Financial regulation

Laurence Li, new chief of finance industry advisory body, pledges to push innovation, investor protection

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 7:01am

Laurence Li Lu-jen, the new chairman of the Financial Services Development Council, said promoting innovation and technology in the financial market and improving investor protection will be on the top of his agenda.

Confirming a Post report from earlier this week, the government on Friday appointed Li, 47, as chairman of the industry advisory body from July 11 to January 16, 2019. The barrister will continue as chairman for another two years after the FSDC is incorporated as a company.

The finance and banking specialist replaces founding chairwoman Laura Cha Shih May-lung, who in April became the first woman to chair bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX).

Li was the deputy director of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s election campaign. He was tipped to join Lam’s cabinet either as a minister or Executive Council member, but is said to have turned down her invitation to focus on his legal career.

“Innovation would be on top of my priority,” Li told the Post in a telephone interview. “The FSDC members will work harder on more reports and other projects to promote innovation and new technology in the local financial market.”

Getting more new technology and innovation firms to list in Hong Kong was a major suggestion of the FSDC in 2014. That debate led to HKEX in April introducing the largest listing reform in 25 years to allow dual-class shareholding technology companies and biotech firms without revenue to list.

“Besides getting more innovative companies to have IPOs in Hong Kong, we would also like to explore ways to adopt new technology for investor protection,” Li said.

He said financial firms, including banks and brokerages, can develop new technology using biometrics and big data to protect clients and prevent fraud.

“Regulation can be very innovative,” Li said.

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

Li had joined Cha to help establish the FSDC in 2013. He also worked at the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) from 1999 to 2005.

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Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, lawmaker for financial services sector, said he would like to see Li work on proposals to help HKEX reclaim the top ranking for IPOs.

“Even after the listing reform, the HKEX has failed to become the world’s largest IPO market. We hope the FSDC will have more proposals to improve the HKEX,” Cheung said.

“The FSDC should also work on more proposals to promote the 500 or so stockbrokers based in the city.”

James Lau, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, said since Li has profound understanding of the objectives and operation of the FSDC, “I am confident that Li will lead the FSDC to continue to carry out its mission in promoting the further development of Hong Kong’s financial services industry.”

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Li meanwhile will continue to practise law, representing clients in securities and commercial disputes. He will represent the SFC in one case and another against it in September.