Strategic plan and CEO’s contract top priorities in first 100 days for new Hong Kong exchange chief Laura Cha

By allowing listings by tech companies with dual-class shares and biotech companies with no revenue, HKEX has struck ‘good balance between market development and investor protection’, says chairwoman

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 3:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 11:30pm

Laura Cha Shih May-lung, the newly elected chairwoman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, has identified the next three-year strategic plan as well as chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia’s contract renewal as top priorities during her first 100 days in office.

As expected by the market, the board of directors at HKEX elected Cha, the Financial Services Development Council chairwoman, as the bourse operator’s new chairwoman on Thursday morning. She succeeds Chow Chung-kong, who stepped down on Wednesday.

“My first priority in the first 100 days in office, or in the next few years, would be working on the new three-year strategic plan for HKEX, from 2019 to 2021. A major issue is how to enhance the competitiveness of the exchange, to fend off competition from other overseas exchanges,” she said on Thursday, in her first media briefing as chairwoman.

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The HKEX announced its largest listing reform in 25 years on Tuesday; it will allow dual-class shareholding technology companies and biotechnology companies with no revenue to apply for listing in Hong Kong from Monday. The bourse faces keen competition from Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore and the United States.

“Facing competition from overseas exchanges would be a major challenge for me. However, I believe the listings reform just announced has achieved a good balance between market development and investor protection and, hence, will help the HKEX to compete,” said Cha.

She said another priority would be HKEX chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia’s contract, which will expire in October.

“The board will work on the matter of the contract renewal issue with Charles,” she said.

Li, a former investment banker at JPMorgan, joined the HKEX nine years ago after a job interview led by Cha, who was a director at the exchange at the time.

“Laura and I liked each other immediately back then. This was because during the interview, I was very frank and declared that I did not have the experience to run an exchange. She appreciated my honesty,” Li said on Thursday.

Laura Cha moves a step closer to chair Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing after board appointment

“Then we worked together for some years before Laura stepped down as director in 2012. Now she is back.”

A major issue is how to enhance the competitiveness of the exchange, to fend off competition from other overseas exchanges
Laura Cha Shih May-lung, chairwoman, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing

Cha is the first woman to head the exchange operator in the 127 year history of Hong Kong’s market.

“I am honoured to be the first woman to become HKEX chairman. The Hong Kong stock market does not have good female representation. Among Hang Seng Index companies, only 14 per cent of directors are female. I hope I can help to promote more women as managers of company affairs,” she said.

Cha, 68, trained as a lawyer and was the vice-chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission in the 1990s, before heading north to become the vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission from 2001 to 2004. She has been an Executive Council member under all four chief executives of Hong Kong since 2004, and has been the chairwoman of the Financial Services Development Council since 2013.

Cha said she would step down from the council once the government has found a replacement.