The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has launched the second edition of the FinTech Career Accelerator Scheme (FCAS) today, 31 January 2018. Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Ltd (Cyberport), and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) are co-organisers in this programme. The launch ceremony was officiated by Mr Norman Chan, Chief Executive of the HKMA; Mr Wong Ming-yam, Chairman of ASTRI; Dr George Lam, Chairman of Cyberport; and Mr Albert Wong, Chief Executive Officer of HKSTP.
FCAS aims to nurture Hong Kong’s financial and technological talents to meet the emerging and ever-evolving needs of the industry. Last year, in the programme’s inaugural edition, ASTRI joined hands with HKMA, sourcing potential FinTech talents from 10 academic institutions who were groomed for practical exposure in 12 banks. As the co-organiser of the scheme, ASTRI provided core FinTech training to the 70 odd selected candidates, and used its network across the universities to encourage potential talents to embrace FinTech as an inspiring career choice. FCAS 2.0 offers a number of exciting opportunities and development initiatives for the participating students. The number of students admissible to the programme has also been extended to over 200.
Speaking at the event, Mr Hugh Chow, ASTRI’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “The technology ecosystem thrives on three key elements: talent, capital and market. Having a strong talent pipeline is a prerequisite for the development of science and technology.” Mr Chow shared ASTRI’s belief that “FCAS 2.0 will not only benefit the students, but also add significant value to the banking industry and the entire innovation and technology ecosystem of Hong Kong.” He added that “ASTRI fully supports the various initiatives under FCAS 2.0, and is delighted to be working alongside HKMA as well as two major players in Hong Kong’s technology system – Cyberport and Hong Kong Science Park.”
Four participants from last year’s FCAS shared their experience on the occasion – how they learned from the programme and applied the FinTech knowledge and skills in the practical field. The students also explained how they “realised the importance of communication skills during the FCAS internship and were inspired by the colleagues they got to work with.”
ASTRI supports HSBC Safeguard App Competition as technology enabler – provides training, technology platform and programming interfaces to contestants
At the Demo Day of the Safeguard App Competition organised by HSBC on 13 December 2017, student teams and start-ups showcased their ideas. ASTRI was the Technology Enabler in this contest, providing a suite of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which contestants used to develop their iOS or Android app prototypes. In addition to providing training materials and support in addressing contestants’ queries, ASTRI built a Blockchain-based virtual platform for contestants to use as they developed their application prototypes for the competition.
Launched in September 2017, the competition was open to Hong Kong-based tertiary students and start-ups, who were invited to submit innovative solutions to help bank customers to maintain their most up-to-day information in account profiles. At the Demo Day, shortlisted teams pitched their proposals to a panel of respected banking and technology experts. Dr MeiKei Ieong, Chief Technology Officer of ASTRI was a member of the judging panel which also included Mr Li Shu-pui, JP, Executive Director (Financial Infrastructure), Hong Kong Monetary Authority; and Ir Peter Yeung, Head of EE and ICT Cluster, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation; and executives from HSBC: Mr Raymond Cheng, Chief Operating Officer, Asia-Pacific; Mr Greg Hingston, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Hong Kong; and Mr Daniel Chan, Head of Business Banking, Commercial Banking, Hong Kong.
Speaking at the event, Ms Diana Cesar, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, HSBC congratulated the winning teams and extended her gratitude to the judging panel and the contest’s technology partner ASTRI. She talked about the HSBC-ASTRI R&D Innovation Laboratory which mobilises FinTech developments through exploratory activities in various areas.
The winner in the Student category was InstaSure who came up with a user-friendly interface for individual users to monitor and maintain account security. Game Changers, the second prize winner, aims to utilise information sharing within social groups to help customers to maintain, verify and share their contact information. BU WWW, winner of the third prize, proposed an app that can update customers’ information in real time in an automated and secure way.
