InnoKOL | Mr. Simon Je : Re-shape Hong Kong FinTech and Blockchain in Asia

2020/07/09 Innoverview Read

On July 9th(UTC+8), we had a fascinating conversation with Mr.Simon Je, the Founder and Chairman at Hong Kong International Blockchain and Financial Association(HKIBFA). As the guest of InnoKOL Season2 Esposide10, he shared his unique work experience in Global Financial & Wealth Management industry and deep insights on the Fintech development trends. 

Innoverview: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


Thanks, I would describe myself as “Life Futuristic Adventurer” and Mr. Je Motto “Never Give up and 101 for success is work hard and be an adventurer in your life”

Innoverview: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to Blockchain.


I'm currently the Chairman of the Board, Great Treasure International / Galaxy Treasure Group, a boutique Investment Bank with SFC licenses 1,4,9 for Securities Trading, Asset Management, and Wealth Management. I also hold different social roles:

● Founder and Chairman, Hong Kong International Blockchain and Financial Association (HKIBFA)

● Founder and CEO, FinLink Partners International (FPI)

● Co-Chairman, Hong Kong Blockchain Association (HKBA) 

● Director-General, Hong Kong Node, World Blockchain Organization (WBO)

● Co-Founder & Vice Chairman, Youth Innovation & Development Alliance (YIDA) 

● Founder & President, West African Chamber of Commerce (WACC)

● Chairman, Strategic Investment, Mason Supreme Healthcare

● Founder and Co-Chairman, Greater Bay Area International Medical and Healthcare Industry Association(GBA-IMHIA), and other privately-owned companies dealing with AI, Blockchain, Medical, and Biotech sectors.


I have 26 years of career history in Fortune 500 and leading multinational companies with management experiences, investment, B2B/B2C sales, marketing & commercial experience focusing on the Asia Pacific and China market for investment opportunities. Senior leadership roles managing a commercial organization with up to 300 professional sales, marketing, customer service, and technical team. Simon got an MBA from The Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, USA, Associateship degree from The Hong Kong Polytechnic, Associateship Degree from The Textile Institute, UK, and a Chartered Textile Technologist. Mr. Je is also the Certified Financial Consultant from The Institute of Financial Consultants (IFC).


To some extend, I could say I am an experienced entrepreneur with extensive knowledge in Global Financial & Wealth Management industry. In 2016, I have established the HK SFC licensed Investment Bank & International Wealth Management Company for global family offices, Institutional investors & retail clients. 


Have ample knowledge of digital asset management and created the latest FinTech & unique financial portfolio with high investment yield. For the promotion of youth development and socio-economic development, Mr. Je is also the Committee Member of Hong Kong Association for Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, Director-General of Hong Kong Node of World Blockchain Organisation and Co-Chairman of Hong Kong Blockchain Association. The effort has been highly placed in digital transformation in Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific. 


With my team and I , HKIBFA was nominated as the first organization with the honour of Corporate Partner by The International Institute of Management, IIM, in the blockchain industry. With the honour presented by Sir. Dr. David Lan GBS. ISO. JP., former Secretary of the Home Affairs Bureau of Hong Kong SAR government and the 10th and 11th National Committee Member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference representing Hong Kong, this serves the highest recognition to the professionalism in the market and community.  


5 years ago, I have contacted to the blockchain technology and started the understanding …and such disruptive technology should be adopted in the Financial market and other industry. However, when I ever discussed with some guru on the industries, they seem not sure nor understand what I was talking about, yet they also want to know more since then. I was encouraged to have an NGO which help to shape the HK future and helping the youth, especially in the FinTech and Biotech and innovation from other parts of the word to be in HKG such as Cyberport, Science Park. So I started the process for the HKIBFA work and recruited many industries leaders and blockchain experts for the HKIBFA, So far, The Cyberport Chairman Dr. George Lam is our Supervisor Board Chairman, we have 30 + Chairman group members and 26+ Honourable and Honorary Advisors including Sir. Dr. David Lan GBS. ISO. JP., Dr. Kennedy Wong JP., Dr. Albert Yu, and Dr. Ken Huang.

Innoverview: As an experienced entrepreneur with extensive knowledge in Global Financial & Wealth Management industry, what’s the opportunities and challenges will global finance industry face in the post-pandemic era? 


Opportunities: As we have the pandemic for almost 9 months and seems the Covid-19 will still be existing in the global environment. Besides, there are more and more people being infected and the overall global economy will be affected, especially travel restrictions, meeting restriction, there may even have some restriction for going outside of our home… Especially in our current situation in HK with the US-China and global economic competition. However, as the Chinese idiom goes: If we have Risk/Challenges, there will have Opportunities at the other side of the coin…

So there will certainly have some companies turning/ changing their business model or some being closed down due to financial status and some may change their business locations, product lines or even changing the business model into a totally different way.

