Hong Kong looks to hire an executive director to lead a team for FSDC’s expanded advisory role in city’s financial services

  • January 22,2019
  • Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, the brain child of the city’s previous chief executive, is looking to hire an executive director to lead a team from a rented office in Central as it expands its advisory role, according to two people familiar with the situation.

    The FSDC, funded by an annual budget of HK$32 million (US$4 million), will rent an office in Central in April, and hire about a dozen staff to assume its role, the people said, declining to be named for speaking about a policy matter that has not been announced.

    Remuneration for the leadership position is estimated at between HK$2 million and HK$3 million a year, according to human resources consultants. That is less than the HK$6 million brought home by the Tourism Board’s executive director Anthony Lau Chun-hon, based on public information.

    “The FSDC head needs to be an administrator who is experienced in the financial sector, so it needs a reasonable salary level to hire the right talent,” said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a local lawmaker and chairwoman of New People’s Party. “The agency will now have the resources and manpower to let it expand its influence, in addition to its research and promotional roles.”

    Established in 2013 by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, the FSDC acted as an adviser alongside financial regulators including the de facto central bank, the securities watchdog, the stock market operator and the insurance authority. It did not have any enforcement or prosecution powers, and did not even have a budget, or staff.

    Headed by former deputy regulator Laura Cha Shih May-lung until her appointment last April as chairman of the local stock exchange, the FSDC was mainly involved in publishing policy papers.

    It published 33 research reports since its establishment, including a study on how Hong Kong can improve the market regulations for companies to raise funds, and for the development of the local insurance industry.

    Its 2014 IPO report paved the way for the biggest reforms in Hong Kong’s listing regulations last year, a move that contributed to the city regaining the 2018 crown in global IPOs from New York and mainland Chinese bourses.

    More recently, the FSDC published a report that found the share allocation and price discovery processes for Hong Kong listings are inflexible compared with other advanced markets of the world. Flotations in the city take five days to settle, and the company’s shares can only start trading five days after the close of the offering. In the United States and Britain, shares can start trading one day after the book closes and settlement requires only three days, ­according to the council’s report.

    Since Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor took office as chief executive in July 2017, financial resources and manpower were allocated to the agency, beginning with a one-off HK$11 million set-up allocation, followed by an annual budget of HK$32 million, from the new fiscal year commencing in April.

    The board of the FSDC had been led by barrister Laurence Li Lu-jun since Cha moved to head the Hong Kong stock exchange last year. Li could not be reached for comment.

    “Any stakeholder or speaker who speaks at the FSDC’s events or conducts research should declare any conflict of interests,” said the lawmaker Ip. “It is important to make sure the FSDC’s policy recommendations are made in a transparent way as many of its suggestions may end up become government policies.”

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