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Business Trends

Hong Kong jumps on fintech bandwagon

AIA and Standard Chartered open digital channels to connect with new customers

Standard Chartered plans to apply for a virtual-banking license in Hong Kong to better reach small businesses.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Leading companies in Hong Kong's finance sector are launching projects revolving around financial technology, marking a step forward in a region where conventional banking still dominates.

AIA Group, an insurer boasting more than 3 million customers in Hong Kong, on Tuesday rolled out iShop, an online marketplace letting consumers buy health or life insurance in just 3 minutes. A prospective customer can choose a product on the website and answer basic questions to receive a quote. If the user opts to buy a policy, AIA sends documents to confirm the purchase via email.

The insurer, which has focused mainly on sales through agents, hopes this new channel will attract younger consumers.

U.K.-based Standard Chartered said Monday it will apply for a virtual-bank license in Hong Kong. Virtual banking, which was permitted only recently by Hong Kong authorities, enables banks to operate without maintaining expensive brick-and-mortar branches.

Standard Chartered, one of just three institutions authorized to issue Hong Kong bank notes, stands alongside HSBC Holdings as one of the territory's traditional financial powerhouses. It aims to use virtual banking to bolster services for small and midsize businesses that it has had trouble reaching in the past.

Hong Kong's status as an Asian financial hub means that large financial institutions tend to be particularly prominent there. The scramble to digitize is partly an effort to catch up with mainland China, which has been quicker to embrace fintech.

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