Veteran insider set to head Hong Kong’s finance industry advisory body

Laurence Li Lu-jen set to succeed Laura Cha at Financial Services Development Council, and wants to see the body push innovation and investor protection

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:30am

Barrister Laurence Li Lu-jen is the front runner to head Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, according to two people familiar with the situation, succeeding Laura Cha Shih May-lung, who recently became first woman to head the stock market operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

The FSDC was set up by Hong Kong’s former chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, as an advisory body to conduct research into improving the competitiveness of the city’s financial market and promoting it in international financial circles.

Li, 47 and a finance and banking specialist, had joined Cha to help establish the FSDC in 2013 and is currently the convenor of its research committee. He has also worked at the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), the market regulator.

“Li was the one who helped Cha to set up the council. He is the most suitable candidate for the post,” one of the sources told the South China Morning Post.

Li declined to comment on any appointment.

“Whoever would become the chairman of FSDC, he or she would need to promote fintech and innovation in Hong Kong. The FSDC would also need to propose more measures to enhance investor protection,” Li said.

Li had led an FSDC report in 2014 on how to improve the IPO system, including a call for Hong Kong to follow London to launch different boards for different companies to attract innovative companies to list.

FSDC proposes specialised listing boards in wake of Alibaba IPO loss

The report came in the wake of a decision by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to list in New York instead of Hong Kong, sparking debate in the city over its rigid listing rules. That debate ultimately led to HKEX unveiling the largest listing reform in 25 years in April, which among other measures allowed dual-class shareholding companies like Alibaba to list, as well as biotech firms that have yet to record any revenue.

Joseph Tong Tang, chairman of Morton Securities, said it would be good if a new FSDC chairman focused on investor protection and fintech.

“The listing reform of the HKEX has successfully attracted large technology firms such as [Chinese mobile phone giant] Xiaomi to come here to list. The next major focus would be on investor protection – there are still corporate governance problems in Hong Kong,” he said.

“The FSDC and other regulators should make more proposals to clean up the market to attract investors to trade here,” Tong said.

Li spent six years at the SFC between 1999 and 2005, while Cha was the regulator’s vice-chairman. Before joining the SFC, Li practised US corporate tax law at the New York head office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Li is also a member of Hong Kong’s Urban Renewal Authority and a member of the Social Welfare Advisory Committee. He also serves as a judge on the Regulatory Tribunal of the Qatar Financial Centre.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.