News > FinTech

The rise of robo-advisors
<p>The increasing presence of robo-advisors in the financial industry worries some investment professionals. If artificial intelligence can meet the needs of clients who want low-cost, tailored, active management of their savings, then the role of human intermediaries will soon become obsolete.</p> <p>Kurt Schacht, managing director of Standards and Financial Market Integrity at the CFA Institute, took a deep breath and checked out a robo-adviser.</p> <p>He found that it was “highly effective and efficient—probably a much better service and product than the traditional retail brokerage account with a salesperson on the other end”.</p> <p>The robot welcomed him to the platform, asked a dozen questions about his financial history, objectives and risk tolerance and quickly created an optimal portfolio of low-cost, no-transaction-fee funds.</p> <p>“It was slick and much more tailored and calculated than working with a typical broker salesperson”, writes Schacht.</p> <p>But there was a flipside. The experience was cold and impersonal.</p> <p>“It was as if investment management had been reduced to the equivalent of a drive-through fast food restaurant”.</p> <p>But, quant providers feel that their time has come. At a recent event in New York where he participated as a panellist, Schacht found that they are convinced that few aspects of financial analysis, security selection and asset allocation can be delivered better by humans.</p> <p>Eventually, they argue, soft skills for client relationships and communications will be unnecessary.</p> <p>After all, who needs to talk with a real person who understands your financial challenges and appreciates your desired outcomes if a computer can get you to the same place in seconds?</p> <p>“For traditionalist CFA charterholders who bleed the virtues of client loyalty, service, and professional judgment, the robo-adviser trend is disturbing,” writes Schacht.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cyberport and NexChange are hosting an O-2-O meetup that will discuss this issue as well as examine many other opportunities and challenges that new financial technologies are creating in the wealth management industry.</p> <p>The event will feature five speakers closely involved in the latest developments and it should attract a wide cross-section of more than 200 delegates:</p> <p>Date: October 27, 2015</p> <p>Time: 16:00-19:00</p> <p>Venue: Cyberport 3, Hong Kong</p> <p>Please register here</p> <p>&nbsp;<br /> Photo: Andrej Blagojević</p>
Founders, investors gather in Hong Kong to share past failures
<p>Learning and growing from one's past failures is a core part of startup culture and this week a group of founders will gather in Hong Kong to observe that tradition at the 2nd annual Postmortem conference.</p> <p>The event will be held at KPMG's Causeway Bay office at Hysan Place and will feature a line-up of HK's best startup founders, investors and mentors sharing their personal failures, pivots, regrets, and mea culpas. Confirmed speakers at the event include:</p> <p> Deepak Madnani, Paperclip<br /> Daniel Walker, Dragon Law<br /> Christopher Geary, Asianet Group<br /> Elsa Chan, Jetlun<br /> Andrea Livotto, Perpetu<br /> Sam Gellman, Uber<br /> Jeffrey Broer, Grayscale<br /> Donna NguyenPhuoc, Angel investor</p> <p>The event starts tomorrow (October 17) but a handful of tickets are still available.<br /> Photo: Steve Jurvetson<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Can blockchain tech revolutionise IP and digital content ?
