Who should come under the definition of 'professional investors'? How does one define 'overseas companies'? These are two big questions for the upcoming consultation by the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing about the launch of a 'professional board'. The listing committee two weeks ago endorsed a plan to conduct a study on a market where only professional investors may trade, aiming to release a consultation paper in the fourth quarter. The idea is to let those with the knowledge and experience trade in a more sophisticated market and make it easier for some overseas companies to tap Hong Kong capital. Due to different legal and accountancy backgrounds, some foreign companies may need to change their operating framework to list on the main board. But how to define professional investors in Hong Kong is a major issue. Unlike some other markets where individuals mainly invest in fund products, many local investors trade stocks directly and on a daily basis. Among them are housewives and pensioners who spend days and nights tracking share movements, and consider investment a full-time job. Should they be regarded as professional investors? The Securities and Futures Commission define 'professional investors' as those with a portfolio worth more than HK$8 million, who also have investment experience and agree to be deemed 'professional'. Legislators have called for a review of such a definition after they received complaints about so-called 'accumulators' - high-risk products supposed to target professional investors and which require no regulatory approval. The SFC and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority have received 14 complaints about accumulators from investors who said that some banks treated them as professional investors by not explaining fully the risks involved. Another key question is how to define overseas companies to be listed in the proposed market. Should overseas be taken to mean just businesses from the Middle East or Russia or should it also include Hong Kong or mainland companies incorporated in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands or other offshore tax havens? If the proposed market has a lighter regulatory touch, it will raise worries over the quality of the listed stocks. But if it is going to have the same tough criteria as the main board, then a separate market will be pointless. It will be interesting to see what findings the consultation will yield. Director plaudits The Hong Kong Institute of Directors will accept nominations for the eighth Directors of the Year Awards until August 11. The annual contest is aimed at encouraging corporate governance and raising transparency. This year, the theme is director professionalism and how it can enhance corporate value. Creative accountant Paul Chan Mo-po, a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, has published a book entitled Pure in Heart - a collection of articles about life, family, religion and career. The book's launch may well be a bid to promote Mr Chan's image as he is widely tipped to be a candidate in the September Legislative Council election for the seat of accountancy. Other potential candidates include incumbent legislator Mandy Tam Heung-man and Ronald Kung Yiu-fai, who left Grant Thornton to join Golden21 as chief executive. In 2004, Mr Chan lost to Ms Tam by a thin 37 votes, while Mr Kung came third. New York Life man The guest speaker in this week's podcast and video report is Anthony Mak, the newly appointed president and chief executive of the Hong Kong office of New York Life Insurance Worldwide. Mr Mak has more than 20 years of marketing experience in the insurance industry. He joined New York Life Insurance as chief marketing officer in November 2004 and was promoted to the current post two months ago.