One of the best bets accountant ever made

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 March, 2013, 4:30am

Brian Stevenson spent most of his working life immersed in company accounts, but in retirement he spends most of his time absorbed in community work.

Scottish-born Stevenson, 68, the Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman who was managing partner of accounting firm Ernst & Young before retiring in 1999, is no stranger to community work.

He has been appointed to many advisory committees, giving advice on taxation, public affairs, and regulatory and corporate governance issues, and became a club steward in 1999 before becoming chairman in 2010.

"I wanted to continue my work for the community and charity purposes," he said.

The Jockey Club was a good way to realise that goal, with much of its income channelled back to the community through charitable donations and community works.

The club is the city's only licensed operator of horse racing, soccer betting, and the Mark Six lottery. It's also Hong Kong's biggest taxpayer and community benefactor.

Stevenson hopes to see some tax regulations moderated so the club can more easily "commingle" overseas bets on Hong Kong racing, something the Legislative Council is considering.

Commingling could boost government revenue by HK$200 million a year on top of the more than HK$10 billion it receives in duty from the club. Racing fans in Australia, for example, can now watch and bet on Hong Kong's races, but their money goes into a small Australian pool. Under a commingling deal, Australian betting operators would send those bets to the much bigger pools in Hong Kong.

Stevenson graduated with a double degree in law and accountancy in Scotland. He opened the Hong Kong office of Turquands Young in 1974, which became Ernst & Young.

His keenness for sport is reflected in his appointment in November as a vice-president of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong. He's also president of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.

"Sport is important to me as I believe sport can help to create your personal character. This is a good work-life balance activity for working people," he said.

Rugby also helped promote Hong Kong to the world, he said.

"The Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong has gained an international status for the city similar to what Wimbledon and tennis have gained for London," he said.

Stevenson also continues to put his experience in corporate governance to good use as a non-executive director of HSBC and the MTR Corporation, and as an Asia-Pacific adviser to British Telecom. Being a non-executive director was a very different experience from running his accounting firm, he said.

"As chairman of Ernst & Young for so many years your views more often than not prevailed. Whereas if you are a non-executive director, management will thank you for your advice but they might or might not always follow your views as they would have undoubtedly other considerations and opinions," he said.

Married with a daughter, Stevenson has made Hong Kong his home.

"Hong Kong is a great place to work. The tax rate is low and the city and its transportation system is very efficient. The weather is much better than Scotland and I can do the sport I like nearly all the time," he said.

"Coming to Hong Kong to work has probably been one of the best decisions of my life."