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Innovation lab boosts banks' use of hi-tech

A programme aimed at promoting innovative technologies that could reinvigorate Hong Kong's banking sector will be co-launched by 10 major financial institutions and Accenture today. 

The financial services providers are lending support to FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific, an "accelerator" programme for start-up technology companies modelled after a similar initiative co-founded by global management consulting firm Accenture and civic group the Partnership Fund for New York City in 2010. 

"By fostering the development of the next generation of financial technology companies, the lab will further strengthen Hong Kong's status as one of the world's leading financial capitals," said Sushil Saluja, the senior managing director of Accenture's Asia-Pacific financial services practice. 

Facing more pressure to boost growth and slash costs, large banks are now seeking to engage with promising ventures that offer technologies specifically designed for their industry. 

Highly sought-after solutions include analytics, mobile, risk management, payment, security, compliance, social media and collaboration technologies. 

Saluja said start-ups "often lack the resources and capital to endure the typical two- to three-year sales cycle for selling solutions to financial institutions. The Lab helps close that gap," he said.

The institutions taking part in the programme are Bank of China (Hong Kong), HSBC, China Construction Bank (Asia), Ping An, DBS, JP Morgan, Barclays, UBS, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. 

Through a competitive process, banks will select up to seven start-ups to take part in the programme, beginning from the end of September. 

Applications must be submitted by July 31. The entrepreneurs who make the cut will be provided with work space at Cyberport and housing via online lodging deals provider Airbnb. 

For 12 weeks, senior executives from the participating banks will help them fine-tune their technologies and business strategies through workshops, one-on-one meetings, user-group sessions and networking events. 

The programme concludes at an "investor day" presentation by the start-ups in December before financial industry executives and potential investors. 

The New York-based Lab has helped 18 companies raise more than US$76 million in venture financing and create approximately 150 jobs after participating in the programme. One participant, Inktank, was acquired for US$175 million by software company Red Hat. 

"The FinTech programme provides an effective platform for financial technology innovators to better understand our needs, which helps drive banking innovation to transform the customer experience," said Alex Lee, chief operating officer at Bank of China (Hong Kong). "Financial services companies are the largest buyers of technology-enabled solutions."

Global investment in financial technology ventures have tripled since 2008 to US$2.97 billion last year, with Asia-Pacific accounting for US$104 million, an Accenture report said.

Bien Perez