The Hong Kong securities industry has long been viewed as overcrowded, what with 430 brokerage houses in the city. Stephen Hui Chiu-chung, the group managing director at OSK Asia, said Hong Kong should follow Malaysia in offering incentives to encourage mergers and acquisitions. OSK is a small and relatively new player in Hong Kong but it is the largest broker in Malaysia, where the number of brokerage houses has been whittled down over the years to about 30 from 60. Since early 2000, the government has offered any broker that buys out at least three rivals the status of 'universal broker', allowing it to expand its branch network. Without this special status brokers are allowed to have one office only. As universal broker, OSK has also been able to expand into corporate finance, asset management and wealth management. Traditional brokers are confined to the brokerage business. Mr Hui said OSK now had 50 branches in Malaysia. It recently secured an investment banking licence that lets it make corporate loans and accept large deposits. 'Many Hong Kong brokerage houses are family-owned and far too small to compete with banks and large brokers. The Hong Kong government should consider incentives to encourage them to combine their operations,' he said. Mr Hui said OSK was keen to make acquisitions in Hong Kong and it was close to concluding a HK$20 million deal to buy an investment bank in order to enter the corporate finance business. Its next priority is to buy a medium-sized brokerage house for about HK$100 million. 'Size does matter. I don't like the idea of buying small brokerage houses that are usually family-run and only have a small client portfolio. 'We're only interested in those with a sizeable business, a branch network and a good management team.' unforgettable kai tak Frederick Ma Si-hang, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, is leading a team of 30 delegates on a six-day visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that began last Friday. Their mission is to promote co-operation in financial services and infrastructure. Mr Ma met Prince Al-Waleed, who is ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest person in the world. Time magazine has called him the Arabian Warren Buffett. The prince is no stranger to the local market. He takes a close interest in mainland share sales and holds a stake in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. A member of the delegation said the prince told Mr Ma he had visited Hong Kong 10 years ago - and vividly remembered landing at Kai Tak airport. a touch of france Talk about France and most people think of red wine, fashion and, maybe, Zinedine Zidane. But out podcast guest this week would be happy if the country conjured up thoughts of banking. Timothy Lo is the managing director of CIC Investors Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Credit Industrial et Commercial Group, the fourth-largest banking group in France. It opened an office in Hong Kong in 2001 to offer private banking, foreign-exchange trading and other corporate financial products. Mr Lo has more than 20 years of banking experience. His employers included HSBC Investment Bank Asia and BNP Paribas (HK) before he joined CIC Investors Services in 2003. He says the future of private banking in the region is very bright because of economic growth. Although competition among the various private banks is fierce, Mr Lo says a boutique operation such as CIC Investors Services has the advantage of offering tailor-made services to clients. ing joins the fast lane Insurance and car racing aren't associated in most minds but ING, a financial institution offering insurance, banking and wealth management services to 60 million customers in more than 50 countries, has become a sponsor of the Formula One circuit to raise global awareness of its brand. ING is the 'title sponsor' of the Renault F1 team this year, meaning its logo will be displayed on the cars and uniforms of the drivers and team staff. The group says it is active in 15 of the 17 countries where Formula One races are being held this season. 'Formula One offers virtually year-round media coverage. There are 17 Grand Prix races on four continents from March to October, not to mention the pre-season build up. A worldwide audience of 850 million each year makes Formula One the biggest draw of any sport on television,' according to a company statement.