Co-organised by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the 14th Asian Financial Forum (AFF) opened today on a virtual platform. Under the theme “Reshaping the World Economic Landscape”, the two-day forum runs round the clock across different time zones, examining the current economic landscape and exploring global business opportunities with more than 160 influential policymakers, financial experts, investors, business leaders and economists.
Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of the HKSAR, officiated at the forum’s opening ceremony, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought both risks and opportunities. She explained that although participants from around the world were not physically able to attend the AFF this year, the online event would still offer invaluable financial wisdom and insights, the opportunity to exchange ideas and build business relations, and a chance to learn more about different alternatives for business investment. Mrs Lam also pointed out that as an international financial centre and one of the world’s great business hubs, Hong Kong is uniquely positioned to attract tremendous opportunities in the post-pandemic period.
In his welcoming remarks, Dr Peter Lam, Chairman of the HKTDC, said: “The Asian Financial Forum traditionally opens the new year by bringing together leaders from the financial industry and the corporate world to address the major issues of the day. Given the huge challenges faced globally in 2020, our theme of ‘Reshaping the World Economic Landscape’ for this year’s forum is especially meaningful. The events of last year have not only reshaped the global economy but also led to lasting changes in many aspects of our lives. That is why this year’s AFF is more important in helping find ways to address these changes. One thing that’s significantly different this year is the digital format for AFF. The power of technology enables us to welcome participants and speakers from every corner of the world to explore ways to facilitate the global economic recovery and explore issues ranging from technology innovation to sustainable development.”
Guo Shuqing, Secretary of Party Committee of the People’s Bank of China and Chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, delivered the keynote speech at the opening ceremony. He said: “Today’s world is witnessing historic changes. Asia may once again play a prominent development role in global civilisation as it did a few centuries ago. As an international financial centre, Hong Kong is embracing the opportunities of the new century. We firmly believe Hong Kong will become more stable and prosperous in its role as a global financial hub. The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually recede. We will work together with other countries to share the opportunities and benefits of globalisation.”
Nobel Laureate economist examines current economic outlook
Despite the move to a new online format, AFF continues to feature a star-studded lineup of speakers. Among the keynote speakers this year is Paul Romer, 2018 Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences and policy entrepreneur, who analysed the current state of the global economy and posited the path towards a new and sustainable growth engine. Mr Romer said that 2020 was the year in which Asia significantly outperformed Europe and the United States, explaining: “The danger in the US and Europe was that people thought they already knew what to do – just doing what they had always done. But this is the mindset that kills innovation."
He believes that, despite the uncertainties, the world has entered a new era with low inflation, low interest rates, and an expected recovery from the pandemic. “If we can maintain that mindset of innovation and experimentation, we can continue to progress,” he said.
Reshaping the world economic landscape
The AFF’s plenary session addressed the salient issue of “Reshaping the World Economic Landscape”. Chaired by Christopher Hui, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury of the HKSAR Government, the panel’s distinguished speakers included Pierre Gramegna, Minister for Finance of Luxembourg; Jin Liqun, President and Chairman of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Bandar M H Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank Group; Marcos Troyjo, President of the New Development Bank; Teresa Czerwińska, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank; and Sean Fleming, Minister of State at the Department of Finance of Ireland. Together they examined how the financial services sector can contribute to the recovery of the global economy and what opportunities await in the new economic landscape.
In the face of the global pandemic, many governments employed unconventional financial policies to roll out large-scale fiscal stimulus packages. The policy dialogue session this morning was themed “Policy Responses to COVID-19”, with distinguished speakers including Ahmed Alkholifey, Governor of the Saudi Central Bank; Jessica Chew, Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Malaysia; Ryozo Himino, Commissioner of the Financial Services Agency of Japan; and Martin Raiser, Country Director, China and Mongolia, and Director, Korea of the World Bank. The experts shared insights on the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies in supporting growth, and the implications of the increasing use of financial technology from the perspective of regulators.
Panel addresses global economic outlook and sustainable investment
The global banking industry have been reacting quickly to transform its business in light of the current environment of low interest rates, increased compliance requirements and digital innovation, together with the raft of challenges brought by the pandemic. In the afternoon session titled “Global Economic Outlook”, chaired by Victor Chu, Chairman & CEO of First Eastern Investment Group, business leaders from the banking and financial sectors shared their thoughts on the outlook for the global banking industry, while considering how banks should respond to regulatory changes and advances in technology. The distinguished panel of speakers included Laura Cha, Chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited; Jean Lemierre, Chairman of BNP Paribas; Liu Liange, Chairman of the Board of Bank of China Limited; Urs Rohner, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Credit Suisse Group AG; José Viñals, Group Chairman of Standard Chartered PLC; and Wong Kan-seng, Chairman of United Overseas Bank Limited.
