HSBC encourages young people to forge ahead, but remains cautious towards lending for start-ups
The South China Morning Post posed five key questions to all interviewees in the Moving Forward series, seeking their views on the city’s future. Here are the views of Peter Wong Tung-shun, Asia-Pacific head of global bank HSBC
Do you think Hong Kong is still an ideal place to do business?
Absolutely. Hong Kong is an international financial centre. It is a relatively safe city and it is part of China. Hong Kong is the only international financial centre in the country. Shanghai has been growing in recent years but it would take time for it to become an international financial centre.
How is HSBC coping with the economic downturn in Hong Kong and the mainland?
We believe worry about the economic slowdown is overstated. China has conducted a lot of reforms and has introduced a lot of measures to improve economic growth. Also, when we talk about a China slowdown, we need to look at what this means for different economic segments. Trade, steel and cement have negative growth in China, but then innovative industries like the technology sector and services have all grown well. In addition, China has a growing number of middle class people and Chinese companies have been looking to invest in overseas markets.
We have been in Hong Kong for 151 years and we have gone through many ups and downs. We have always coped with these changes through adjusting our business model, which has evolved. We developed lending to manufacturers in the 1970s, then we expanded into the wealth management and residential mortgage lending business in the early 1990s. Looking ahead, we will offer digital banking and expand retail banking in Guangdong to new customers. Our global network can help mainland companies to in cross border trading and transactions.
What do you think the government should do to help your business to do better?
It would be good if the Hong Kong government could lobby the central government to allow more Hong Kong companies into the China market to compete on an equal basis with domestic firms. Open competition will improve service quality and would open a bigger market for Hong Kong companies. In addition, the government should continue to work with the mainland government to bring the new financial projects and renminbi products to Hong Kong.
How does HSBC give opportunities to young people to develop their careers?
HSBC has provided many programmes to help students. For instance, we run business plan competitions for Asian students from India to Indonesia who compete with each other to present the best business cases every year. This is very practical.
For youngsters who want to get bank loans to set up their business, it can be difficult. You need to show you have more than just a good idea, you need to present a practical business plan or a track record. It would be hard for the bank to offer loans to new start-ups without some kind of plan and track record as the failure risk for start-ups is very high. It would be good if the government could provide incentives to help them set up businesses and show they can develop a good track record. Then the bank can offer lending to companies with a good business case and product development.
If you had one sentence to say how Hong Kong could move forward, what would it be?
For Hong Kong to move forward, the city needs to keep the best international standards. It needs to offer the best medical, education, banking, accounting and legal systems as well as the best services for tourists and business visitors. Keeping the highest quality is the key for a better future for our city. Hong Kong should not aspire to be just another city in China. Only as Asia’s leading international business and finance centre will Hong Kong continue to contribute to the country.