Hong Kong’s Fintech Week 2018 was the world’s first cross-border fintech event held in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China which attracted more than 8,000 attendees from 50 countries and many of the world’s leading startups, investors, regulators, and academics. In an interview with Crypto Insider, Ken Lo, CEO of Branding China Group encouraged to welcome the Unstoppable Crypto Train.
How do you compare the blockchain world in Asia to that of Europe and North America?
Asia is definitely more fast paced compared to the West. Everyone here is on a 24/7 operation mode, that is the mentality here. Hotspots such as Silicon Valley and New York are also working hard, but I see a lot of the action in Asia and I think it matches the Asia pace of life.
Within Asia which countries have taken a leadership position for crypto?
Japan was one of the first countries to take a position from a regulatory standpoint. It was one of the first issuers of an exchange license; one of the first countries to recognize bitcoin as a currency. It has taken very progressive steps in regulating the space. The Japanese realize that this space has a lot of high potential and have taken proactive steps to manage it.
The role of regulators is to protect the general public and provide regulatory clarity, so the private industries know how to do business; what they can and cannot do. Hong Kong has also taken a good first step towards regulating the industry with the circular issued just today and I think regulation is important for the industry.
It is important to have a partnership between private companies and the regulators as it builds trust in the ecosystem and also helps the industry grow. When you have a road with no markings, you go all over the place, so you need to have some rules in place.
What’s your view on the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission Circular on the regulatory framework issued just today?
It is still very early days. Now they are not just talking about regulation, they have issued a circular on some frameworks; the details are still a bit unclear. It is like they are putting everyone in a sandbox, they didn’t tell you on how to graduate from the sandbox, what are the criteria to graduate. These are all the things we have to work out and the SFC and the rest of the private companies will hopefully collaborate back and forth and move the regulation forward.
What role do you see China playing in this whole mix?
I view China as very forward thinking but they are also very pragmatic so they will take their time. They are not rushed, they don’t have the pressures of the free market like the US and Hong Kong. The private enterprise and the investors can push very hard and this where the regulators are feeling the pressure from. In China, they move at their own speed and they will get it right.
What about other countries in Asia such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh which don’t always make the headlines but have potential?
There is definitely a lot of growth happening in South East Asia. It is moving into the Fintech era. As the markets mature there, the regulators are also paying attention, but I haven’t seen any of the smaller markets making aggressive moves towards that direction. They are actually smaller and should be able to move much nimble but I haven’t seen them really taking advantage of that fact. So a lot of potential, we just have to wait and see how it develops.
Within the blockchain Industry, where do you see the most Innovation?
The most important thing is getting the regulatory framework. The uncertainty is stopping everything. A lot of companies such as the big banks e.g. HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank want to develop a strategy to move, however, they cannot because they are regulated entities and they have to follow what the regulator says. When the regulators are not clear on what you can and cannot do they would not take that risk to jump into something that will jeopardize their licenses. I think regulation is very important for innovation in the industry and once we have clear regulation the consumers will ultimately win.
You make an important point about traditional institutions moving into blockchain, do you think they will take the fun out the industry?
In truthness, I think they will take some of the fun out, but the institutions are already in the space. It is just that they may not be so visible. The digital assets have an 800 billion dollar market cap, that means there is trillions trading – that is definitely not retail. There is a lot of institution participation at the HK FinTech Week, it’s still pretty fun. Blockchain is a growing business and is, therefore, an exciting business and even the old guys are welcome to the party!