2021.03 The Taiwan Banker NO.135 / By David Stinson
Taiwan's Second Wave Requires Impetus from BanksBanker's Digest
Anthony Lin entered the financial industry from a less common background: media. Later, working as a speechwriter for HSBC’s China CEO, he witnessed China’s period of explosive growth, which occurred as Taiwan’s “first wave,” largely focused on the hardware industry, was winding down. He returned to Taiwan and worked on strategic communications within the asset management industry. He is interested in how Taiwan, and the financial sector in particular, can create a “second wave.” The Taiwan Banker had the opportunity to talk with him about his experiences and ideas. • When we talk about improving the service level of financial institutions, it’s not just a matter of having more tellers at the bank, or perhaps more customer service staff who can speak English, but rather about communicating to many different stakeholders over many different media. What would you say makes for effective communications in a financial context? What distinguishes effective communications from less effective communications? I think there’s a whole slew of things that I think communicators learn that are important, and it really depends on the institution or organization that they work in. But from my experience, they key qualities that make communications effective in the financial services industry, first, is speed. People don’t wait around anymore. Media moves much faster now than it ever did. Next, I would say, you’ve got to be precise. Financial services is almost entirely based on numbers, that are then interpreted into words to an audience that is attuned to verbal analysis based on data. And then I think the third is driving impact. You’ve got to tell a story that conveys an outcome. That’s probably the hardest thing. Anyone can be fast. Being precise is just a matter of taking an extra two minutes to check the facts, and to check your grammar too. But if you don’t drive impact, the communication just echoes in an empty chamber. And the market has little patience for that. • Do you find any difference in communications methods between English and Chinese language, or between English-speaking and Chinese-speaking audiences, particularly on that last point? You always have to consider your audience, but in an ideal case the translation should not diminish or dilute the language. It’s not so much the language itself, but the awareness of your audience. One more thing that brings me to though is context. Context has to do with the audience, and your environment, and that context is even larger than the audience itself. You have to make sure that conceptual framework fits how the audience understands things. This requires a lot of experience in a particular company and a particular market. • Taiwan is aiming to create a ‘second wave’ of growth over the next decade or so, branching off of its previous successes in hardware to develop things like AI and fintech. What’s the logic behind this idea, and how can the country accelerate the process? The second wave is a collection of big ideas that Taiwan’s market is already starting to realize and put into effect, and you can see that in various business communities, not just the corporate ones, but the grassroots, entrepreneurial communities. There are various conferences that support innovation and entrepreneurship, and they are going to be some of the key forces in tomorrow’s Taiwan. That sort of community is going to grow. It would be great if banks sent people there and got a feel for what that’s like and have a look at the industries of tomorrow. One of the key factors will be the movement of labor into the country. People with experience in the UK and Singapore are coming to Taiwan to work, and if companies and local colleagues can get comfortable working with them, they will be able to learn from them. The pandemic has accelerated this process, although some of the now visa policies were in place before then. After the pandemic finishes, some of them will probably leave, but probably not all of them. • There is clearly a lot of potential there, but in terms of fintech adoption, Taiwan has in fact lagged other economies in the region. This is a problem involving a number of stakeholders, including the banks themselves, technology companies, merchants, end users, and the government. Which of these parties needs to break the standoff and move first in order to spur the others along? There’s a tendency to look at who to blame, in regular conversations outside the boardroom, and probably also in the boardroom. The blame is often put on the government. But I think in terms of who can make that change more effectively and faster, it’s ultimately the institutions. The financial institutions themselves have the responsibility, as much as the government and regulators, to make that change, to nudge regulation forward. In any open capital market, it’s usually the private sector that is pushing the boundaries. Regulators have the willingness, but unfortunately some things don’t move so fast, for the time being at least.