The winner in the Start-up category was Earth Channel Limited. They developed a smart eWallet app that collects customers’ information in an efficient way – protected by two different Blockchain technologies that respectively carries out predictive analysis of customers’ location and lifestyle preference, and ensures the maximum privacy of their information. BETECH won the second prize for their idea to automate the updating of phone numbers and addresses, using machine learning technologies. The third prize went to Cloud Connect Technology for their ‘Click Click Through’ app which stores and updates customers’ data across distributed ledgers.
ASTRI looks forward to advancing its FinTech R&D partnership with HSBC by developing more innovative applications, prototypes and proofs-of-concept that will make banking better, faster and safer.
Beijing Fangshan Yancun Technology Park partners with ASTRI, to power its specialised FinTech innovation hub
The 21st Beijing-Hong Kong Economic Collaboration Symposium was held in Hong Kong from 28-29 November 2017 with the theme of “Leading Innovation, Exchanging Resources, Driving Development, and Creating Prosperity”. During the event, ASTRI signed a partnership agreement with the Beijing Fangshan Yancun Technology Park, to facilitate technology planning, mapping and implementation for the Financial Technologies (FinTech) cluster within the Park. Dr Justin Chuang, ASTRI’s Vice President for Next Generation Network, and Ms Ma Xiaolan, CEO of Internet Financial Security Demonstration Industrial Park, signed the agreement on their respective organisations’ behalf.
ASTRI, the largest applied R&D institution in the Hong Kong SAR, is a leading technology developer for the financial services sector in Hong Kong and this region. Under this partnership, ASTRI’s R&D expertise will be leveraged to develop and commercialise innovative FinTech tools and platforms in the Mainland, including Blockchain, Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. In addition to powering FinTech development in the Mainland market using ASTRI’s FinTech Intellectual Property and innovative R&D, the partnership aims to assist the development of specialised technology hubs and industrial parks specifically targeting FinTech innovation.
Since Hong Kong’s reunion with the country in 1997, the collaboration between Beijing and Hong Kong has seen prolific growth in investment, trade, technological cooperation, cultural exchange and entrepreneurship. By the end of September 2017, investment from Hong Kong in Beijing had reached USD 59.13 billion, accounting for 44.9% of the capital city’s utilised foreign direct investment, according to the Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau. Over the same period, Beijing’s direct investment in the SAR reached USD 26.34 billion, accounting for 44.3% of Beijing’s foreign direct investment. Deeper collaboration in the area of innovation and technology will help Hong Kong and the Mainland to leverage each other’s strengths, and help secure strong, sustainable growth in the country’s economic development.
ASTRI plays a crucial role in promoting technology and innovation not just for the city, but also for the country. In addition to developing innovative technologies and solutions that benefit industries and communities in Hong Kong, ASTRI also contributes to the city’s innovation and technology development efforts to make the most of national and international mega-programmes like the Belt and Road Initiative, Industry 4.0 Transformation and development of the South China Greater Bay Area.
ASTRI partners with InvestHK for Hong Kong FinTech Week 2017
ASTRI partnered with InvestHK, organiser of the Hong Kong FinTech Week 2017, and contributed with in-depth, insightful sessions on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) or Blockchain. In addition to two mainstage sessions and a workshop on Blockchain, ASTRI also presented a workshop on cybersecurity. The mainstage sessions on DLT covered ‘Cutting-edge Blockchain Applications’ across industries such as luxury retail and financial services, and ‘Legal, Regulatory and Control Principles of DLT’ respectively. Meanwhile, the workshop discussed ‘Technological Aspects of DLT’.
On the opening day, Dr MeiKei Ieong, Chief Technology Officer of ASTRI, moderated a panel discussion on ‘Cutting-edge Blockchain Applications’. The panel included senior executives from two unique industries – luxury retail (represented by Pritesh Patel – SVP and Chief Operating Officer of Gemological Institute of America Inc, and Jade Lee – Deputy General Manager or Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group) and financial services (represented by Harry Wong – Governing Committee Member and Chairman FinTech Taskforce of The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers, and Zhi Yong-wang – Head of Product Development and Management of ICBC Asia Limited). The panellists discussed opportunities as well as constraints in rolling out Blockchain applications across various industries. The experience from the luxury jewellery sector highlighted how Blockchain can be useful in a wide range of applications like product authentication, supply chain tracking as well as customer data management.
