More than 3,300 financial policymakers, financial elites and business leaders attended the two-day 12th Asian Financial Forum (AFF), which concluded yesterday. Co-organised by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the theme for this year’s forum was “Creating a Sustainable and Inclusive Future”, examining the current economic environment and gauging the views of participants through on-site real-time polling on issues such as the global economy, investment opportunities, and the risks brought about by technology and innovation. More than 700 one-on-one meetings were arranged during the AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session, helping participants to explore business and investment opportunities.
Respondents Most Optimistic about Southeast Asia and Mainland China Markets
Real-time polling conducted through HKTDC mobile apps at various sessions during the forum sought to gauge the views of participants on a broad range of subjects. When asked about the outlook for the global economy in 2019, 15% of respondents were optimistic, 38% were neutral, while 47% of respondents expressed pessimism, reflecting cautious optimism in the industry towards the overall economic outlook.
When asked about the countries and regions that will offer the best investment returns in 2019, 39% and 35% of respondents believed it would be Southeast Asia and Mainland China respectively, followed by the United States (16%), Japan (3%) and Western Europe (2%). As for the sector with the greatest growth potential globally in 2019, 38% expected it to be healthcare, while 30% thought it would be TMT (telecommunications, media and technology) and e-commerce, followed by green industries or environmental goods and services (19%), financial services (6%), food and agriculture (4%), and real estate and infrastructure (1%).
US-China Trade Dispute Seen as Biggest Challenge to Financial Security
Amid the current global economic uncertainty, polling at the AFF also touched on the issue of the main source of risk for global financial stability. A majority of respondents said that trade tensions between the United States and Mainland China are the main source of risk in 2019 (77%), followed by monetary policy normalisation (10%), cyber breaches and security risks (7%) and Brexit and fiscal discipline in the European Union (6%).
At the keynote luncheon on the first day of the forum, Robert Zoellick, former World Bank President, spoke about the development of Sino-US trade: “Trade negotiations between the US and China need both short-term results and a long-term process to address deeper concerns. Those issues include intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises and the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.
In response to the AFF theme this year, “Creating a Sustainable and Inclusive Future”, the poll asked participants about the biggest challenge to achieving a sustainable future globally. A total of 43% of respondents believed it was due to “people’s reluctance to trade higher cost today for better sustainability for future generations”, followed by “reluctance by some governments to adopt policies for sustainable development” (23%), “insufficient attention to environmental, social and governance factors in asset markets” (21%), “lack of financially viable green projects” (10%), and “lack of green funding” (3%).
AI Brings Biggest Disruption to Financial Industry
Technology and innovation are beginning to create more disruption in the financial industry. Participants were asked which of the following developments or technologies were expected to lead to the biggest disruption to the financial industry in 2019, with 30% of respondents expecting it to be artificial intelligence (AI), followed by big data analytics (22%), the rise of virtual banks (21%), blockchain (13%), cryptocurrencies and the rise of initial coin offerings (6%) and regulatory technology (5%).
700+ Meetings Organised through AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session
This year’s forum once again featured the AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking Session to provide one-to-one deal-sourcing and matchmaking meetings for project owners and investors. More than 700 meetings were held, covering projects including production and environment technology, fintech, digital technology, healthcare technology, infrastructure and real estate services, education, environment and energy, and agriculture. The sessions sought to foster more concrete cooperation between participants.
The new FinTech Showcase, launched at this year’s AFF, enabled international financial institutions and technological enterprises to present their innovative applications and solutions to the industry – a well-received session that helped companies to make the best use of new technologies. The InnoVenture Salon, launched last year and back in 2019 with an expanded scale and enriched content, included the Startup Zone, Fireside Chat, Demo Hours and Startup Clinic. More than 200 start-up projects were involved and more than 100 one-to-one meetings were arranged for start-ups to approach investors.
Overview of 2019 Asian Financial Forum participants’ polling results
1. 2019 Global Economic Outlook
– Optimistic 15%
– Neutral 38%
– Pessimistic 47%
2. Countries/regions with the best investment return in 2019
– Mainland China 35%
– Southeast Asia 39%
– Western Europe 2%
– USA 16%
– Japan 3%
– Others 4%
3. Sectors with the greatest growth potential globally in 2019
– Healthcare 38%
– TMT (telecommunications, media and technology) and e-commerce 30%
– Real estate and infrastructure 1%
– Green industries/environmental goods and services 19%
– Financial services 6%
– Food & agriculture 4%
– Others 2%
4. Main source of risks for global financial stability
– Brexit and fiscal discipline in the European Union 6%
– US-China trade tensions 77%
– Cybersecurity breaches 7%
– Monetary policy normalisation 10%
5. The biggest challenge to a sustainable future globally
– Reluctance to adopt policies for sustainable development 33%
– Lack of green funding 3%
– Lack of financially viable green projects 10%
– Insufficient attention to environment, social and governance factors in asset classes 21%
– Reluctance to pay higher prices for more sustainable options 43%
6. The biggest disruption to the financial industry in 2019
– Artificial intelligence (AI) 30%
– Blockchain 13%
– Big data analytics 22%
– Rise of virtual banks 21%
– Cryptocurrencies and rise of initial coin offerings (ICOs) 6%
– Regulatory technology (regtech) 5%
– Others 2%
Speakers webcast interview:
Former World Bank President Robert Zoellick: https://youtu.be/aRET0O9KDnc
Minister of Finance of Malaysia Lim Guan Eng: https://youtu.be/mzl8h9FuHg8
Event website: www.asianfinancialforum.com
International Financial Week Website: http://www.internationalfinancialweek.com
Photo download: https://bit.ly/2HfhNlR
Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body dedicated to creating opportunities for Hong Kong’s businesses. With 50 offices globally, including 13 on the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China, Asia and the world. With more than 50 years of experience, the HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to provide companies, particularly SMEs, with business opportunities on the mainland and in international markets, while providing business insights and information via trade publications, research reports and digital channels including the media room. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com/aboutus.