Survey shows over half of respondents gloomy on global economy

More than 3,500 distinguished speakers and influential global financial experts, policymakers, business leaders, economists and investors attended the 13th Asian Financial Forum (AFF), a two-day event that concluded yesterday. Under the theme “Redefining Growth: Innovation, Breakthrough, Inclusiveness”, the forum enabled participants to examine the current global economic landscape, gauging their views through on-site real-time polling on issues ranging from prospects for the global economy and sustainability challenges to investment opportunities and the risks brought by technology and innovation. Close to 700 one-on-one matchmaking meetings were arranged during the AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking session, helping investors and project owners to explore investment and business opportunities.

Business sector negative on economy, protectionism stifles global trade
Real-time polling conducted through HKTDC mobile apps at various sessions during the AFF enhanced interactivity and gauged the views of participants on a broad range of subjects. When asked about the outlook for the global economy in 2020, 22% of respondents were optimistic, 38% were neutral, while 40% of respondents expressed pessimism, reflecting a generally negative view on the overall economic outlook. When asked about the major challenge for global growth in 2020, 38% of respondents believed it would be Sino-US trade tensions, followed by intensifying geopolitical risks (36%) and limited headroom for monetary and fiscal policies to support growth (19%).

Regarding the outlook for global trade in 2020, a total of 53% of respondents expressed optimism and neutrality, while for the key driver for the growth of global trade in 2020, most respondents (50%) thought it would be an effective multilateral system.

AI to bring biggest breakthroughs in development of financial services
In response to the AFF’s theme this year, “Redefining Growth: Innovation, Breakthrough, Inclusiveness”, the poll asked participants how likely it was that innovative solutions, such as the development of fintech and sustainable finance, would help address structural issues and bolster global growth. A total of 61% respondents felt it was very likely and likely, while 31% of respondents believed artificial intelligence (AI) would lead to the greatest breakthroughs in the development of financial services, followed by big data analytics (21%), blockchain (17%) and the rise of virtual banks and virtual insurers (15%).

Financial inclusion promotes reform in developing countries
Prof Abhijit Banerjee, joint winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics and Ford Foundation Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, addressed delegates at the keynote luncheon on the second day and shared his studies on how financial inclusion can benefit poorer people in developing countries by providing them with a mechanism to access credit and investment services to help them achieve financial self-reliance. “In this world there are lots of talents. Some of these people are the future of the world and some people are going to do nothing. Somehow what finance needs to do is find ways to identify them, bring them forward, give them what they need, and that way finance can really change the world.”

This year’s AFF also examined environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues for businesses. Most survey respondents (38%) expected climate change and carbon-related issues would be the most prominent ESG issues, followed by environmental regulations (27%) and changing consumer preferences towards more responsible products and services (19%).

Around 700 meetings organised through AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking session
This year’s forum once again featured the AFF Deal Flow Matchmaking session to provide one-to-one deal-sourcing and matchmaking meetings for project owners and investors. Investors taking part in the session included Beyond Ventures, Mizuho Bank and Betatron. Close to 700 meetings were held, covering projects including manufacturing, green technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), fintech and healthtech. The sessions sought to foster more concrete cooperation between participants.

Launched last year, the Fintech Showcase returned in 2020, together with the inaugural FintechHK Startup Salon, to present a plethora of innovations and next-generation business ideas from close to 90 fintech start-ups as well as leading financial institutions and technology firms from Hong Kong and beyond. The InnoVenture Salon was back for the third time on an expanded scale and with enriched content, making it the ideal platform to connect start-ups with potential investors and partners. Through the Startup Zone, Fireside Chat, Pitching, Startup Clinic, one-to-one matchmaking meetings as well as meetups with Hong Kong regulators and market facilitators, comprehensive support was provided to facilitate the development of start-ups.

Overview of 2020 Asian Financial Forum participants’ polling results

1. Global economic outlook in 2020: Polling result
– Optimistic 22%
– Neutral 38%
– Pessimistic 40%

2. Major challenge for global growth in 2020: Polling result
– Limited headroom for monetary and fiscal policies to support growth 19%
– China-US tensions on trade, technology and cross-border investment 38%
– Intensifying geopolitical risks 36%
– Elevated corporate debt restraining business spending 6%

3. Outlook for global trade in 2020: Polling result
– Optimistic 25%
– Neutral 28%
– Pessimistic 47%

4. Key driver for the growth of global trade in 2020: Polling result
– Fair and appropriate treatment of capital for trade 18%
– Digitalisation of trade 26%
– An effective multilateral system 50%
– Commercialisation of blockchain 6%

5. How likely would innovative solutions help address structural issues and bolster global growth?: Polling result
– Very unlikely 8%
– Unlikely 28%
– Likely 40%
– Very likely 21%
– Don’t know 2%

6. ESG issues for businesses in 2020: Polling result
– Environmental regulations 27%
– Climate change and carbon-related issues 38%
– Changing consumer preferences towards more responsible products and services 19%
– Labour rights and regulations 4%
– Gender equality in the workforce 3%
– Product Safety 3%
– Corruption 6%

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The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body established in 1966 to promote, assist and develop Hong Kong’s trade. With 50 offices globally, including 13 in Mainland China, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a two-way global investment and business hub. The HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in the mainland and international markets. The HKTDC also provides up-to-date market insights and product information via trade publications, research reports and digital news channels. For more information, please visit: Follow us on Twitter @hktdc and LinkedIn.


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