Stock market godfather Charles Lee Yeh-kwong does not sit still for long, dashing from one meeting to another and donning a different hat along the way. The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) boss has a packed schedule in his many public posts, including chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society and the Open University. Most recently, he was among eight new members appointed to the Executive Council, a body on which he had served from 1997 to 2002. In his first interview since his latest appointment, Mr Lee told White Collar his priority was to help Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen foster prosperity and harmony. 'Only by building a prosperous and harmonious society can we ensure Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre,' he said. Mr Lee this week will also be busy promoting the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2006, which will begin taking advance bookings from tomorrow for the total 106 performances from February 4 to March 12. 'I think the arts festival is very meaningful work. Since I joined the financial world 30 years ago, many of my friends have complained to me that Hong Kong was a cultural desert. I don't think this statement is accurate any more,' he said in the podcast interview that can be heard via the website: podcasting.scmp.com. 'I am not an artist myself but I enjoy opera and Spanish flamenco dance.' Arts Festival Society executive director Douglas Gautier (pictured) said some big names would be lining up next year, including the San Francisco Symphony, Britain's National Theatre and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. Mozart will be a significant theme, as January 27 next year will be the composer's 250th birthday and the festival will celebrate the event with a staging of the opera Don Giovanni. 'There will be a number of wonderful artists coming together. The cost of the performances will be reasonable as we need to make sure we get value for money,' Mr Gautier said. He said the arts festival this year would break even, with a budget of $62 million. Half the funding would come from ticket sales and the rest would be spilt between corporate sponsorship and government funding. Most sponsors are listed companies but the HKEx has not yet stepped up. 'We have to work hard on that,' Mr Lee said. Of his many roles, he said he was most passionate about education. 'When I retire, I would like to continue to be involved in the Open University and other educational works. I believe good education is the key to maintaining Hong Kong's role as an international financial centre.' But Mr Lee was tightlipped on market rumours that he would take on yet another role as the first non-executive chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission in April next year when he retires after serving the maximum six-year term with the HKEx. 'I will only leave the exchange in April. It is six months away and the SFC has not yet split the chairmanship role. It is too early for me to respond,' he said, adding he hoped any new tasks he took on would not impinge on his work for the arts. And both Mr Lee and Mr Gautier will be doing their bit to fill seats at this year's arts festival. Mr Gautier plans to spend about $6,000 on tickets and Mr Lee will buy 1,000 tickets to give away. 'Last year, I invited the whole board of the exchange and their wives to the arts festival and they enjoyed it. I want to do the same this year,' Mr Lee said. legal minds are majorityAnother look at Exco implies that our accountant friends might have reason to smile at their political influence. Of the eight new Exco members, three are accountants - Mr Lee, who is also a lawyer; Bank of East Asia chairman and chief executive David Li Kwok-po; and HKEx director Marvin Cheung Kin-tung, who is a former chairman of KPMG Hong Kong. But legal professionals may have even broader grins after Mr Lee, Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli, former SFC deputy chairman Mrs Laura Cha Shih May-lung and Citic Pacific managing director Mr Henry Fan Hung-ling made the Exco list. colleague also juggles Mr Lee is not the only public figure keeping objects in the air. HKEx chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu has taken on the chairmanship of the International Computer Conference to be held on November 23 and 24. Before joining the exchange in 1989, Mr Chow was in IT in the 1970s and 1980s with IBM (Hong Kong) and then Sun Hung Kai Securities. The conference is an annual event organised by the Hong Kong Computer Society. This year, the theme has been set as 'Value creation in an information-based economy' to look into how IT can help companies achieve greater profitability and efficiency. 'We should not invest in IT just for basic needs; rather, we must strive to achieve return on investment through every facet of IT that will bring greater efficiency, productivity and profitability to our organisations,' Mr Chow said. charity beats its chest HKEx has been running a charity programme since 1999 that entices listing candidates with a choice of stock codes if they donate to its 'Community Chest'. The exchange yesterday said that 120 listing candidates had donated a total of $112 million and that this year alone $16.5 million had been collected.