<p>When people talk about blockchain technology they invariably talk about bitcoin, but its applications go far beyond cryptocurrency. There is now a community of startups that are looking at how blockchain can be used to protect digital content and intellectual property.</p> <p>In a nutshell: just as blockchain is used as a virtual decentralised ledger to track bitcoin transactions, it can also be used as a tool to track the rights and transactions attached to all manner of digital creative works from music to artwork.</p> <p>To this end there are now platforms like Ethereum coming into existence that use blockchain tech to issue smart contracts: decentralised computer protocols used to verify contractual agreements. There is now an ecosystem of companies being built around platforms like Ethereum that focus on IP solutions and other alternative blockchain applications. </p> <p>Many of the leading lights of this nascent industry gathered at the "Smart Contracts for Smart Cities" conference in Hong Kong’s Cyberport this week to share their views in the future of blockchain technology. Trent McConaghy – the founder of Ascribe, a digital IP platform – is one of the people looking to solve the issues surrounding IP and digital content on the internet, he said:<br /> “A fundamental challenge of the internet is that if you are a creator you are getting a raw deal. When you put your stuff on the internet you are probably not going to get paid, or at best you are only getting a fraction of its value. Ads are a horrible solution to monetization.”<br /> A similar frustration was expressed by Juan Benet, the creator of  InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a type of peer-to-peer protocol. Benet explains that blockchain and timestamping services can be used to create an auditable trail of content ownership from creation through to the transfer of rights and beyond.  He added that the democratization of the process could also address some imbalances in the patent system:<br /> “Currently the patent system in software is pretty broken, it allows for a lot of things that shouldn't be allowed as patents and excludes others things that should be. It is a very tricky situation when you have these massive companies  amassing these huge portfolios and only they get to wield patents.”<br /> Photo: Mattwalker69</p>
Blockstream to launch Sidechain
<p>As bitcoin has gained popularity over the past few years, the system that the cryptocurrency runs on began to face some growing pains.</p> <p>Developers started to worry that the existing framework wouldn't be able to support continued growth; new ideas about how blockchain, the ledger-like technology that bitcoin runs on, could be used in other industries began to emerge.</p> <p>Those issues threatened to tear bitcoin apart, as the cryptocurrency community debated whether changes to the way bitcoin operates would take away from its decentralized nature. However, a startup called Blockstream says it has created a solution that will allow bitcoin to grow while keeping its original framework intact.</p> <p>Read more at Benzinga.<br /> Photo: BTC Keychain</p>
Blockchain startups seeking a home can face a regulatory 'Catch 22'
<p>Startups dealing in bitcoin and blockchain can find themselves between a rock and a hard place when looking for the right jurisdiction in which to base their business.</p> <p>During a panel discussion on regulation at the "Smart Contract for Smart Cities" conference in Hong Kong's Cyberport Tuesday, industry experts explained that entrepreneurs seeking a base had to strike a difficult balance between finding an environment that is conducive to business versus one that affords clients better protection. Pamela Morgan, the CEO of consulting and cryptographic key management firm Third Key Solutions said:</p> <p>"There is a tension right now between the ease of setting up in a place that is less regulated and the fact that consumers prefer an environment that has better regulations -- it's a Catch 22. Business are currently looking to set up in places like the Isle of Man,  but as a consumer you may want the protection of U.S. or European laws, and the clarity they offer."</p> <p>Richard Levin, a partner with law firm Bryan Cave, said the best approach was to prioritize those markets that offer the best opportunities, even if that means dealing with more regulatory hurdles.</p> <p>"You have to look at the size of the market and think 'where am I  going to make most money and get highest valuation for my company?' Sometimes biting the bullet and dealing with a cumbersome regulatory environment is something you have to do to reach your potential."<br /> Photo: NexChange</p>
'Smart Contracts' conference unravels the many uses of blockchain