Dr Ieong moderated another session the next day, on the technological aspects of rolling out DLT. The panel included Mr Jehan Chu, Founder of Ethereum HK Meetup; Dr Arafet Ben Makhlouf, FinTech and Blockchain Consultant at Deloitte; Ms Connie Leung, Senior Director at Microsoft; and Mr Carl Wegner, Managing Director at R3. The panellists shared their experience in moving from Blockchain prototyping to production and deployment of DLT applications. While discussing the challenges and roadmap ahead, the panellists emphasised the importance of professional trainings on DLT, and enabling technology professionals to design and create smart contracts and end-user applications.
25 October was the ‘HKMA FinTech Day’ in the FinTech Week. At the event, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) unveiled the “Whitepaper 2.0 on Distributed Ledger Technology”. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Norman Chan, Chief Executive of HKMA, said “The findings and recommendations in the whitepaper will help devise practical guidelines for the use of DLT in the banking sector in the future.” He acknowledged that “Hong Kong has made important progress in cross-border collaboration and the research on DLT applications. The collaborative efforts and enhanced research and talent development are the essential building blocks to facilitate financial innovation and prepare Hong Kong to advance to the new Smart Banking Era.”
Mr Alan Cheung Wei-lun, Director of Advanced Digital Systems at ASTRI, was a panellist in a discussion on ‘Whitepaper on the legal, regulatory and control principles of DLT’. The session was moderated by Mr Nelson Chow, Chief FinTech Officer of HKMA. Mr Cheung explained the role played by ASTRI in the development of the DLT Whitepaper 2.0. ASTRI provided unbiased and the most up-to-date technological information and insights on DLT, including references of application implementation. Working as part of a Digital Identity Management working group that also includes HKMA and five leading banks, ASTRI had performed a Proof-of-Concept-based feasibility study on using DLT-based Know Your Customers (KYC) processes in the sector. “We provided updates of DLT platforms including public as well as permissioned applications”. Mr Cheung added.
In the workshop session on Cybersecurity, Dr Andrew Wat Yiu-wing, Director of Data Analytics and Cybersecurity at ASTRI, co-presented along with Dr Lucas Hui Chi-kwong, Founder and Honorary Director of the Centre for Information Security and Cryptography at the University of Hong Kong. The session’s topics included building a cyber-risk-aware culture in businesses, grooming a cyber-defence-ready workforce, and deploying the right tools and systems to deter vicious cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity is a key focus in ASTRI’s FinTech R&D. ASTRI’s initiatives in that area include cyber-intelligence sharing, training of cybersecurity professionals and advanced cybersecurity research.
Over 5,000 financial services professionals, FinTech entrepreneurs, investors, inventors, researchers and executives from around the world discussed and debated the future of financial technologies at Hong Kong FinTech Week 2017. Senior officials and dignitaries who addressed the event included Hon James Henry Lau Jr, JP, Secretary for Financial Services and Treasury; and Mr Edward Yau Tang-wah, GBS, JP, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development; of the HKSAR Government.
Mr Lau spoke on behalf of the Hong Kong Government and its regulators saying, “We want to embrace Fintech innovators, and welcome them to the transformation of Hong Kong’s financial centre and its financial services.”
Pointing out to the fact that over 100 countries have signed up in the ‘Belt and Road’ programme, Mr Yau said that “Hong Kong can play a central role with financial and technical support” for all these economies, and encouraged Fintech companies to “make Hong Kong the launchpad for their businesses”.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) works with the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) and Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) to develop a localised certification scheme – Certified Cyber Attack Simulation Professional (CCASP) and training programmes for cybersecurity professionals.
CCASP is supported by the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST) International.
