LIKE King Canute the Hong Kong broking community has often stood stubbornly against the tide of progress. Stock brokers have in the past tried to resist the internationalisation of the exchange and even the launch of the central clearing system that has made it possible to handle the huge volume of business seen in recent weeks. So it comes as no surprise that some are objecting to the latest proposed initiative, the abolition of minimum commission levels for institutional clients. Last week Sunday Money revealed that the Stock Exchange Council was to look at proposals to scrap the 0.25 per cent minimum commission and allow brokerages to negotiate commissions for large institutional deals in a move to make Hong Kong more competitive internationally. In response, brokers warned that a rate war could be damaging and lead to lower standards of service. It is a strange standpoint for an industry at the sharp end of capitalism: what they are really arguing against is competition. The brokers rightly point out that price alone is not the deciding factor. Efficiency of execution, high quality research and sales service are the critical considerations for institutions in deciding where to place their business, they say. True enough but it is sophistry not to concede that price is a factor. After all the same broking industry has lobbied long and hard for the government to cut stamp duty on share transactions. In the current bull run it is easy to be complacent. Hong Kong's market is flavour of the month and there is more than enough broking business for everyone; even enough not to worry over much at the amount of Hong Kong trade being skimmed off by London. It won't always be this way. The stock exchange is right to be looking at ways to increase the territory's competitiveness in the long term. DOES Hong Kong need a Financial Trade Development Council? For years the Trade Development Council has done sterling work in raising the profile of the territory's manufacturing and trading industries. Now there seems a strong case to do the same for the financial services sector, perhaps even under the auspices of the TDC. In recent years the significance of the financial sector has been rising as fast as traditional manufacturing industries have been in decline. Hong Kong has emerged as far and away the leading regional centre outside of Japan for merchant banking, fund management and broking. In terms of manpower alone, financial services is the third biggest employer behind manufacturing and the retail and hotels sector. The amount of income it generates for the territory can only be guessed at. It is a phenomenal success story but, the stock market aside, one that is underestimated globally. A recent delegation from the City of London made presentations in the territory on its role as a financial centre. Hong Kong would find it difficult to mount a similar promotion. Just as there is no joint marketing of Hong Kong's financial services package, there is no co-ordinated lobbying voice and no one organisation to advise on improvements that could be made in the product Hong Kong has to offer.