#Asia Will Asia take the initiative to lead the fintech charge?


Fintech will eventually sweep through the most advanced markets, tuning the adjacent industries through technology and digital transformation, says the author

There’s no doubt that fintech, as a subject of both business model development and conversation, is overheated right now. In a way, this is for good reason. As we all know, globally distributed technology, capability and social media means that there’s never been a better time to launch a new idea, a challenger solution, or just a better way of doing things.

But, with this huge wave comes the fight to own the IP and industry around fintech. There are dozens of accelerators, incubators, funds and programmes to help fintech ideas and startups get up off the ground and scale. Everyone’s searching for the next Asian unicorn.

Fintech is hyper-competitive

Then comes the hyper-competitive space of creating ‘fintech hubs’ in cities or nations across the world. The obvious centres of the financial universe are clamouring to be the world’s fintech base.

In Asia alone, these five cities — Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Shanghai, Tokyo — and others can claim for various reasons to be the region’s fintech hub, the landing and resting place for the world’s best fintech ideas to access Asia and the rest of the world.

Some of these cities have a terrific infrastructure — government and industry support in Singapore, huge and close market access in Shanghai, and an active and involved banking industry in Sydney.

Also Read: 6 finance tracking apps for iOS you should check out now

Others have an active startup scene — vibrant entrepreneurial activity in Jakarta; financial know-how and capital to invest in Hong Kong; creative ideas, technologies and brands in Tokyo; and a rich cultural heritage in Seoul — but not many have both in the right measure. And of course, all these cities are sorting these issues out, and that’s good to see.

But in the end, it’s not a race. There need not be just one winner. And there won’t be.

Let’s project forward on the broader fintech path and discuss two major factors.

1. Hyperlocalisation

Certain cities like Hong Kong with the foresight, resources and willpower will create regional fintech clusters. Over time, these ‘secondary’ markets and cities will start their own alternative and local versions of these fintech centres.

Eventually, as technology becomes so ubiquitous, accessible and commoditised, some centralisation will dissipate. While access to capital and expertise may reside in fintech hubs, the power to create transformative new solutions will sit on the mobile phone of an 18-year-old coder in rural Java as much as it will sit on the tablet of a 30-year-old MBA graduate in Tokyo. These solutions will become hyperlocalised, even personalised, and hyper-adaptable to changing conditions.

2. The pace of innovation will increase

Twenty years ago, China was most likely known as the manufacturing base for the world. Designs were sent and the Chinese made what was designed. Then the pace of manufacturing increased as the technology was able to, and demand was asking it to.

Then copying well-known products became a Chinese specialty — products would land in store, and cheap but quite adequate replicas would be on the street within days, even hours.

Now, China has become an innovation machine in its own right, and with incredible impact. Shenzhen is at the centre of the technology revolution in hardware. The pace of invention and creation is furious. This will only increase, and become expected not just in a few centres but everywhere.

There will not be a single market or segment in Asia that will be untouched by fintech.

Also Read: Digital financing: The way forward for financial inclusion in Asia

The remarkable thing about fintech

This is the most remarkable thing about the fintech movement: it will sweep through the most advanced markets and economies, tuning the finance and adjacent industries through technology and digital transformation. It will also uplift the least developed nations to a minimum standard that will see a dramatic impact on the way of life for the citizens.

Therefore, in the end, no single city in the long-term will really own the fintech story. The opportunity is too large for one just nation or state to own.

Collaboration and cross-pollination between fintech hubs will create more wealth and prosperity than competition.

The moral of the story really isn’t to simply give up ambitions on creating a fintech centre, but to also work together and collaborate across cities and nations to create more powerful ideas together.

It’s the way it will be in the end anyway, so why not start now?

Also Read: 24 startups to vie for US$10K prize at Hong Kong FinTech Finals

Come and discuss this idea and more at the 2016 FinTech Finals Conference & Pitch Competition in Hong Kong on January 25. Register today at FinTech Finals.

The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, please send us an email at writers[at]e27[dot]co

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