However, as Risk & Opportunities are parallel existing, my overview is that there will be more companies using the internet and video conferencing for conducting their business. We are taking into this global and international commercial world and era, We saying ABCD….

A (Artificial Intelligence), B (Blockchain), C (Cloud Computing), D (Big Data) as the core technology and innovation to compete in the new ear of technology, no need to say especially in the increasingly competitive environment during and after the post-pandemic era.

Challenges: As those new technology & innovation are so new to the market place and business and commercial world, there need time and education for the existing business / commercial world, yet this may be a big challenge!!


The reason I say so is that the overall educational system is not getting ready for all the new technology. As you all know, technology and innovation are evolving at a very fast pace and it is even faster than our imagination. I believe the toughest challenge will be how the ecosystem from education from school, university or even adult education, adoption of technology start from the commercial world, adoption of the technology to mass market & becoming popular or even daily use. Mass-market promotion and adoption are the key. As if the commercial world is adopting the new technology yet the mass market is not being adopted, there will still have a breakdown or very slow development of the innovation/ technology. Besides, as the innovation or technology are evolving very fast, the continuous education, keeping the pace to the technology and adoption will be crucial, key critical success factor to the overall global finance industry face in the post-pandemic era.

Innoverview: How prepared is Hong Kong International Blockchain and Financial Association (HKIBFA) to play a leading role for stimulating the financial market development?


I would say Hong Kong International Blockchain and Financial Association (HKIBFA) visions to establish Hong Kong leading position among Asia and the world in blockchain and FinTech industry and market, through the following missions: 


1) Advocating market regulation and policy, 

2) Talent development for future blockchain, innovation technology professional by education, and 

3) Awareness of the disruptive blockchain technology in the market.


HKIBFA is the organization supports and promotes technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, big data (ABCD) and so on for traditional financial industry and other sectors. Currently, it’s serving more than 3,000 blockchain-investor, banker, government leader and scholar members from Hong Kong, Mainland China and other Belt and Road countries in Asia and the Pacific, The US and European countries.


You could see HKIBFA is not only for promoting Blockchain technology and new innovation / FinTech to the financial market development only ……as in my viewpoints, finance is related to all money flow activities and money flow activities are related to all different industries. That means the HKIBFA is promoting latest innovation and of course the renowned Blockchain technology to Financial market, including FinTech adoption and other industry that willing and able to get ready for the new technology, especially when the Financial market needs faster speed, lower cost structure, more Eco or green/environmentally friendly, better user experience and automation …etc


Even though there is more readiness to explore and adopt blockchain technology, some challenges must be addressed first. 


Before we could be well prepared HKIBFA to support and speed up the FinTech, Blockchain related technology for quicker adoption, we need to identify the key issues that are standing in the way of mass adoption of blockchain and ways to overcome them.


We do witness more readiness to incorporate blockchain in public services, supply chains, corporate departments but we also can’t ignore challenges that all stakeholders (from start-ups to governmental institutions to corporations) face that block the mass adoption of blockchain.


We have identified so far 6 challenges both larger companies and start-up founders need to address to push the blockchain development agenda forward.


1)     Funding & Investment


Blockchain start-ups have to consider specific costs (e.g. smart contracts audit, meeting the legal requirements specific to each jurisdiction). 


2)     Technical and business experience


The other main barrier is understanding blockchain and its possible use cases, assessing the cost-benefits of use cases, and letting the public and private innovation decision-makers be aware of the technology and its power to transform businesses and services. The lack of technical expertise is another major factor in stopping companies and public services from experimenting with the technology that could be very beneficial.


3)     Matchmaking


Let’s not forget about the traditional challenges larger companies and start-ups face when they collaborate – different mindsets, different specializations, different operational speeds.


4)     Adoption


Adoption is a minefield for both start-ups, corporations, and public services. Defining the right departmental fit, legal issues, the technical implementation is no easy task. Very often, the willingness to incorporate blockchain technology is there, but the strategy and expected results are not defined clearly.


Blockchain domain’s main challenge is to help potential customers perceive benefits related to the application and prove how the use of blockchain can make the difference in a business context allowing to gain competitive advantages. Blockchain start-ups can offer a wide range of opportunities to enhance public services and make them more cost-efficient. In the end, public actors will have no other option than to embrace blockchain technology to make their operations more efficient and transparent.

However, lack of awareness is accompanied by a great difficulty of public institutions to review, select, and adopt available solutions.


5)     Scaling and market access


Producing scaleups is the ultimate goal of a start-up ecosystem. In fact, because on average the top-performing 10% of start-ups provide roughly 80% of gross revenue and job creation, scaleups production becomes the main goal of start-up ecosystems. They create value by developing new solutions, but they also disrupt business models. That’s why blockchain start-ups face unique challenges.

