04 July 2017

HSBC networking platform for business customers

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First published in Business Times on 7 June 2017

HSBC Connections Hub, now available for clients in Singapore, offers opportunity to connect with trusted buyers and sellers around the world.

HSBC is playing online matchmaker for its business customers, offering Singapore clients here a chance to interact with potential overseas partners who are already part of the international bank’s network.

This reflects yet another new strategy by banks and fintechs to make relationship-building among banking customers more efficient through the use of technology.

HSBC’s business customers in Singapore, Canada, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, the UK and the USA can now sign up to the new service, known as HSBC Connections Hub, for free. More countries and territories will be added in the second half of the year, the bank said on Tuesday.

The digital platform, said HSBC, allows the bank’s customers to make use of HSBC’s global network to connect with trusted buyers and sellers around the world. “Users can perform targeted searches and be assured that the companies they interact with on the HSBC Connections Hub have gone through the same due diligence checks and vetting that they have," the bank noted.

HSBC’s customers create a business profile to represent their brand, including company information, products, locations, and business interests. HSBC customers can also use filters such as product type and location. An automated search engine will then highlight potential buyers and sellers in other markets. Users can send a private message to their target business partners via the platform.

Richard Davies, Global Head of Propositions for HSBC’s Commercial Banking, said in a statement: “Researching and connecting with new business partners can be a daunting task, and one that gets harder with distance. We have designed the HSBC Connections Hub to help break down barriers for companies of all sizes that aspire to forge new business relationships at home and overseas.”

This service could help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore expand their markets beyond their home turf, said Ng Li Lian, Head of Business Banking, HSBC Singapore, in the media statement.

“Given the particularly strong international orientation of Singaporean SMEs, we anticipate it will be of most use to this sector to make new business, trade and supply chain connections overseas,” she said. “HSBC Connections Hub will give our business customers a platform to leverage our global network spanning businesses in over 70 countries as well as have access to our latest data and insight reports to navigate the world of international trade,” she said.

Last year, some 37,000 internationally focused Singapore companies – 80 per cent of them SMEs – approached International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) for help in understanding overseas markets and to connect to the right business partners, HSBC noted.

Other banks that have matchmaking services include UOB, which has been providing business matching through its FDI advisory unit since 2011. The FDI advisory units in each foreign market of China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, are backed by agreements in each country with the respective trade agency. UOB offers free advice to prospective clients through their FDI advisory offices in Asia, in hopes of making money through fee-generating services, or cross-border loans. In late 2016, UOB partnered with IE Singapore to open up business networks within Asia.

Financial technology (fintech) firms have also used digital platforms to try to profit from matchmaking services. For example, Finquest offers a subscription service in Singapore and Hong Kong to matchmake private equity investors and M&A advisers with mid-sized Asian companies, addressing a funding gap for smaller companies that cannot raise funds publicly yet, but have expanded to the point where venture capital is no longer a funding option.

Finquest subscribers can log in to access data and acquisition requirements of Asian companies and match the companies' investment demands to either professional advisory services or a direct investment through a private equity. Early this year, it also acquired Detecq, a Singapore-based private marketplace that matches technology companies with strategic investors in Asia.

The difference lies in its agnostic approach as Finquest does not do due diligence on the companies, and so investors can engage M&A advisers such as lawyers and bankers from several boutique firms to ensure that the deals are sound, the fintech told BT late last year.

To learn more about the HSBC Connections Hub please click here

This article was published in in Business Times on 7 June 2017.

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