John Lee urges global banks to ‘get in front’ of the queue for business as Hong Kong ‘puts the worst’ behind it
- The conference at the Four Seasons Hotel is packed with panels and fireside chats with global bankers and fund managers
- Three of China’s financial regulators held a pre-recorded panel discussion moderated by HKMA’s chief executive Eddie Yue Wai-man
More than 200 international and regional leaders from around 120 global financial institutions including banks, securities firms, asset managers, private equity and venture capital firms, hedge funds, and insurers are attending the three-day summit, according to the HKMA.
Lee highlighted three government policies to enhance the city’s competitiveness: Hong Kong Investment Corporation’s plan to optimise the use of fiscal reserves in steering economic development, the HK$30 billion (US$3.8 billion) scheme to help businesses set up in Hong Kong, and an array of new initiatives including the top talent scheme to help enterprises build a base in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s unique location – the heart of Asia, an air cargo hub, five universities among the world’s top 100, proximity to China’s market, the Greater Bay Area (GBA), as well as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – makes it the best city for business, said Lee.
At a separate event on Wednesday evening organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Lee emphasised his results-oriented approach to running the city “like a business”.
“We will not be a laid back laissez-faire government. We will lead in a direction for the overall benefit of Hong Kong,” he said.
“As well as looking at Hong Kong as a special administrative region, from now on you can probably also look at Hong Kong as a Hong Kong enterprise.
“I emphasise [results], just like a business. You want the bottom line, you want the dollar sign, [and] I want the result.”
China’s central bank governor, Yi Gang, said Hong Kong “is, and will continue to be important [as a] financial centre, connecting the mainland to the international market.”
China’s stock market regulator reminded the audience to keep their eyes on the big picture and disregard temporary distractions and disruptions.
“As President Xi Jinping underscored during the 20th party congress, China’s doors can only [open] bigger, and Hong Kong will play a very important role in the overall opening of China’s economy and Chinese financial sector,” Fang said.
“The attendance, the vibration, the energy, the excitement [of] seeing a lot of bankers, fund managers and asset managers coming to town has been tremendous,” said DBS Hong Kong’s chief executive Sebastian Paredes. “We need to very rapidly remove the last mile of the of the 0+3 [anti-Covid controls] and fully open Hong Kong [like] other centres and countries. That is fundamental to reactivating Hong Kong as an international hub.”
“It is a painful transition, but not an unexpected transition,” Gorman said, adding that the era of low global inflation was over, and inflation remains the biggest uncertainty that keeps him up at night.
The panellists were KKR’s co-chief executive officer Joseph Bae, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s president Jin Liqun, Citigroup’s chief executive for personal banking Anand Selvakesari, and BNY Mellon Investment Management’s chief executive Hanneke Smits.
Hong Kong this week proposed a range of measures to develop the virtual-assets industry to promote the city as an international cryptocurrency hub as it vies with Singapore for the crown.
Hong Kong “has extensive access to global financial institutions in a wide range of financial services, financial expertise, talents and internationally recognised regulators,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, the chief architect of the summit, said in a keynote address before lunch.
In a late statement on Tuesday night, local health authorities said the financial secretary was deemed to be in a “recovery” stage and was “non-infectious” after undertaking a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival, and was cleared to attend the summit, though he must refrain from joining any banquets.
Bankers and financiers seen arriving for the closed-door meeting included HSBC’s Quinn, Standard Chartered’s Winters, Goldman’s Solomon, Morgan Stanley’s Gorman, UBS Group’s Kelleher, Bank of China’s Liu, BlackRock’s Kapito, Credit Suisse’s chairman Axel Lehmann, JPMorgan’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Filippo Gori, PIMCO’s chief executive Emmanuel Roman and Carlyle Group’s co-founder and co-chairman William E. Conway Jr.
Schools were shut, and most businesses including banks and the city’s stock market suspended operations in the afternoon, after the summit wrapped up its first day of public sessions.
In his closing remarks, HKMA’s Yue said a similar conference will be held in 2023 to mark the 30th anniversary of the city’s de facto central bank.
Additional reporting by Martin Choi