FinTech warrior sees bright future
While the world grapples with Covid-19, one HKU Business School alumnus is setting his sights on developing the Hong Kong FinTech scene…
Whether you are born in Hong Kong, or have moved here, many fall completely in love with the city. Syed Musheer Ahmed (MBA 2015) is no exception, coming to Hong Kong for his MBA and in five years becoming one of its leading advocates for FinTech, finding a new home along the way.
The Bangalore native was originally an engineering undergraduate, then worked as a trader both in India and Mauritius. His colourful journey matches a gregarious personality, and he generously shares his impressive knowledge on all aspects of FinTech while serving as an evangelist for the Asian scene.
We sit in the impressive environs of the School’s Cyberport campus, where Musheer describes how he was drawn to the city for its proximity to China business; its environment to challenge himself against the best; and his faith in the strength of the currently fraught India China relationship, “I believe that no matter what happens, India and China will do business with each other, and there will be bridges built and ecosystems forged. Hong Kong is an excellent base for that, with a big Indian population and all the advantages of an international financial centre,” he says.
Belief turns into results
Musheer has always been confident in Hong Kong, and the MBA journey at HKU Business School has offered the perfect environment for him to turn this conviction into results. “One of the elective courses called Business Lab is amazing; and I was able to study at London Business School for one term, which offered a blend of Asia and the West,” says Musheer. During his time in London, a trip to the famed incubator Level39 sparked an interest in tech that has inspired his career journey. On his return to Hong Kong, he resolved to help build the city’s nascent FinTech scene. He volunteered for FinTech events, building his network and eventually helping form the FinTech Association of Hong Kong.
The body quickly gained in popularity and Musheer took on the role of General Manager and sit on the board of directors. “This was a very hectic period for me but if you want to do something, a great way is to get your hands dirty and just jump into it,” says Musheer.
The FinTech Association of Hong Kong now covers everything from artificial intelligence, to digital banking, regtech, wealthtech and blockchain, and now has more than 14,500 followers on LinkedIn, with members running the gamut from investment banks, to tech giants and small startups. As FinTech offers a unique mix of different players, this blend is essential to succeed in fostering collaboration, promoting regulation and boosting education.
Keeping on top of FinTech
“For the incumbents in the financial services world, there is a need to upskill and to get up to speed with change, and this goes with policy makers and educators as well. FinTech is new and complex, and it is hard to keep up. That’s where we can help,” says Musheer.
A big wave of change is now here, with established banks promoting digital solutions, slashing fees, and improving financial inclusion for SMEs and startups. “It used to be a cat and mouse game for small companies to even get a bank account, a situation that is changing in the city now,” Musheer says.
Hong Kong has all it takes to be a global FinTech star, but has taken a while to relinquish its love of traditional banking and using cash. “People are digitally engaged, but it took time to develop trust with FinTech transactions. The growth of HSBC’s PayMe has been a very good example of this change. Hong Kong is a major global financial centre and a great testing environment because it is cash dependent, and other markets will follow as Hong Kong has so many bank headquarters here,” says Musheer.
Bullish about “852”
Musheer is continuing to move the Hong Kong FinTech market forward as Founder & Managing Director of FinStep Asia. The company provides advocacy, mentoring, research and advisory to support FinTech companies scale regionally, and to connect other global FinTech companies to do business cross border in Asia. In addition, It runs a variety of research on the FinTech market and initiatives for the ecosystem, including Virtual Fintech Fair in August 2020. “I want to continue to educate organisations across Asia; people need to be mindful of how technology is shaping their industries, and how digital is changing the financial landscape,” says Musheer.
For Musheer, connecting advocates across Asia is thus a must, and as co-founder of IndiaTech Hong Kong, he is helping bridge both government and industry between India and China. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it – Musheer’s passion, enthusiasm and energy means he fits the bill perfectly.