Enhancing a start-up’s capability to sell their technologies means supporting start-ups in shaping effective business models and KPIs to successfully engage with their customers and with potential sources of finance. 


6)     Community


Finally, blockchain technology needs a community – it is much more effective if used globally rather than restricted to a small group of people with little transparency. Developing blockchain applications means making connections. To get the maximum benefit from blockchain systems, they must be able to scale to meet the needs of an ever-increasing number of participants with whom they are connected.


Cooperative partnerships between all stakeholders will be essential to sustain growth. Universities, the public sector, business angels, venture capitalists and corporates may have crucial roles to play in the development of deep-tech start-ups. Corporates – whether midsize, large, or enterprise-size companies – are the partners that can meet all start-up’s needs, combining technical, industrial, and commercial visions and skills.


By understanding all the potential barriers as stated above, HKIBFA will have upcoming Projects and Programs: 


1)    Position Paper: Position of Hong Kong in Asia and the World in Blockchain and FinTech market and industry.


2)    Satellite TV Channel Partnership: 2021 HKIBFA – One TV International Innovative Blockchain FinTech Investment Jumpstart Challenge, Shape and Broadcast the Next Unicorn in Innovative Technology


3)    Business and Investment Delegation: Belt and Road and Asia Pacific Market Exploration and Understanding, Partnership with International Blockchain Development Institute (IBDI) for the global market


4)    Independent Strategic Rating Partnership: Support potential blockchain companies and its technology for credit rating with independent and global partners, a Higher success rate of project implementation


5)    Education and Executive Programs: Potential Partnership with global management schools and other top-notch institutes in Asia


6)    BIVA on Blockchain (Best Investment Value Award): The 2nd annual of HKIBFA Best Investment Value Award - in Partnership of HKIBFA - One TV Program Partnership, Top 10 best values for blockchain companies to invest will be announced, from Asia and the Pacific market.


HKIBFA will also participate more global innovation exhibition/seminars, such as in Asia the HK Fintech week, Singapore FinTech week, China blockchain forum and other global exhibitions for technology collaboration with investment investments. 

Besides, HKIBFA will work with different blockchain companies and Universities for the innovative technology, HK Cyberport, HK Science park and other countries innovation & development institutes. 


ABCD innovation and technology has been bringing new challenges and competitive edges for different industries, especially for the Financial industry. The blockchain technology has been disruptive and re-shaping the global financial ecosystem. Using AI such as Chatbot, in-depth banking wealth management, credit and loan and anti-theft etc. Blockchain technology has transparency, the impressive new technology provides the support necessary for the decentralized, anonymized tracking and transaction of digital currencies around the world. However, as many industries are discovering, blockchain technology also allows for many other uses and applications as well.


From insurance and real estate to crowdfunding and data management, the potential applications of blockchain technology are numerous, and there will likely be new ways of adapting this technology to the mainstream business world in the future as well. But one important use of blockchain technology may be outside the mainstream business world: Some of the world's most impoverished nations may benefit from the integration of blockchain technology in various ways.


Cloud Computing provides the platform for data collection, basis for business development, many research has been indicated that half of the financial institutes have been using OpenStack cloud computing technology and Big Data is also becoming hot topics for data analysis and precis future trend prediction and supporting the corotational sales and marketing strategies. 

Innoverview: One of the most exciting pages of your biography is that you have been experienced in Merging and Acquisitions with professional teams of 300, across the industries including industrial chemicals, functional fibers, plastics, automobiles, aviation, textiles and garments.. Could you share some successful and failure cases impressed you most? What are the internal and external reasons?


Being the Asia Pacific Commercial Director for the top US Fortune 500 corporations, and European leading industrial corporations before, I would like to express that those corporations are having a very strategic approach to the specific industry and also keen to invest resources for Research & Development for the next 5-10 years. As there are many good and innovative technologies, the key for Corporations to foreseen and strategically position the Corporation in the next 5-10 years and what would need to be planned ahead and what technologies need to be acquired. Due to the confidentially, I could not share specific case or technologies for the question, but I could share that the key success factor is R&D and deep understanding of the industry future development. As for M&A, once the Corporation has been set for the 5-10 years plan and development goal, then the team will need to get the early stage innovation and renowned technology onboard with lower market valuation value. Besides, the potential acquired technology or company innovation should have synergy with other parts of the existing business which lead to cross-over business support and potential growth, unless there will be a totally new business model with the innovation. 

Innoverview: The future of fintech in 10 to 15 years relies on security and improving authentication methods for companies to ensure users’ identity across their online service offerings. What will fuel the future of fintech? 