As socially responsible investment and impact investment gain stronger ground, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investment decisions, creating long-term value for corporations and generating higher returns for investors. The discussion on “Responsible and Impact Investment” analysed the long-term prospects for sustainable investing with a panel that included Yoshio Hishida, President of Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management; Amy Lo, Chairman, Executive Committee, Private Wealth Management Association, and Head and Chief Executive, UBS Hong Kong Branch; Jena Raby, CEO of Natixis Investment Managers; Vineet Rai, Founder and Chairman of the Aavishkaar Group; and George H Walker, Chairman and CEO of Neuberger Berman. The discussion was chaired by Jonathan Drew, Managing Director, ESG Solutions, Global Banking of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. The subsequent dialogue session with Mark Tucker, Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, took a deeper dive into the topic of climate change and ESG.
Other notable figures sharing their thoughts in the various dialogue sessions today were Lei Zhang, Founder and CEO of Hillhouse Capital Management; and Philippe Brassac, Chief Executive Officer of Credit Agricole SA.
Industry leaders analyse emerging issues
The green economy, 5G and innovation have become important elements of economic development in recent years. The afternoon session, “Greening the Economy with 5G and Innovation”, was chaired by Wilson Chow, Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry Leader of PwC, with speakers including David Chung, Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the HKSAR Government; Grace Hui, Head of Green and Sustainable Finance, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited; Gordon Guo, Deputy Head, Internet & Enterprise Solution Division, China Mobile Hong Kong; and Sammie Leung, Climate and Sustainability Leader of PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong.
Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are gaining more attention in global markets. As a premier international financial centre and the world’s largest offshore renminbi hub, Hong Kong is well positioned to facilitate the exploration and expansion of CBDCs at the cross-boundary level. In a discussion themed “The Evolving Central Bank Digital Currency Landscape”, panellists shared insights on potential use cases for CBDCs and how Hong Kong’s burgeoning fintech ecosystem can get better equipped for the opportunities that lie ahead. The speakers included the Financial Services Development Council’s Chairman, Laurence Li, and Executive Director, Au King-lun; Henri Arslanian, Global Crypto Leader and Partner, PwC; Shusong Ba, Managing Director and Chief China Economist, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, and Chief Economist of the China Banking Association; Joseph Chan, Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury of the HKSAR Government; and Bénédicte Nolens, Head of BIS Innovation Hub, Hong Kong Centre.
New “Dialogues for Tomorrow” series explores future of different industries
This year’s AFF sees the inauguration of the “Dialogues for Tomorrow” series. The two-day programme will discuss the future of different sectors such as banking, insurance, fintech, energy, healthcare, food and agriculture and big tech. Distinguished speakers taking part include Melissa Guzy, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Arbor Ventures; Florian Kemmerich, Managing Partner of Bamboo Capital Partners; Randall S Kroszner, Deputy Dean of Executive Programs and Norman R Bobins Professor of Economics of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Mary Huen, CEO of Hong Kong, Standard Chartered; Maaike Seinebach, General Manager, Hong Kong and Macau of Visa Inc; Sally Wan, CEO of AXA Hong Kong and Macau; Ming Yang, Chief Financial Officer of Daqo New Energy; and Tao Zhang, Founder and Managing Director of Dao Ventures & Dao Foods International.
Online showcase for fintech and start-ups with 140-plus institutions
The AFF includes the Fintech Showcase, FintechHK Startup Salon, InnoVenture Salon and Global Investment Zone, with more than 140 local and overseas international financial institutions, technology enterprises, start-ups and investment agencies coming together to give online presentations on the latest trends in fintech innovation and next-generation business ideas, helping industries from different parts of the world to explore investment opportunities. Exhibitors include Mox Bank, a start-up group from Cyberport, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, PAO Bank and Airwallex. In addition, this year’s AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session again connects investors with project owners from around the world covering different areas including the Internet of Things, digital technology, healthtech, fintech, education, environment and energy, food and agriculture, infrastructure and real estate. With one-on-one meetings organised on a virtual platform this year, a record number of participants is expected.
The InnoVenture Salon continues to empower start-up enterprises by building connections with international investors and potential business partners, joining hands with Hong Kong financial regulators to solve start-up problems. The HKTDC, 500 Startups and FWD Group are also jointly presenting the inaugural “AFF Accelerate”, an open innovation challenge inviting start-up entrepreneurs to devise insurance technology solutions for the insurance industry, bringing innovative ideas into the commercial world.
Two keynote speakers and more financial leaders on second day of AFF
Sharing their insights on innovation, artificial intelligence and venture capital investing tomorrow (19 January) will be two keynote speakers,
, Co-founder of Reddit and Seven Seven Six, and
, Co-creator of Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. Kicking off tomorrow’s proceedings will be two panel discussions covering “
Asset and Wealth Management Industry in the Post-COVID Era
” and “
Climate Change Risks and Opportunities for Insurance
”. In addition, a dialogue session moderated by
Group Chairman & CEO of the Nan Fung Group, will feature
Stephen A Schwarzman,
Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone.