AMTD Group Chairman Talks Ecosystem Building, Fintech Talent Building, and More

AMTD Group Chairman Talks Ecosystem Building, Fintech Talent Building, and More

by July 28, 2020

Financial services group AMTD has reached numerous milestones this year as part of its fintech push. For Calvin Choi, chairman of the AMTD Group, the priorities now are centered around building up its ecosystem across the whole Asian region and grooming the fintech leaders of tomorrow.

In the first episode of monthly online talk show Fintech Fireside Asia on July 19, Choi looked back at the key announcements the group has made since the beginning of the year and explained what the group is now focused on.

AMTD Group’s SpiderNet

AMTD Group’s fintech plans revolve around that the firm refers to as SpiderNet, a strategy focusing on investing in and partnering with innovative startups and other financial institutions to develop a broad and holistic ecosystem.

“I’m a believer in ecosystem partnership,” Choi said, “creating something more sticky, consistent and sustainable … a [so-called] SpiderNet [that would] create more synergies for everyone.”

“I’m also a strong believer in an open-end platform where we don’t restrict ourselves from doing one thing or another,” he said. “I want to be open but yet I am not going to do everything and anything. I still need to focus on the particular verticals that I choose, and that will formulate the later development of the ecosystem.”

In the case of AMTD Group, these include investment banking, asset/wealth management, and insurance brokerage, he said, noting that the group’s recent acquisition of Singapore insurtech startup PolicyPal will further strengthen its position in the city state but also the broader Southeast Asian region.

So far, key strategic investments the group has made include Bank of Qingdao in China, which has won numerous awards and accolades for its innovativeness, as well as Xiaomi, a tie-up that saw the two firms launch Hong Kong’s second virtual bank, Airstar Bank, in June.

With the virtual bank up and running in Hong Kong, AMTD Group now has plans to enter the Singaporean digital banking scene. The firm is currently leading a consortium comprising Funding Societies, SP Group and Xiaomi that has applied for a digital wholesale banking license in the city state.

Speaking on that back in October 2019, Choi told the Business Times that connecting a digital bank in Singapore to its digital bank in Hong Kong would allow AMTD Group to offer a more comprehensive suite of financial services to customers, a move that would align with the group’s broader ambition to develop an open, holistic ecosystem that covers the whole Asian region.

Acquisition spree in Southeast Asia

AMTD Group has unveiled several acquisition deals since the beginning of the year, which, alongside PolicyPal, include CapBridge Financial, an online investment platform and FOMO Pay, a one-stop QR code and digital payment solution provider. All three are from Singapore.

Speaking about the firm’s next potential acquisitions, Choi said he was interested in “anything that could help me build my SpiderNet into a greater form, by bringing more synergies or fundamentals to support with solution building, or to help in community building.”

In particular, Choi cited Vietnam and Malaysia as interesting markets, but also locations such as India where partners like Xiaomi have had a strong presence.

Nurturing the fintech leaders of tomorrow

With a seemingly particular focus on Southeast Asia, Choi said the reasoning behind AMTD Group’s recent acquisitions were to acquire local talents, a major area of focus for the firm and the key of sustainable growth.

“It’s all about talents,” Choi said, “thinking about much longer time into the future … Talent brings in talent, local know-how, new ideas.”

On that front, Choi said AMTD Group has been actively partnering with universities, educational institutions and industry trade groups to develop fintech programs.

He noted for example the AMTD Fintech Centre of PolyU Faculty of Business, the first fintech school in Hong Kong that delivers fintech doctorate degrees. AMTD Group and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) launched it in 2018.

In Singapore, AMTD Group is also involved in the AMTD-Xiaomi-SMU-ISS Digital Finance Leadership Programme (AXSI Programme), which seeks to equip senior leaders in Singapore with knowledge on digital business transformation.

“If I want my organization to be strong, resilient and have the right talent, I must prepare the market,” Choi said. “We want to groom the right leaders of fintech and the digital space for the whole of Asia.”

You can watch the full video here: