Moving Forward

Hong Kong an easy place to do business

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 view of Jim Thompson, founder of removal firm Crown Worldwide

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 10:00pm

Do you think Hong Kong is still an ideal place to do business?

Absolutely! I set up my company in Japan in 1965. However, once I came to Hong Kong in 1970 and found it was so much easier to do business here, with the very efficient banking, financial and legal system, I moved my company’s headquarters here. I have since opened offices in cities all over the world and I have never found one as good as Hong Kong. Very little has changed since the handover in 1997. The freedoms to operate a business, the fair tax rates, the clean government, the world’s best infrastructure and transport system and the very honest and fair legal system make Hong Kong the best place to do business of any city or country in which Crown operates.

The Occupy Central movement was very peaceful and it showed Hong Kong has freedom of speech for people to express their own views. It should have ended earlier, though. It dragged on for too long and disrupted people’s daily lives, which was not good. Still, I do not think it will affect business people’s confidence in Hong Kong.

The Mong Kok riot during the Lunar New Year, however, was not acceptable as it involved violence.

How is your company coping with the ­economic downturn in Hong Kong and the ­mainland?

Our business hasn’t been badly affected by the downturn in China. Because much of our business is related to moving people it seems to be quite recession-proof. Also, we are a global company and China is not a huge part of our business, so we have felt little effect of the slow down there. I would add that, in my opinion, China needed to slow its growth and also curb the corruption that was hurting the country so I think the steps taken by the government there were good in the long run.

What do you think the government should do to help your business to do better?

Education and training would be important. The government should make sure the next generation of Hong Kong people could speak good English as that’s the international language for the business world. It should also offer programmes for young people to do internships overseas so as to widen their international knowledge.

I think the business community is generally pleased with the government’s policies on the economy. The financial secretary has done an excellent job of guiding Hong Kong’s finances, resulting in budget surpluses while maintaining full employment. Very few economies can make such a claim. The price of prosperity is high rents and expensive housing but the vast majority of the Hong Kong government’s expenditure goes to education, health and medical and social welfare so we are enjoying the best of both worlds.

What is your advice to young people to achieve a successful career?

Young people should master the language skill set. They need to communicate with other colleagues and customers in both written form and verbally. They should not be too shy to speak or to write to others. They should learn how to speak in public and may well attend acting classes to train how to perform in public speaking as that is important for them to climb to a senior level.

They should go overseas to learn about cultures and social issues. Many young people travel nowadays but they only do that for pleasure. It would be better for them to work or study overseas so that they can really understand the international world.

Also, it would be good for university students to work as interns in a business organisation. At Crown, we do a lot to help young students. We provide internships for students in Hong Kong and some that come from overseas. We place students from Hong Kong universities in our offices overseas, where they can learn what life is like in an international location while performing a meaningful job.

I, myself, have mentored Hong Kong University students for the past 15 years and continue to do that now to share my business experience to these young students who are about to graduate.

If you had one sentence to say how Hong Kong could move forward, what would it be?

Hong Kong is, and is destined to remain, a service economy so we must stay on the leading edge of trying to provide the highest level of service in the world to everyone when they visit our home city and use our services.