Leung Chun-ying

FSDC vows transparency in first meeting

Advisory body pledges openness and battles criticism it is redundant as it sets goals to boost financial sector and improve ties with mainland

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 4:17am

The controversial Financial Services Development Council, which held its first meeting yesterday, said it would not operate "in the dark" and would be transparent as it promoted the city's financial sector around the world.

Set up last Thursday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's brainchild aims to promote the city's financial industry and its links with the mainland.

But the fact that it was set up as a private body with no statutory backing or government funding has led to criticism from lawmakers over a perceived lack of checks and balances.

Other critics said the 22-member council's functions were the same as those carried out by regulators and promotional bodies. Some also worry it may need to rely on private donations, which might result in a conflict of interest.

The council's chairwoman, Laura Cha Shih May-lung, who chaired the two-hour meeting in Admiralty yesterday, tried to downplay those concerns.

"The council will not work in the dark and we will have high transparency," she said. "The council will operate as a non-profit-making body under the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau as an advisory body."

She also said the council had no intention of receiving private donations as yet.

The body is comprised of many mainland and international financial heavyweights such as Levin Zhu, the chief executive of financial giant China International Capital Corporation and the son of former premier Zhu Rongji .

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) director Vincent Lee Kwan-ho, who is part of the council, said most of the 22 members joined the meeting.

During their brainstorming, the council defined five areas of study, according to the council chairwoman. These include finding opportunities in the mainland, promoting the financial services industry overseas, training talent, further developing the financial sector, and encouraging new and innovative businesses.

"All members had a solid discussion and we all contributed our ideas," Lee said.

"We do not worry too much about all the criticism, such as the funding issue, as none of the members are doing this for money. All the members are voluntarily giving their time and effort to try to work out some good advice to promote the financial services industry in Hong Kong."

Lee also said their function did not overlap with other organisations.

"The council is not a regulator but an advisory body … The regulators such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission focus on setting out policies, while the HKEx concentrates on listing and the markets."

He said the council, which would meet every two months, could even become a "cross-sector platform" to promote the financial industry.

Treasury undersecretary Julia Leung Fung-yee recently said that the bureau and other regulators would second administrative staff to the council. She also said mainland executives were needed in the council to ensure the industry's development.