David Webb, 40, Webb-site.com editor; director, HKEx (since April 2003); member, SFC takeovers and mergers panel Election platform: 'If you want the market run like a casino and for the benefit of its croupiers, then vote for the other guys. If you want the market run for the benefit of Hong Kong and the shareholders of HKEx, then vote for Christine Loh and me. I've served you well.' Investor rights activist Mr Webb wants to further promote corporate governance and market reform. 'I think I have added some value to HKEx during the three years I have served on the board. There have been times when I came close to resigning over matters of principle, but on balance, I think it is better to be rocking the boat from the inside rather than swimming around outside,' he said. Among the reforms he pushed for was the controversial move to narrow trading spreads - the gap between the bid and sell prices of a stock - to reduce transaction costs. 'The management's initial proposal was to narrow spreads only on stocks trading at above $30 per share. Through constructive debate, the board eventually resolved that it was in the public interest to reduce trading spreads across the board of all the about 1,000 stocks from July 1,' he said. Another contribution was to lobby for extending the operating hours for CCASS (Central Clearing and Settlement System) investor participants to affirm trades from five days a week, 10am to 3.45pm, to round the clock, seven days a week. If he regains his seat, he will lobby to revamp the listing committee structure to add more investor representatives. He also supports the government adding statutory backing to the listings rules so that offenders could face prosecution and heavy penalties of fines or jail terms. He wants reforms to shift the front-line regulatory role from the exchange to the Securities and Futures Commission and end the government appointment of directors to the HKEx board. 'There is internal conflict with the exchange being a regulator and at the same time a profit-making business. The exchange should get out of regulation. 'When the regulatory role is removed, the exchange will be a pure business. Then there will be no logical reason why the government should appoint members to the board. The entire board of the HKEx should be elected by shareholders of the company.' He believes the exchange should pay out special dividends from its reserves, split its board lot size from 2,000 shares to 200 and seek opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. 'The exchange should consider merging with mainland markets or with other overseas exchanges to enhance its competitiveness,' he said. Christine Loh King-wai, 50, chief executive and co-founder, Civic Exchange; member, advisory committee, Securities and Futures Commission Election platform: 'Our markets are too important to Hong Kong's future to be dominated by vested interests. If I am elected, I will join David Webb in pushing for continued market development, raising our quality and leadership in the face of increasing competition from the mainland and overseas.' Ms Loh is best known as a former legislator, even though she has also had more 25 years' experience in a range of industries from commodities trading to strategic planning. It came as a surprise to many - but not to those who know her well - that she chose to run for election to the HKEx board as an ally of Mr Webb to represent investor interests. 'I must admit it was not my idea, but one expressed by David Webb, who thinks it will be good to have two people who do not represent any of the vested interests [brokers or listed companies],' Ms Loh said. As she shares Mr Webb's views on many corporate governance issues, she agreed to put her name forward, hoping it might influence more people to stand for election. 'I am certainly in favour of having greater transparency in the market. In a modern society, we have got to have fast circulation of accurate data. We have got to build the culture here that people can demand information and be given it,' she said. 'Therefore, we should introduce quarterly reporting and faster reporting here. Hong Kong needs to get its speed up as we are already behind the others.' Although some brokers and warrant issuers are opposed to narrowing spreads for low-priced stocks, Ms Loh insists it should be done to ensure the market is more efficient and to lower transaction costs. 'The issue of narrowing the spreads has been passed by the board already. Some people don't like it, but it does not mean it is a bad or wrong decision,' she said. Ms Loh also supports the government's proposed reform to add statutory backing to the listing rules and believes it will be a good move to split the board lot size of the HKEx's shares so as to allow more investors to trade the shares. She considers the current $240,000 annual remuneration for independent directors reasonable and in line with other listed companies. She also wants to see the exchange pay out special dividends from reserves after keeping a certain sum for contingency purposes. Dannis Lee Jor-hung, 51, chairman, DL Brokerage; director, HKEx (since 2000); permanent honorary president and past chairman, Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association Election platform: 'To be able to maintain the competitiveness of HKEx and to maximise returns for shareholders, ensure the smooth implementation of the strategic plan and to guide future market development, it is essential that there is continuity and an experienced market practitioner on the board.' A veteran stockbroker, Mr Lee is one of the longest-serving directors on the HKEx board. He says he is running for re-election to continue to act as a bridge between the exchange, the brokers and investors. 'I have served the securities industry for more than 20 years. I have witnessed various financial crises and have participated in many market reforms. I hope the HKEx shareholders will appreciate my knowledge of the local market as well as experience on the board,' he said. With five out of 13 of the board members retiring, he believes his experience will help provide continuity on the board. He is opposed to the narrowing of the trading spreads for all stocks trading below $20 from July. The exchange narrowed the spreads for stocks trading above $30 in July last year, and in February, the board decided to proceed with the second phase of narrowing the spreads for stocks trading between 25 cents and $20. Stocks priced between $20 and $30 will remain unaffected. 