Considered the premium global event for strategic business leaders, today's CPA Congress is the largest annual international gathering of finance, accounting and business professionals.
Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia which organises the congress, says the event provides a forum for thought leadership and learning from experts on subjects ranging from the economy in general to business strategy and investment developments. Among the speakers is Professor Chan Ka-keung, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.
'Anticipation around CPA Congress grows every year, not only in Hong Kong but around the world,' Malley says. 'The unstable global economy has made business people even hungrier for knowledge, so bringing together some of the most respected and informed business leaders to share their experiences and ideas will be of great value to our attendees.'
Based on the theme 'Strength Through Experience', a series of congresses are being held in nine locations from September to next month, including Hong Kong, London, Singapore and Malaysia. The series is expected to attract more than 10,500 participants.
As CPA Australia celebrates its 125th anniversary, Malley says the organisation has led the way in shaping critical issues facing business and the community, while helping to influence finance and accounting policy.
'This focus to help shape our future amalgamates each year at CPA Congress. The event is highly regarded among the international business community, which reflects our commitment to exceeding expectations with the calibre of speakers and quality of discussion on offer. We encourage people to come with an open mind and eagerness to contribute to an important forum,' he says.
Paul Chan, Hong Kong's legislative councillor for accountancy, who will deliver a welcome address at the congress, believes the volatile global economy, currency pegging issues, inflationary pressure and banking ring-fencing policies present new prospects for accountants.
'Clients are facing higher risks, which create opportunities for the profession in areas such as insolvency and debt restructuring work, risk management consulting, mergers and acquisitions and fund raising,' Chan says.
To tackle the challenges under the global economy, Chan suggests accountants sharpen consulting skills and broaden multicultural abilities. They should also develop soft and technical skills in order to help clients grasp the key points emerging in the new economy.
Lawrence Fok, CPA Australia's divisional president - Greater China, says the structure of the CPA Congress and the make up of the speaker-platform will provide insights into the main issues facing the business community.
'Twenty leading business, finance and accounting leaders will discuss the key economic, social and political issues facing China and the global economic outlook, which can help unlock our influencing skills and empower us for decision making in an increasingly volatile economy,' Fok says. 'The congress will provide numerous opportunities to gain new insights, tools and skills critical to success.'
Two forums, 'Surviving the New Global Economy' and 'China - a New Model?', will examine the strategies businesses need to deploy over the next decade to maintain long-term growth and sustainability, and look at opportunities and challenges the mainland faces based on the 12th five-year plan.
Congress speaker Nicholas Kwan, head of research, East, at Standard Chartered Bank, who will focus on 'China - a New Model?', believes the mainland economy will face external economic pressure in the near future.
'The mainland could experience a soft patch over the next two or three quarters as a result of global economic uncertainty and a slowdown in demand for products in the United States and Europe. Therefore, we could see growth decline slightly from 9.5 per cent to 8.5 or 9 per cent,' Kwan says. 'However, since the mainland has developed a domestic-driven economy since the 2008 financial crisis, I don't think it will suffer from any long-term economic decline or face serious systemic risks that would severely impact the banking industry or property sectors.'
Kwan says the central government needs to implement structural transformation to increase efficiency and reduce the use of resources. As it moves towards becoming the largest economy in the world, striking a better balance between economic growth and social development, the contribution made by public and private sectors, and efficient use of resources and energy would be the major challenges, he adds.
As regional trade with the mainland continues to expand, Chris Leung, senior vice-president and senior economist for group research at DBS Bank (Hong Kong), says the business pie is becoming much larger, creating advantages for Hong Kong. 'Except for competition for talent, which is industry wide, I don't see competition from Singapore or Shanghai as being a major issue for Hong Kong. The growth of the Chinese economy along with the acceptance of the yuan as a security and transaction currency has created the room for more players and new opportunities,' Leung says.
However, as Hong Kong companies, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seek to expand, Leung says they will face higher borrowing costs. 'Unless they have excellent collateral and therefore are able to bargain with their banks, during this risk-adverse era, SMEs will have to factor in the higher cost of bank loans. This is a global phenomenon,' says Leung, who will take part in the 'Surviving the New Global Economy' forum.
As analysts speculate over the route the central government will take to balance economic growth with energy consumption and social needs, Leung believes opening the mainland's capital markets too quickly to outside investors could be one of the biggest threats to economic stability. 'One of China's most powerful economic tools is the control of its capital markets. If they open up too quickly there could be a lot of instability,' Leung says.