North Bund forum focuses on financial culture innovation and preservation

Hongkou District is striving to develop a financial highland and cultural hub mainly around the North Bund waterfront along the Huangpu River.
Ti Gong

The name of Shanghai Fintech Park, to be created from a century-old warehouse in Hongkou, is revealed at the 9th North Bund Fortune and Culture Forum.

HONGKOU District is striving to develop a financial highland and cultural hub mainly around the North Bund waterfront along the Huangpu River.

The northern downtown district is creating a “financial harbor” at the North Bund which has attracted a large swathe of financial institutions from both home and abroad. A financial “golden triangle” has formed between the North Bund financial zone, Lujiazui area in the Pudong New Area and the Bund in Huangpu District.

To cap the future development of the riverside region, the district has hosted the 9th North Bund Fortune and Culture Forum.

Industrial leaders and scholars shared their knowledge on the theme of “integrated development of finance and technology.”

Hongkou has lured one-ninth of China’s mutual funds by tapping its regional advantages and offering favorable policies to support the development of financial services, according to the district government.

As of the end of 2018, the district was home to 1,520 financial institutions, which manage over 5 trillion yuan (US$744.5 billion) of assets, Wu Xinbao, Party secretary of Hongkou, told the forum.

Building cultural brand

Furthermore, Hongkou is developing its 120 historical structures and former residences of celebrities into open museums to showcase its cultural brand. The district has hosted the global cities cultural forum and the first ever cultural week to commemorate Lu Xun, known as the forefather of China’s modern literature.

The North Bund area is also one of the most important cultural sites, where early Chinese scholars set off to study abroad, Wu said.

In the next step, Hongkou will actively grasp the opportunities of the coming technology innovation board, a Nasdaq-style tech board, announced in November by President Xi Jinping.

The district will determine the enterprises that are about to be listed and provide services based on the needs of these key regional enterprises, the district announced at the forum.

As one of the highlighted projects, a nearly century-old warehouse in the North Bund will be developed into a fintech park.

The Yung Shine Warehouse in Hongkou, once the largest storage site in the Far East and dating back to the 1930s, will be converted into the Shanghai Fintech Park.

The mammoth structure, in Baroque style at 61 Yangshupu Road, will undergo a major renovation to become an office space covering 37,360 square meters.

It will house about 200 fintech companies and institutions.

Financial technology, often shortened to fintech, is an emerging industry that uses technology to improve activities in finance. The use of smartphones for mobile banking, investment services and cryptocurrency are examples of technologies that make financial services more accessible to the general public.

The fintech park aims to create an “ecosphere” integrating both advanced technologies and efficient financial capital flows within three years, said Zhao Yongfeng, director of Hongkou District.

The six-story historical warehouse building later became a commercial and office building owned by the city’s state-backed retail conglomerate Bailian Group. It was listed as a district-level heritage structure in 2013.

An antique Otis cargo elevator installed in 1933 has been preserved. With a load capacity of 16 tons, the elevator was once dubbed the “No. 1 Elevator” in the Far East.

The structure has been shut down for the renovation. A bank on its ground floor has been closed. According to an artistic rendition of the future fintech park, the bank will become an “Artificial Intelligence Bank.”

Before the building was turned into the warehouse, it was home to the city’s first spring mattress company, Simmons based in Chicago, around the 1920s. Its products became so popular that locals use the company name Simmons as the expression for spring mattresses up until this day.

Securities museum

Another eye-catching project, the newly unveiled China Securities Museum, can represent both the financial and cultural features of Hongkou. The museum is in the historic Astor House Hotel near the North Bund, where the Shanghai Stock Exchange came into existence in 1990.

Most of the museum collection are securities, bonds, funds and futures certificates, along with items relevant to the banking and insurance industries.

Established by the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the museum shows the development of stocks and futures since 1978, as well as earlier history dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

“China’s securities market has a relatively short history, so the collection is mainly documents, photos and other paper exhibits,” Jiang Yang, president of the museum council, told the forum in a keynote speech.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange came into existence on December 19, 1990, with the trading center in Peacock Hall, the main banqueting hall of the hotel.

The site was also Shanghai’s first Western hotel. “It symbolizes how China has referenced the Western experience, combining it with its own national conditions to develop the capital market,” Jiang said.

The scene at the former trading center has been recreated in the lobby and the Peacock Hall with models and exhibits. A stock trader in a yellow vest stands in the middle of the hall holding a telephone.

The first gong of the exchange is displayed along with a number of beepers, once popular for investors to check stock prices. An original stock certificate of Shanghai Feilo Acoustics Co, the first listed firm on the Chinese mainland, is also on show. In 1984, the company issued 10,000 shares with each at 50 yuan.

Feilo remained largely unknown outside China until 1986, when a 50-yuan stock certificate of the company was given by former national leader Deng Xiaoping as a gift to John Phelan, then chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, on a visit to Beijing. Phelan then came to the Shanghai exchange to transfer ownership of the certificate. The scene has been recreated with wax works of Deng and Phelan at the museum.

At present, the construction of Shanghai International Financial Center has entered a sprint stage, Vice Mayor Wu Qing told the forum.

Shanghai is accelerating the establishment of a global asset management center, cross-border investment and financing service center, financial technology center, international insurance center, global renminbi pricing and settlement center, financial risk management and stress testing center.

It aims to create a “world-class” optimal financial environment, Wu said.

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