<p>Cryptocurrency experts from across the world gathered at Hong Kong's Cyberport today for the first day of Blockchain Workshops' two-day "Smart Contracts for Smart Cities" conference. </p> <p>The two-day event -- a draw for the sandal-wearing hacker as much as the smartly-dressed banker -- focuses on the seemingly limitless applications of blockchain (the decentralised technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) across industries as varied as fintech, intellectual property, infrastructure, and internet-of-things (IoT).</p> <p>The opening speech was delivered by Hennin Diedrich, a senior programmer at IBM. Titled "Towards a Democracy of Devices," the talk examined the broader impact of blockchain technology. This was followed by an opening panel -- "Blockchain and Applications" -- where Diedrich, as moderator, quizzed a  team of technical experts about the hopes, fears and complexities of blockchain technology. </p> <p>Here is some of the social media commentary:</p> <p>Hennig Diedrich from IBM gives the keynote at #blockchain workshops #smartcontracts<br /> — NexChange (@NexChanger) October 12, 2015</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The opening panel at #smartcontracts for smart cities #blockchain<br /> — NexChange (@NexChanger) October 12, 2015</p> <p>&nbsp;<br /> Dom Williams, Difinity: "The reason the decentralised cloud will win is because it's an open transparent system" #smartcontracts — NexChange (@NexChanger) October 12, 2015<br /> Vlad Zamfir, Ethereum: "Bitcoin is a protocol that anyone can understand and provides a great gateway to blockchain" #smartcontracts — NexChange (@NexChanger) October 12, 2015</p> <p>Peter Todd, Bitcoin Dev: "It will take a long time for computer security to get to a point when more people are comfortable." #smartcontracts — NexChange (@NexChanger) October 12, 2015</p>
China tech titans reveal global ambitions with fintech partnerships
<p>Two of China's biggest internet companies - Alibaba and Baidu - both revealed their global fintech ambitions this past week with two significant partnerships.</p> <p>The first was Alibaba, the company behind payments platform Alipay, which announced at tie-up with Aussie fintech startup Get Capital. The company's blog reports that the collaboration will allow Australian importers and exporters to access finance on the Alibaba platform.</p> <p>Get Capital will offer a line of credit through's e-Credit line facility. The deal represents a significant expansion of Alibaba's finance ecosystem beyond its borders. </p> <p>Baidu, meanwhile, has just had its own big overseas play by launching a Hong Kong-based international fintech accelerator with Standard Chartered Bank and co-working space operator TusPark Global. The so-called SuperCharger fintech accelerator will give Baidu direct access to start-ups both from Greater China and overseas.</p> <p>This is a big development for Baidu which has been somewhat overshadowed by the likes of Alibaba and Tencent when it comes to fintech. But now its seems that all the BATs are developing global fintech ambitions.<br /> Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center </p>
Japan government fintech drive threatens bureaucratic 'turf war'
<p>Japanese ministers are tripping over themselves to get behind fintech, so much so that government departments are now treading on each other's toes.</p> <p>This week the Japanese government  charged the  Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) with setting up a panel focusing on ways to boost the country's fintech industry. The only problem is that Japan's Financial Services Agency (FSA) has already launched a similar initiative, reports the Asian Nikkei Review, leaving some industry professionals confused.</p> <p>The FSA has already had two meetings attended by e-commerce giant Rakuten and a slew of startups. The agency is said to be focusing on building a framework that makes it easier for financial institutions to acquire fintech startups.</p> <p>METI meanwhile is forming a panel of 13 Japan institutions and fintech startups including NEC, Credit Saison, Mizuho Financial Group, and the Bank of Japan. Similarly the panel wants to encourage collaboration between banks and start-up. </p> <p>With similar remits,  it is very likely that METI and the FSA will find themselves competing for the same budgets. It will be interesting to see how the two departments cooperate.<br /> Photo: Tanya Impeartrice</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Banks are more talk than action when it comes to innovation, survey shows
<p>Banks are more talk than action -- at least that's what insiders are saying in a recent survey.</p> <p>In its quarterly State of Banking study, Bank Innovation reports that industry insiders rank themselves on innovation a mediocre 2.67 on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is the best).  That's way below estimates in 2014 and 2013. But when it comes to perception, banks score very high on the innovation scale at 4.65.</p> <p>“Banks wants to be perceived as innovative, rather than actually innovate," one person told Bank Innovation.</p> <p>Success, by that measure, has arrived for the industry.</p> <p>The quarterly survey of 115 bankers, conducted last week, also asked where they saw the industry headed by 2020. The answers were all over the place. In other words, the crystal ball is cloudy.  Some predicted greater specialization while others saw more aggregation. More APIs were on the list. There was confidence and insecurity. Some stated they would remain "trusted advisors" while others expected greater competition from non-traditional sources. They also expected to deploy more analytics to customize products. And, of course, no list of the future would be complete without mention of blockchain technology -- something everyone calls revolutionary but have yet to figure out how to use.<br /> Photo: Nancy I'm gonna SNAP!</p>
Video: Fintech innovators focus on 'new needs' among savers
<p>Fintech innovators are focusing on 'new needs' among savers from NexChange on Vimeo.</p>