February 28, 2024

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Financial Inclusion: Federated Learning for Hong Kong SMEs

Image Credits: ASTRI, Press Release

A licensed bank incorporated in Hong Kong and Asia’s first online price compares platform instant quote express, air freight, sea freight, rail freight and trucking (the company) have collaborated to employ privacy-preserving technology called “Federated Learning,” developed by the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI).

This technology aims to empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong by providing enhanced access to financial products and services, simplifying the financing and credit application procedures for SMEs.

Aligned with the objectives outlined in the 2023 Policy Address to unlock SME potential, Federated Learning technology-driven financial solutions are positioned to address the financing and cash flow needs of SMEs, particularly those in rapidly growing sectors like e-commerce and cross-border trade. SMEs can improve their business development and market expansion plans by overcoming challenges related to financing, cash flow, and information fragmentation.

The company, a comprehensive international supply chain finance platform, seeks to innovate and redefine the logistics experience for individual and corporate clients. The platform offers seamless search and comparison processes for instant freight quotes, enabling businesses to access comprehensive shipment data, track cargo status, and facilitate secure payment and financing.

Through leveraging Federated Learning technology developed by ASTRI, a collaboration between the company and the technology enables collaborative machine learning while keeping all the training data on devices to safeguard data privacy. This enables the generation of predictive machine learning models in an encrypted way, ensuring customers’ privacy and data security throughout the process.

These models can effectively generate lists of prospects best suited for financial products and services based on clients’ behavioural patterns on the company’s platform. This helps address SMEs’ long-standing pain point of information overload in finding suitable financial products and services, ultimately enhancing SMEs’ access to financial solutions that best match their needs.

ASTRI’s Federated Learning technology has garnered notable recognition, including the “Asia FinTech Award 2023 – Data Initiative of the Year” and the “BUSINESS GOVirtual Tech Awards 2023 – Tech Company of the Year (Excellence Award in FinTech)”.

The collaboration underscores the potential of open shared data in the FinTech sector, facilitating the pre-screening of suitable financial services and products for SMEs, enabling financial institutions to evaluate and approve loans effectively.

The use of the Federated Learning technology aligns closely with several key initiatives and goals set forth by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government. Firstly, the partnership resonates with the HKSAR government’s emphasis on promoting innovation and technology as a cornerstone for economic development.

By leveraging advanced technologies like Federated Learning, the collaboration seeks to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of financial services, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This aligns with the government’s broader objective of fostering a vibrant ecosystem for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

Secondly, the collaboration supports the HKSAR government’s initiatives aimed at promoting financial inclusion and supporting SMEs. By simplifying the financing and credit application processes, the use of Federated Learning technology enables SMEs to access financial products and services more easily. This not only addresses the financing needs of SMEs but also contributes to fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for small businesses to thrive.

Furthermore, the collaboration underscores the government’s commitment to enhancing Hong Kong’s position as a leading financial and trading hub in the region. By facilitating smoother cross-border trade and providing innovative supply chain finance solutions, the partnership helps to strengthen Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Overall, the collaboration reflects the HKSAR government’s strategic focus on promoting technological innovation, supporting SMEs, and enhancing Hong Kong’s position as a global financial and trading hub.


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