Certified Cyber Attack Simulation Professional (CCASP) Certification
CCASP/CREST examinations are recognised by the professional services industry and buyers as being the best indication of knowledge, skill and competence. They are a high-level aspiration for those taking them and increasingly a mandated requirement for those hiring or buying services. CCASP/CREST examinations are broken down into three levels.
CCASP/CREST provides a recognised career path right from your entry into the industry through to experienced senior tester level. We work with the largest number of technical information security providers who support and guide the development of our examination and career paths.
Different Levels of CCASP
The CCASP Practitioner examinations are the entry level examinations and are aimed at individuals with around 2,500 hours relevant and frequent experience.
The CCASP Registered Tester examinations are the next step and by passing this you are demonstrating your commitment as an information security tester. Typically, candidates wishing to sit a Registered Tester examination should have at least 6,000 hours (three years or more) relevant and frequent experience.
The CCASP Certified Tester examinations are designed to set the benchmark for senior testers: These are the certifications to which all testers aspire. By gaining the CCASP Certified Tester certification you are recognisably at the top of your game as an information security specialist.
Route to CREST/HKIB’s CCASP Certification – Penetration Tester
Route to CREST/HKIB’s CCASP Certification – Simulation Target Attack and Response
The Intelligent Investment Platform, developed jointly by ASTRI and t.Axiom, is capable of analysing large-scale financial data, calculating quantitative models and processing a big chunk of historical and real-time data. It provides in-depth analysis of empirical data, ensuring efficiency and accuracy. Using artificial intelligence to analyse customer needs and attributes, it suggests practical and meaningful investment strategies to help customers with the allocation of assets and selection of investment products. The tool is used by securities companies and fund managers to quantify investments, marking a significant progress in applying financial technology in this field. Bank of China (Hong Kong) has adopted this platform – its ‘Smart Investment’ contest was organised using this platform, in partnership with ASTRI.
ASTRI’s Smart Investment Platform supports the users in the following ways:
Intelligent stock selection and trading strategy system: To pick the stocks and automatically generate trading strategies based on big data analysis, artificial intelligence, genetic algorithm and machine learning algorithms.
Graphical and intelligent trading strategy generation platform: Visual presentation of trading trends and display of back-test results to help ordinary traders to generate trading strategies in an automated manner
Intelligent market analysis system can gauge a particular event’s impact on different assets in the market. It explains the complex cause-effect market matrix relating the customer’s performance in simple words or graphics. As the trading volumes and complexities grow, the need to deal in large chunks of data is putting an enormous amount of stress of the customers who are burdened with the task of handling an unprecedented amount of information. In addition to the complexity in information, new and evolving regulatory requirements also affect the processes and practices in the financial markets. Under such a transmuting scenario, establishing correlations between different market factors using traditional theories and models has become very difficult. Not only has the current macro-economic environment become more complex, the need for risk management and controls have become greater too. The market itself has been the result of these complex information chemical reaction presented in front of us, the information provided to us enough for him to be more in-depth, combined with mathematics, statistics and other scientific and objective analysis. Such analysis can be real-time, accurate, and even self-correcting. Major events that impact the financial standing also make the market volatile to a certain extent – depending on the time involved, the extent of the impact depends on the nature of the event itself. Therefore, the analysis of the recent major events is very important.
ASTRI has been a pioneer in developing complex event processing system (Complex Event Process), large data processing capabilities, cloud parallel computing technology and other advanced platform and technology that have been adopted by customers for many years – from macro to micro level to carry out timely and accurate analysis, modeling, implementation of a set of processes.
ASTRI’s tools don’t limit their stock selection capability to only the traditional stock selection strategy. Through financial indicators or technical indicators, potential actions are identified for the next time the stock value goes up or down. In the selected stock pool, by applying the corresponding trading strategies, a comprehensive entry and exit conditions and wind control mechanisms are formed. That way, we can not only target the good stocks, but also have a good trading strategy that leads to a ‘one plus one is greater than two’ outcome. Our stock trading and portfolio screening tools are best-in-class in the market – maximising the potential benefits of the transactions. We use artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms, and depth learning models to automatically search and optimise the trading strategy through self-learning and evolution, and ultimately find the most suitable approach to trading.
