Hong Kong startups weigh GBA push
Opportunities and challenges remain for the scheme to rival other globally recognized technology regions
26 Feb 2021 | Darryl Yu

For several years, the idea was just a talking point among financial regulators in China’s Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). But earlier this month, they finally agreed to the supervisory, enforcement and liaison arrangements for the highly anticipated Wealth Management Connect pilot scheme in the region.

A major step for businesses looking to operate in the GBA, the scheme has also heightened focus on what could be possible for Hong Kong startups looking to serve a larger population outside of the city’s 7.5 million residents.

According to a recent survey conducted by Hong Kong’s Trade and Development Council (HKTDC), 45% of Hong Kong-based startups in new economy industries ranging from biotechnology to artificial intelligence and cloud computing cited the GBA’s large consumer market as its most appealing element for them.

In addition to the opportunities in the GBA, 37% of Hong Kong startups in the HKTDC survey cited the lower cost of doing business as motivation for their expansion in the area. While they were well aware of the opportunities in the GBA, only one in three of the startups had physical operations in the area aside from Hong Kong.

Around 43% of respondents believed that different institutional systems around legal and tax issues hindered their expansion plans in the area. In fact, 39% of respondents held off any expansion plans into the GBA due to uncertain market conditions.

Despite such apprehensions, financial institutions are gearing up for increased activity in the GBA with the likes of Bank of East Asia, HSBC and Standard Chartered allocating investments and personnel towards the region, which is estimated to generate around US$3.6 trillion in annual economic output by 2030. The GBA recorded an annual economic output of US$1.3 trillion in 2015, according to Colliers research. 

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