Hong Kong Fintech Week is back for its sixth run, and it’s back live. This year, Invest Hong Kong and Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau organized a mix of live and virtual events, under the theme “Scaling Fintech Future Together.” Over 250 global industry speakers are discussing the future of fintech, consumer empowerment, blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

Hundreds gathered at the 50,000 square foot exhibition hall at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with many walking around in suits and entry passes around their collars, eager to learn the latest what’s what in fintech. Fintech firms set up open booths across the hall, where any interested visitor could interact with the firm’s executives. Crypto and decentralized finance (DeFi) firms held a fair share of booths, with names including AAX exchange, Crypto.com and HashKey Group.

Michel Lee, executive president of the HashKey Group, told Forkast.News that for a blockchain company, joining the Hong Kong Fintech Week is a no-brainer. “Obviously, this is the event that brings regulators, start-ups, traditional finance, and large scale technology players to Hong Kong,” Lee said. He also says that Hong Kong, while a financial hub, lacks technologists, and Fintech Week is one of the few that people from two industries can touch shoulders. 

Fintech Week led off its speaker sessions with opening remarks from Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary where he mentioned Hong Kong and China’s developments in central bank backed cryptocurrencies (CBDC), after mentioning the memorandum of understanding between the city and the People’s Bank of China on testing cross-boundary financial applications via a one-stop sandbox.  

“Equally significant is the continuing collaboration between our Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the People’s Bank of China in the testing of the use of digital renminbi here in Hong Kong. The goal is creating a convenient means of cross-boundary payments for Hong Kong and mainland residents,” said Chan. He also rehashed Hong Kong’s plan to issue its own CBDC for retail use, saying that the Monetary Authority is currently studying its prospects.

Then followed a session on the future of fintech with Joe Tsai of Alibaba, Neil Shen of Sequoia Capital China and David Liao, co-chief executive of HSBC’s Asia Pacific region and moderated by Eddie Yue, HKMA’s chief executive, where they underlined the need of creativity in the fast-changing world of finance. 

Blockchain technology definitely is one of the biggest creative forces shifting the long standing foundation of finance — and Hong Kong Fintech Week’s session “Crypto in 2021: Misconceptions, Lessons & Opportunities Ahead” helped the audience dive deeper into crypto, decentralized finance (DeFi) and NFTs. 

One of the session’s panelists, Lucy Gazmararian, founder and managing partner of Token Bay Capital, said the crypto space is at a “hockey stick” moment. “There is a lot of activity from corporations, institutions, you know, there’s a whole parallel financial markets infrastructure that’s being built, but it’s not just being built, it’s actually being adopted. And I think that’s really accelerated in really even just a few months,” Gazmararian said.

In DeFi, Gazmararian believes one of the biggest trends is the decentralized exchanges, saying they power the markets nowadays. “Quarter on quarter, you’re seeing trading volume in decentralized exchanges start to overtake those of centralized exchanges. So this is an industry shift,” she said.

Another panelist, Ben Caselin, head of research from AAX exchange, talked about the recent alleged rug pull incident that is the Squid Game cryptocurrency. He said investors of SQUID token may be subject to “unit bias” where one feels happier owning a full unit of a cheaper token than holding a small fraction of Bitcoin, for example. “People will get burned from that type of thinking, and it’s not just Squid Game token, it can be one of these dog tokens, it can even be a legit project that may seem legit, but eventually turns out not to be legit,” said Caselin, insisting that investors do their due diligence on a token project, such as the distribution of funds.

“The barrier of entry [for crypto] is quite low,” said Christian Ng, principal of GBV, who called attention back to the importance of keeping high security of crypto assets, especially when the market’s growing exponentially. “You have to be very alert in terms of the people you’re speaking with and the protocols you’re interacting with. Even if you’re just doing Bitcoin ATMs or doing peer-to-peer transactions, there’s always the risk of losing all your money.”