to handle all central bank digital currencies.

Yue also pledged to continue collaboration with the People's Bank of China to support its Digital Yuan “with a view to providing a convenient means of cross-boundary payments for both domestic and mainland residents.”

Another element of the strategy will see the HKMA assess all local banks’ fitness for fintech.

The HKMA will therefore conduct “a Tech Baseline Assessment to take stock of banks' current and planned adoption of fintech”. If the organisation finds underdeveloped fintech business areas or technology capabilities, it will step in with as-yet-unspecified support.

Yue’s speech introducing the strategy mentioned “Investech, Wealthtech, Insurtech and Greentech” plus blockchain and AI as technologies likely to need a leg-up from the Authority.

The Authority also plans to “take the lead in enhancing the city's existing data infrastructure and building new ones, including Commercial Data Interchange, digital corporate identity, and a DLT-based credit data sharing platform, to facilitate consent-based data sharing.”

Other initiatives include recruiting and training more of the skilled workers the sector requires and ensuring government agencies can act in concert to develop fintech-friendly policy.

The new strategy is named “Fintech 2025” and the HKMA said more detail will flow in the future.

“Despite this promise of support, we recognise that banks, especially smaller ones, may still have doubts about going ‘all in’ with fintech given the heavy talent and resource investments required,” Yue admitted in his speech. “However, we are confident that by offering support that is targeted, specific to local market circumstances, and where it is needed, banks of all sizes will soon grow to appreciate the case for ‘going’ fintech.” ®

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