Ex-finance chief John Tsang on the frontline of innovation

May 06, 2019 13:45
Shifting his career from politics to technology, former financial secretary John Tsang is calling for a transformation of Hong Kong's education model.  
Photo: HKEJ

After his unsuccessful bid to become chief executive two years ago, former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has moved away from politics and is now technology evangelist.

He was appointed vice chairman by Hong Kong fintech-focused merchant bank Ion Pacific and  senior advisor for local disruptor insurer Bowtie Life Insurance in 2018. In the same year, he joined a local fintech startup, Benefit Vantage Limited (BVL), becoming its chairman and shareholder.

He also founded social enterprise Esperanza, which says it aims to inspire the community to see possibilities with new and global perspectives and galvanize people to work together to make Hong Kong a better place.

In a recent interview with the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Tsang talked about how innovative startups can transform society, and one major focus is the transformation and reconstruction of Hong Kong’s education model.

“Many parents and even students are now having doubts on whether the current education model and system is matched with the talent and skills needed in the 21st century,” he said.

As a public servant in the Hong Kong government for 35 years, Tsang admits that the current education system has failed to prepare students to meet the challenges of the new era.

“Students in the school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist,” he said. “While automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming businesses and workplaces, how will the job role change in the future? How should the new skills be taught and cultivated?”

He believes the community should have a discussion about it. 

"I think the key [for the future of work] is how humans and machines can establish a cooperative relationship,” said Tsang, who has seen some local startups explore and develop alternative education models.

“With Esperanza’s network, we hope to help these startups seek investors to fuel their business and growth."

In the interview, Tsang also announced a new partnership between his BVL and Macau’s leading telecommunications operator CTM to offer its mobile authentication solution IPification to CTM customers.

Unlike other mobile authentication methods, such as the two-factor authentication (2FA), IPification does not require any private information from users to complete the identity verification process, such as name, mobile phone number, user name or password. This allows mobile phone users to just click a button to log in or out of their account on any online platform.

Tsang said IPification can help lower the cost of doing business by making it more effective for mobile apps and websites through the simplification of the authentication and authorization processes.

“IPification can save the trouble of memorizing a password for identity checks,” he said.

Tsang noted that when he was working for the government, he used to own 10 to 20 accounts, and each of them required a change of password every three months. “I just can’t remember all the passwords.”

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal