Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA)
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more

Financial regulators turn attention to reining in the work hours

It seems the whole world is moving to a five-day week.

With the government poised to allow its civil servants two days off a week, financial regulators are expected to follow its example, with the Securities and Futures Commission, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority all reviewing their plans.

SFC chairman Martin Wheatley said the commission was waiting to see what services investors needed on Saturdays before implementing a five-day week.

HKMA has some of its staff already working just one Saturday a month while pension regulator MPFA is also studying the logistics of the move.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing staff, meanwhile, have been working a five-day week for several years.

In the private sector, banks have been early adopters. DBS has moved to a five-day week, while HSBC and Hang Seng Bank will make the change after the five-day clearing begins on September 4.

A government source said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had been a keen proponent of the new work arrangements which are likely to curry favour with the civil service just in time for elections next year.

For the 70,000 civil servants who will get the whole weekend off starting from July 1, the move can't come soon enough and thousands are already planning short trips with their families.

Nevertheless, bankers and regulators would be well advised to make sure they plan their holidays around the mainland government's financial announcements.

Remember Mr Tsang's famous 'Where are you guys?' outburst when he attacked bankers for not dropping their golf clubs and dashing back to the office when China announced the qualified domestic institutional investors programmes during the Easter holiday?

Bearing that in mind, civil servants would do well to read the small print on holiday refunds from travel agencies.

staff retainer

The five-day week is likely to be a great boon for companies hoping to attract and keep staff, not least the SFC which hopes to sweeten its employment deals with an overall 3 per cent pay rise.

The market watchdog had a staff turnover of 12.5 per cent last year.

Mr Wheatley, however, said the attrition rate was no worse than the rest of the market.

'When I talk to lawyers, accountants and investment bankers, they all face the same problem. In a vibrant market, people are changing jobs more frequently,' he said.

But money, it seems, can't buy job satisfaction.

'People in the industry generally want pay rises - it is very rare that you offer pay rises and people say 'no thanks',' he said.

'But money is not the only factor. Our internal staff survey found a majority of our colleagues were proud to work for the SFC. When we do lose people, their experience at the SFC is often highly valued in the private sector.'

even secrets recycled

The SFC last week released its annual report which, for the first time, reported on its environmental protection policy.

Apparently its waste paper is collected for recycling on a daily basis while confidential information is sealed and collected by approved contractors for recycling every two months.

One can only hope they seal the boxes tightly to prevent leaks.

The SFC last week said its investor education workshops for teachers have been recognised as Continuing Professional Development courses by the Education and Manpower Bureau, part of a drive by the government to encourage teachers to learn more about personal financial management skills and to pass that knowledge on to students.

Since 2000, the commission has organised 96 workshops attracting more than 6,300 enrolments.

This year, a new series of 15 workshops will be held from May 29 to July 14, including two new workshops: Scams and Malpractices and Sharing With An Analyst. There will also be visits to the HKEx's Exchange Exhibition Hall.

staying power

While the SFC is keen on investor education, the fact remains that punters can be hopelessly short-sighted when they scent quick profits.

'In Hong Kong, a short-term investment means three hours, a medium investment means five days and a long-term investment means several weeks,' said William Wong Shui-lun, the chief operating officer of Thornton Global Wealth Management and our podcast guest this week.

One of the most difficult tasks for financial planners in Hong Kong, Mr Wong said, was in convincing investors to accept investments in products that provide a low-risk and long-term stable income.

Thornton Global Wealth Management is a Hong Kong-based independent financial advisory firm set up in 1998. To listen to the interview, tune in