Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council gets Chicago backing

Amid criticism for the HK body, the US city's agency cites good co-operation between the public and private sector for its own success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 January, 2013, 4:40am

The beleaguered Financial Services Development Council yesterday found an unexpected ally - all the way from Chicago.

The 22-member council, a brainchild of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, was set up two weeks ago to promote the city's financial industry. It is headed by Executive Council member Laura Cha Shih May-lung.

Lawmakers have complained that the council is beyond the ambit of their scrutiny and that its functions overlap with those of other regulators and promotional bodies.

Amid the rising chorus of criticism, World Business Chicago vice-chairman Michael Sacks yesterday threw his weight behind the council.

World Business Chicago is a public-private non-profit organisation that works to promote Chicago to overseas investors and provide research to help companies setting up shop in the US city.

"No matter how good a product is, it still needs a good marketing campaign. The same applies to cities like Chicago or Hong Kong," Sacks told the South China Morning Post.

Sacks was in Hong Kong yesterday with former US commerce secretary and White House chief of staff Bill Daley. They were on a stopover to Beijing and Shanghai, where they will meet government officials and businesses executives to pitch for investment from Hong Kong and mainland firms in Chicago.

Sacks and Daley, who met Cha, said a promotional body such as the financial services council was a good idea.

"From our experience, we can say people found the World Business Chicago very useful as a single body handling all the promotional and research work to attract and retain overseas investment in Chicago," Sacks said.

He said 25 per cent of the Chicago body's funding was provided by taxpayers, with the rest coming from the private sector.

The Hong Kong council will rely on funds from the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau for the first three years.

Lawmakers worry it may start receiving private donations afterwards, leading to a conflict of interest.

Sacks, however, said the Chicago model showed the merits of good co-operation between the public and the private sector.

Chicago has 9.5 million people and 400 major companies have their headquarters there. It is also home to 40 mainland-owned companies, while more than 150 Chicago companies have operations in China.

Mainland China is Chicago's largest trade partner, with US$41.8 billion in imports and US$4.1 billion in exports in 2011. Shanghai is a "sister city".

"Chicago is ideal for Hong Kong and [mainland] Chinese companies to set up business as it has a good location and transportation system and is the gateway to the US heartland," Sacks said, adding the city had 2,900 daily flights to 200 cities worldwide.