It’s been nearly five years since Hong Kong-based Chekk made its Finovate debut at FinovateAsia. The company, co-founded by CEO Pascal Nizri, is a B2B2C digital identity ecosystem that shifts ownership of personal data from businesses to individuals as part of its strategy to provide better, more seamless identity verification services.
“We all know how reluctant Internet users have become to share personal data online,” Chekk co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Benjamin Petit said from the Finovate stage during his company’s demo. “On the other side regulators are forcing banks and financial service providers to collect an increasing amount of data for compliance reasons. And this done during lengthy and painful KYCs that are costly for banks.”
Via a mobile app, Chekk empowers individuals to own their own personal data and control how much of their data they share. At the same time, businesses get access to a secure online or API-based platform that enables them to make data requests and conduct other customer interactions – from onboarding due diligence and ID verification to secure messaging for chats and statements – seamlessly.
Chekk’s SaaS solutions help the company’s retail, private, and corporate customers manage a range of digital identity and data portability challenges and operations. These include multi-language AML checks, including Arabic, Russian, and Chinese, as well as identity verification for more than 200 countries, biometric digital signatures, tools to create and maintain digital forms, a secure encrypted data wallet, and global connectivity to more than 400 million business data sources.
Bain Capital is the latest financial institution to choose Chekk as its partner when it comes to digital identity verification. With $155 billion in assets, the Boston-based alternative investment firm announced in July that it will leverage Chekk’s technology to provide KYB verification for businesses, merchants, and third parties, as well as KYC for individual customers.
The Bain partnership news comes in the wake of Chekk’s announcement of a significant investment (described as “multi-million dollar”) in a round led by HSBC Alternatives, a wing of HSBC Asset Management. The funding builds on previous funding from investors such as SOSV and LeFonds, a pair of venture capital firms, as well as individual investor David Gurle, founder of Symphony Communications Services.
“Thanks to its founders’ hands-on experience, Chekk is building a suite of services that extends well beyond compliance-driven KYC/KYB and puts commercial relationships at the core of its value proposition,” HSBC Asset Management Head of Venture and Growth Investments Remi Bourrette said. “This resonates with our fintech fund’s themes of improving access to financial services while managing the risks arising from criminal activities.
Have we arrived at a reckoning for Hong Kong-based fintech? While the clamp down on Big Tech in China has gotten most of the attention from international technology analysts and observers, the impact on fintech developments in Hong Kong have been relatively overlooked. A recent survey conducted by Google and financial consultancy Quinlan & Associates suggests that the fintech industry in Hong Kong could be in for challenging times.
Specifically, the survey revealed that 60% of the 120+ C-suite executives from early- and late-stage private fintechs contacted felt that Hong Kong was “relatively uncompetitive compared to other fintech hubs.” Among the reasons cited were the city’s regulatory environment, which was viewed as “costly, complex, and time-consuming,” as well as a “talent gap” that had been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. This talent gap extends beyond technical and product innovation roles to include sales and marketing talent, as well.
Hong Kong has been responsive to these challenges, according to a report from South China Morning Post. The city’s central bank, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, unveiled a four-year plan in June – the Greater Bay Fintech Talent Initiative – that included a pledge to “groom all-round fintech talent” and to provide greater funding assistance for fintech projects. The initiative will feature the support of 20 financial institutions including HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Hong Kong’s stock exchange. Tech giant Ant Group will also participate in the initiative — the only tech-based company to take part.
“While nurturing local fintech talent has been one of Ant Group’s key missions for years,” Ant Group EVP for strategy development and government affairs Jennifer Tan said, “it’s the group’s honor to join partners from various aspects in cultivating tech talent through the Greater Bay Fintech Talent Initiative.”
Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.
Central and Eastern Europe
- Azerbaijan-based fintech SmilePay announced partnerships with a pair of major food retailers.
- German neobank Vivid secured an investment license from the Dutch Financial Supervisory Authority AFM.
- Hungarian National Bank turned to Grape Solutions to provide IT services per a new 60-month framework agreement.