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Lender to expand fintech moves

StanChart plans to use innovation hub in Shanghai for delivering the next generation of financial products

Standard Chartered Bank Plc is planning to deepen its financial technology footprint in China by bringing its dedicated innovation hub to Shanghai.

The eXellerator lab, an in-house program powered by the United Kingdom-based bank’s innovation, fintech investment and ventures unit SC Ventures, aims to co-create and deliver the next generation of financial products and services, according to Alex Manson, global head of SC Ventures.

“Given the strategic importance of China to Standard Chartered, our eXellerator lab in Shanghai will play a crucial role in helping us proactively reinvent ourselves and the banking industry,” he told China Daily in a recent interview”.

The Shanghai facility, opened in early August, will add to the bank’s existing lab portfolios across Hong Kong, San Francisco, London, Nairobi and Singapore, bringing solutions tailored to local market needs.

Under the initiative, the bank’s retail banking, wealth management and business banking units will engage with corporate clients to jointly create new business and operating models. A recent example is the completion of the first deeptier supply chain financing transaction using blockchain with Digital Guangdong, a joint venture formed by a suite of tech companies in China digitalizing government services.

Another example is the establishment of a strategic joint venture with telecom providers PCCW and HKT, as well as the financing arm of online travel agent Ctrip, to deliver a new stand-alone digital retail bank in Hong Kong.

The stand-alone bank plans to offer telecom, entertainment, and travel propositions from partners all in one place. Additionally, it will enable customers to open accounts and apply for financial services on-the-go in real-time.

SC Ventures is also looking to work with promising Chinese fintech startups to not just improve their products, but potentially scale their solutions across the bank’s footprint.

“We have partnered with Ant Financial to launch the world’s first blockchain-enabled cross-border remittance service from Hong Kong to the Philippines, and are piloting the service from Malaysia to Pakistan,” he said.

Chinese companies are making strides in fintech innovation and are shaping up to be the emerging force empowering counterparts in less developed nations. For instance, Ant Financial is powering Pakistan’s first cross-border remittance service using blockchain technologies, marking a major milestone in the country’s journey to promote financial inclusion.

While total fintech deals in the first half of 2019 declined 29 percent to $22 billion, the drop was mostly due to lack of giant deals recorded in the previous year, according to global consultancy Accenture. Meanwhile, increased activity in many markets is a good indicator of the level of confidence in the sector, experts said.

“Startups and the solutions they offer are maturing, which bodes well for traditional institutions partnering with fintechs and for innovation in the financial services industry as a whole,” said Piyush Singh, a managing director at Accenture who leads its financial services practice in Asia-Pacific and Africa.

Manson remained optimistic about fintech development in China. Chinese companies hold a leading position in the mainstream application of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and mobile payments, he said.

“We see huge potential for winwin partnerships which would improve client products and experiences, not just in China but across some of the fastest growing markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” he said.