Our tools look for the correlation between specific factors and trading signals through supervised learning and unsupervised learning. It will synthesize information from fundamentals, technical aspects, trading behavior, capital surface, terminal behaviour, online financial data, and third party platform information. That leads to the analysis and rigorous selection of factors that have an important impact, and the ongoing formation of an optimised pool of factors.
In summary, ASTRI has a strong AI capability to devise technological solutions for the financial sector with a large pool of competent experts working for the institute. All of that, is meant to ensure Hong Kong’s continued leadership in the financial industry and a shining future for smart investment.
ASTRI was commissioned by the Fintech Facilitation Office (FFO) of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) to conduct a research project on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). The project led to the “Whitepaper on Distributed Ledger Technology” which documented the R&D findings. DLT, commonly known as Blockchain, is an innovative technology that has significant application benefits. The project’s key objectives have been to carry out an open-minded, in-depth examination of the technology and to identify possible applications of DLT in financial services by engaging in proof-of-concept work. Published in November 2016, the whitepaper aimed to provide the FinTech industry of Hong Kong with a comprehensive introduction to the technology. It also helps the sector in understanding how the technology could be deployed as an innovative solution to enhance and secure business operations while fulfilling regulatory compliance.
DLT is an innovative technology that offers several benefits such as transparency, resiliency, auditability, and cryptography-enabled security. It is a vibrant technology that has seen prolific R&D work and a widening scope of applications.
The paper presents a comprehensive study of DLT, especially on its key benefits, risks, and potential applications. It addresses security enforcement and regulatory compliance issues. It also demonstrates how DLT can bring in viable, valuable FinTech applications, with initial findings of three proof-of-concept exercises – mortgage loan application, trade finance, and digital identity management.
The paper was enriched by valuable contributions from experts in academic banking sectors, as well as by a few groups specialising in DLT. The paper may be downloaded from the HKMA website.
As DLT continues to evolve, ASTRI will continue its R&D effort in this area and its applications.
A property transaction DLT system demonstrating ledger resiliency with transactions automatically replicated in multiple locations. In the diagram above, The transaction recording Alice selling the property to Bob is securely recorded in multiple banks and Land Registry.
Demonstration of Hash operation which converts data of any size to fixed size unique values, regardless of how minor the data differ from each other.
Proof-of-concept: A DLT-enabled property valuation where the DLT system serves as a secure ledger system shared by multiple banks and surveyors.
The first Cyber Range facility in Hong Kong was established at ASTRI in 2016. In collaboration with the Hong Kong Police Force, ASTRI set up the Cyber Range at its premises to provide cybersecurity training services to professionals from law enforcement agencies as well as the financial services industry. Equipped with advanced computer systems as well as sophisticated cybersecurity hardware, the Cyber Range software platform can facilitate team-based cyber-attack and defence exercises. It is powered by an advanced training management system that supports training logistics, content preparations, and trainee assessments. Besides training, the Range can also be used for investigations and analysis of cyber-attacks as well as cyber-defence exploration and research.
Server farm that supports up to 240 Virtual Machines (VMs) simultaneously
Training of cyber forensic techniques
‘Blue-team-red-team’ model of attack/defence training
Exercise VM preparation and rapid deployment to trainees
Adaptive assessment of trainees
Visualisation of VMs under attack
Security Content Highlights
6,000+ live security attacks
35,000+ pieces of live malware
180+ evasion classes
Training exercises of DDos, Botnet, password and sub-folder brute force attack, slow connection attack, SQL injection, code injection, Man-in-the-Middle attack, etc.