'There are voices in the market - not only brokers but market makers from the derivatives market - who have the same concerns I have expressed during board discussions,' Mr Lee said. He argues that the narrowing of spreads could lead to confusion and also result in warrant market makers finding it difficult to quote prices. 'I urge the new HKEx board members and the management not to disregard these market concerns and to be alert to any problems which may crop up.' He supports the government's proposals to give statutory backing to the listing rules. He also agrees that the exchange should consider paying a special dividend from its reserves. 'The HKEx should keep a certain amount of money as part of its regulatory capital requirement to safeguard the trading and settlement system, but besides this, it is not expected to have significant capital expenditure in the near future.' Gilbert Chu Kwok-tsu, 49, non-executive director, Shougang Concord Century Holdings; past executive director and head of institutional sales and research, Sun Hung Kai Securities (1997- 2001) Election platform: 'The HKEx board has adopted a 'we don't care' attitude towards the needs of the retail investors and retail-oriented brokers. It is an attitude that urgently needs to be reversed. The outdated trading platform makes HKEx vulnerable to international competition. It must offer scripless registration, straight-through processing and T+0 settlement in the very near future.' Mr Chu believes his technical knowledge and experience in the market will bring value to the exchange. 'I am armed with industry know-how that will allow me to champion HKEx as the global exchange of tomorrow. I am working to enhance shareholder value and I am a man of integrity. I dare to do what I say I will do, even if I have to step on toes,' Mr Chu said. He said the board was dominated by accountants and lawyers, with few representatives from the securities industry. 'There are many technical issues in operating a globally respected exchange. My interest is to steer HKEx back on track to enhance shareholder value,' he said. The exchange, he said, must revamp its trading system and IT platform to offer straight-through processing and a scripless market, dispensing with the need for the physical settlement of share certificates. It should also work with the banking regulator, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, to shorten the money and share settlement times from two days to the same day as transactions to minimise credit risks. Mr Chu does not agree with paying out the HKEx reserves as a special dividend. 'It will be of greater value to shareholders if the HKEx uses its resources to revamp the whole trading platform, achieve scripless and T+0 settlement and sponsor IT enhancement for all participants. This would place HKEx strategically ahead of the world,' he said. He does not believe the HKEx needs to further narrow trading spreads in July, saying the decision shows the board did not understand the operation of the market and was 'a classic case of non-industry participants ruling the participants'. Narrowing the spreads for stocks trading above $30 from July last year did not result in any improvement in turnover, he said, adding: 'This is backed by a recent survey among retail investors who were strongly against such narrowing of spreads of small-price counters.' He said the government and the SFC should deal with corporate governance issues of listed companies and not the HKEx. He also supports the government making some listing rules statutory. 'HKEx has a limited ability to penalise a listed company,' he said. 'Fining a company means money will come out of the pocket of the company and the minority shareholders will suffer, while delisting a company means the minority shareholders will lose the ability to sell out their shares.' Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, 29, chairman and chief executive, Melco International Development; chairman, Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies Election platform: 'To make the Hong Kong stock exchange the 'exchange of choice in Asia' by ensuring the continuation of the mainland IPO pipeline to enhance shareholder value, the foundation for the exchange's continued success; increasing transparency, fairness and efficiency of the regulatory process, and cultivating a strong corporate governance-oriented environment.' The gaming boss son of casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun, Lawrence Ho is the only businessman running for the board. He is also the youngest candidate ever. 'I hope my track record of running Melco will draw support from fund managers,' said Mr Ho, who is backed by the Chamber of Hong Kong Listed Companies and the Hong Kong Institute of Securities Dealers. Since taking over Melco in 2001, he has expanded it from running the loss-making Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen to a profitable Macau gaming business. Its market capitalisation has surged from $70 million to $10 billion. 'HKEx must ensure the stock market has transparency and equality. HKEx is a listed commercial entity so it is important for the board to enhance shareholder value,' he said. He is a corporate governance advocate, with his work at Melco winning him the Director of the Year Award last year from the Hong Kong Institute of Directors. 'HKEx must set as a good example for the more than 1,000 companies and should promote those companies to increase their integrity,' Mr Ho said. He is opposed to the exchange narrowing the trading spreads for stocks below $20 from July. 'The key to any reform is investor protection, and whether narrowing the trading spreads would enhance investor protection is debatable. The board should revisit the issue and conduct more studies,' he said. Mr Ho supports the government proposal to give statutory backing to the listing rules, and says he wants to see the exchange split its board lot size to make it easier for retail investors to trade in the stock, as he did with Melco last year. Like his rivals, he is not concerned about the directors' remuneration as his reason for running is to contribute to the market. He said the exchange should look at the issue of whether or not to pay out more of its reserves to investors.