Former financial secretary John Tsang joins fintech-focused merchant bank Ion Pacific

The bank said Tsang’s entrepreneurial vision that powered his bid for the highest office in Hong Kong last year, mirrors its own drive to be part of the city’s continuing development as a global technology hub

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 3:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 4:56pm

John Tsang Chun-wah, Hong Kong’s former financial secretary who was defeated last year in his bid to become the city’s chief executive, has joined fintech-focused merchant bank Ion Pacific as its vice-chairman.

Set up in 2015 in Hong Kong, Ion Pacific has licences to trade securities, offer corporate finance and handle asset management, according to data filed with the Securities and Futures Commission.

Its own website said it makes technology-focused investments that bridge Asia, the US and Israel.

The bank said Tsang’s greatest asset is his “decade of experience helming the economic policy of Hong Kong’s government” and that it “sees synergies between the entrepreneurial vision that powered his bid for the highest office in Hong Kong last year, and its own drive to be part of Hong Kong’s continuing development as a global technology hub”.

Ion Pacific’s co-CEO and managing director Itamar Har-Even described Tsang as “a consistent forward-thinker who has helped make Hong Kong a leading financial centre”.

“With John’s help,” he said, “Ion Pacific will provide the tools and the fuel needed to bring the tech ecosystem in Hong Kong to the next level.”

Before founding Ion Pacific, Har-Even was a managing director and founding co-head of investment banking at Reorient Group, the Hong Kong-listed investment bank.

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Hong Kong-born and raised, Tsang was the city’s longest-ever serving financial secretary. He held office for a decade until 2017, and guided the city’s finance industry through the 2008 global financial crisis.

He resigned in late 2016 to run for Hong Kong chief executive in early 2017, losing out to Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

He has kept a low profile since, bar taking an unpaid job as an adjunct professor at Hong Kong University.

However, in a Facebook interview with Citibank in March he said that he hoped to use his network of contacts to help young people start out in business.

While he was financial secretary, he promoted start-ups in particular, spending US$560 million on expanding Hong Kong Science Park and launching a US$260 million Innovation & Technology Venture Fund, in partnership with a number of venture-capital funds.

Government figures show there were 1,600 start-ups operating in Hong Kong in 2016, a 50 per cent rise since 2014.