You are to the point, as the speed of doing business becomes faster under the era of 5G or 6G is coming on board, technology and innovation keeping the digital identity safe is one of the main challenges of the financial services (FS) industry. Using APIs is a way to improve security and minimize risk, quickly and cost-effectively. And there are other tools, like biometrics, geolocation and social media. 


With the increasingly sophisticated nature of cybercrime, hacking, and financial fraud, this may be the most important set of issues facing the financial services industry today. The digital age has always presented challenges for authentication. It was so much easier when people’s identities could be verified face-to-face at a bank branch. Usernames, passwords, and security questions have been among the most common ways institutions try to determine who is at the keyboard. These traditional approaches are quickly becoming outdated, and less secure.


Fintech companies are pioneering new approaches to verifying and managing identity. In some cases, the new technology is for sale to banks and other FS. In other instances, the fintech company simply makes their product more secure. And in a growing number of cases, authentication is being provided via banking APIs.


In strengthening authentication, one avenue being explored is behavioural biometrics. A good example is the precise tracking of user typing patterns. By looking at factors like typing speed and rhythm, data can be captured for each online or mobile session. This behavioural data pattern becomes one element of a very complex algorithm.


Physiological biometrics use everything from the shape of a person’s face or hands, retina scans to voice verification to identify the person. One of the new cool new technology is that using selfie images to enable a customer to login. 


Another set of elements contributing to a robust identity profile might include the attributes of trusted devices (like a unique identifier from a commonly used smartphone), sign-in habits, and the geographic location or time of day that certain devices are used.


And interestingly, social media is even being used to verify identities. For example, are all of a user’s Facebook friends based in another country? Were all of their jobs on LinkedIn held in another country?

As the growing technology on Fintech era, we should say the partnerships of fintech innovators and banks, FS are growing. Banks have the depth of experience, security protocols, and nuanced knowledge that would be daunting for a new company to acquire on their own. Using a bank’s APIs is a way that fintech companies can improve security and minimize risk, quickly and cost-effectively.


·       Build out an authentication strategy that enables you to create a comprehensive picture of the user

·       Incorporate biometrics, geolocation, IP addresses, social media and other data to reduce your risk.

·       Partner with banks and use APIs so you don’t have to build costly security infrastructure yourself.


The days of the password are numbered. New tech and novel strategies will help us to better safeguard our identities and our accounts. 


The financial services (FS) companies and technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) companies could be side by side, the lines in between FS and TMT firms have becoming blurred and before was different distinct sectors are colliding. Many TMT companies are currently applying for FS licences, and FS organisations have begun positioning themselves as technology companies.

Fintech is now at the epicentre of this technology, innovation transformation. The FS and TMT industries are both using innovation and technology, FinTech to sharpen their operational efficiency, lower costs, greener, improve customer experience and heighten the appeal of respective products and service lines. They are carving out new commercial and revenue possibilities. Those so-called Digital-only banks are offering and redesigning to their client value propositions and cost profiles. Investment/ portfolios managers are deploying fully customised Robo-advice. AI for investment predictions, insurers are using sensors to monitor people’s health and help prevent illness.


According to a PwC survey and research, adopting those fintech-centred strategies is paramount and found that 47% of TMT and 48% of FS organisations have embedded fintech fully into their strategic operating model. Also, 44% of TMT and 37% of FS organisations have incorporated emerging technologies into the products and services. Executives who have been already fully engaged with fintech are more likely than those who have not to be very confident about their future revenue growth and ability to outstrip the competition.

Many firms, though, are still stuck in the development and pilot stages, and therefore have not seen a return on investment. In view, those firms are at risk of being one step — or more — behind the market. 

Innoverview: You are one of the most popular keynote speakers in Fintech and Blockchain conferences. What’s your benchmark to select the top-tier industrial conferences?


Thanks for your kind words, and since have been attending many global Fintech and Blockchain conferences, there are some insights when I choose where and what to attend those top-tier industrial conferences, here are 5 top tips for me to decide which conferences to attend :


1. Determine my goals: Before deciding which conferences, I should attend, first I have to determine what are my goals are ….and what messages I would like to deliver to the audience. 

2. Consider my budget: Will the conference be nearby countries and timing, will there be any other travel plan or business meetings that could gather on the trip for the conference. Any breakfast, lunch, dinner meetings could be planned to save the time of the trip. 

3. Find out who is attending the conference: Once you find out any particular keynote speakers or industrial gurus to be there, would there be networking session and collaboration opportunities for further growth.

4. Look at the conference schedule: Will the conference date/time will be matching my schedule, if yes, plan the conference, if no, then any other ways to be on-line for specific topics, especially under the pandemic era, we may want to use video conferencing technology or virtual conference model.

5. Consider other obligations: As we need to well prepare the speech and goal for audiences to take away, preparation on slides, keynotes and even brochures are important.