This article was originally published in Conventus Leadership.
As FinTech has brought rapid and profound changes to the world on a broad scale, business, financial institutions and even law firms must adapt to these changes to have a chance to succeed in the long term. In the second Q&A with Norton Rose Fulbright, we spoke to Etelka Bogardi, partner with its Hong Kong office, to get her thoughts on how FinTech has completely transformed our industries.
1. With technology developing so quickly and being adapted in all business processes in search of more efficiency, how has your role as a lawyer changed?
There are two main elements to this which I will try to unpack. The first is how these developments impact my technical work as a lawyer – a lot of what I do on a daily basis is trying to make these new business models and technologies fit within the existing regulatory framework that is designed to be technology agnostic, but nevertheless often does not “fit”. These are the head-scratching instructions that I particularly enjoy.
The other angle is of course how we as lawyers are embracing some of these opportunities in our service delivery to clients. I was amazed at what Norton Rose Fulbright is doing when I first arrived a little over 3 years ago, and the pace has only accelerated since then. Like many other companies across all industries we run our own global change and innovation program called NRF Transform. In a nutshell, it is about changing how we help clients solve problems, whether by building an online portal that allows for Covid-related disputes to be settled in 6 weeks to using tech to deliver major projects such as global benchmark repapering exercises.
2. Where do you see FinTech having the most impact in the near future in Asia, and in particular in your jurisdiction? (For example Capital Markets?)
Great question, and I am not sure I can just pick one or two. We have certainly seen a huge amount of activity in the payments space over the last couple of years, in the delivery and bundling of wealth management services, and of course all things digital assets. In my view wholesale changes in capital markets are still some way away but there are definitely great examples of FinTech helping with pain points and inefficiencies in that space. ASIFMA is doing great work in advancing thinking and solutions on what a tokenized security end-to-end lifecycle may look like. I am particularly keen to see how FinTech can assist in driving the ESG and sustainable finance agenda, as well as help both regulated businesses and the regulators with regulatory reporting and compliance.
3. How have client legal needs and expectations changed as a result? How have you prepared your practice to meet these ever-evolving client needs?
We are very lucky in that we invested in this space early on and have had a team of lawyers (now 250 strong!) focus on FinTech (ranging from AI to enterprise blockchain solutions to digital assets in all their forms) for 10 years. Clients come to us for our global coverage in this space across all areas from regulatory, data protection, IT/IP through to investments, M&A, joint ventures and disputes work. Businesses in this sector have very different needs depending on their place in the ecosystem and we adapt accordingly. As an example, people may not expect this from a firm of our size, but we support even very early stage start-ups as part of our pro bono FinTech clinics or in conjunction with national investment initiatives (like InvestHK or the UK DTI).
4. What area of FinTech has been keeping you and your team busy recently?
As mentioned above, regional payments regulation has been a constant in the last two years or so. The other areas we are active in are all manner of digital asset projects, whether market entry work, custody, asset management or intermediaries, as well as digitalisation projects for more established financial institutions, particularly – given our location in Hong Kong - in the wealth management space. I and the team are very lucky – no two days are the same.