The group is currently working on a Cyber Intelligence Sharing Platform for the financial industry in Hong Kong where data, information, and intelligence related to cyber-threats provided by the contributing authorised users of the Platform can be collected, compiled, and shared among other authorised users. The purpose of the Platform is to enable timely information sharing to allow spontaneous and appropriate precautionary measures to be taken in combating cyber-attacks.
To cope with ever changing cybersecurity threats to critical infrastructure and financial stability of Hong Kong, the development of a Cyber Threat Intelligence Platform lays the foundation for cybersecurity intelligence exchange among critical infrastructure entities e.g. the financial industry, public utilities, and IT infrastructure organisations. When built, it will be a core enabler of cybersecurity intelligence exchange between banks or even the entire critical IT infrastructure of Hong Kong. The system will be crucial in supporting trusted intelligence exchange among banks and, in future, can be extended to support other sectors and stakeholders.
Blockchain (a.k.a. Distributed Ledger Technology) is a software platform which uses advanced cryptographic techniques and peer-to-peer networks to enable the creation of secure, collaborative and trustworthy applications in a cost-effective and reliable fashion. This technology has strong significance to various applications such as crypto-currency and payment systems, digital rights management, and health records management. It is considered a disruptive Financial Technology (FinTech) that can potentially disintermediate some expensive overheads in legacy financial computer systems and also promote automation and digitasation. Our Blockchain Core Competence Group consists of world-class cryptographers, software, network and system engineers, seasoned front-end engineers as well as UI/UX designers. We develop cutting-edge Blockchain systems and applications, and have rich experience in developing (permissioned and permissionless) applications on major distributed ledger platforms such as Bitcoin, Monax, Corda, Ethereum and Hyperledger, etc.
Blockchain protocol stack
Besides pursuing active R&D in our own Blockchain protocol stack, we also have testbeds covering major Blockchain protocols to conduct rigorous security assessment, performance analytics, prototyping, and rapid deployment for financial institutions.
Consensus algorithms enhancement
Continuous R&D efforts are being put in to analyse and enhance Blockchain consensus mechanisms that operate specific permissioned and permissionless Blockchain application logics.
Blockchain technology security
Our R&D activities also focus on enhancing the security of Blockchain peer-to-peer networks and consensus mechanisms. With joint efforts from ASTRI Security Lab, we provide security assessment and consultancy services to financial institutions on their Blockchain application architecture and security.
Property Valuation Blockchain Application
Within the scope of the mortgage loan application process, ASTRI was chosen by Bank of China (Hong Kong) to develop a Property Valuation Blockchain System, which provides a more secure and efficient way to digitises the process of property valuation in the lengthy mortgage loan application process.
The System significantly simplified the entire property valuation process, and thereby led to a sizeable reduction in the process’s operating cost. Besides supporting multiple appraisers, the system has the potential of to be rolled out across many other banks, and more importantly, can subsequently be extended to cover other aspects of the mortgage loan application system. It can enhance productivity, reduce operating cost, improve security and, at the same time, improve user experience.
Project Obsidian – a DLT-based Trade Finance System
Project Obsidian is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) based trade finance system. It is developed by ASTRI in collaboration with Hong Kong Monetary Authority, HSBC, the Bank of China (Hong Kong), Standard Chartered Bank, the Hang Seng Bank, Bank of East Asia and Tradelink.
Building upon the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Project Obsidian has a great potential to effectively simplify the existing cumbersome paper-based trade finance operations. The system can also provide a real-time visibility that prevents double financing fault among the participating financial institutes.
ASTRI-HKMA Distributed Ledger Technology White Paper
Commissioned by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, ASTRI published a white paper in November 2016 to provide guidance and directions to the banking industry and other sectors on the application of the distributed ledger technology. Along with the white paper, ASTRI developed a series of Proof-of-Concepts (PoCs) and experimented with the PoCs for acquiring the first-hand hands-on experience of the particular blockchain applications developed in the PoCs. The detailed treatment of the PoCs, findings as well as our experience learnt has been shared in the paper for benefiting all the stakeholders.