Who’s in and who’s out in 2017 for financial regulators in Hong Kong?

Several of the city’s top financial regulatory positions are set for change in 2017

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 4:27pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 10:52pm

The year 2017 is going to see a reshuffle of top officials in regulatory roles.

With Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah having resigned in preparation for the chief executive race, speculation has turned to who will emerge as his eventual successor.

The obvious choice is Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung, who is already acting financial secretary.

Assuming Beijing approves Tsang’s resignation, most market participants believe Chan will fill the post until July. However they have mixed views on who will take up the job in the new government from July. The role will be appointed by the new chief executive.

Aside from the acting financial secretary, the other most favoured candidates are also surnamed Chan. They include Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam and Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.

Clement Chan Kam-wing, managing director of assurance at BDO, Hong Kong’s fifth largest accounting firm, believes the acting Financial Secretary Chan Ka-keung would be ideal choice.

“Mr Chan Ka-keung has been the secretary for financial services and the treasury for the past 10 years and he has knowledge of local tax and financial regulations. He would be the ideal successor,” Chan said.

However, Edward Chow Kwong-fai, adviser of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong, believes there is more support for Norman Chan of the HKMA.

“Norman Chan has defended the peg and managed the Exchange Fund well for many years. He has handled banking regulation and is responsible for the promotion of yuan business in Hong Kong. These are important projects in Hong Kong,” Chow said.

If Norman Chan would become financial secretary, one of his two deputies - Arthur Yuen and Eddie Yue - may get a promotion at the monetary authority, he said.

And if Chan Ka-keung becomes financial secretary, Chow said someone with professional knowledge such as accountants and lawyers should be selected to replace him as secretary for financial secretary and the treasury.

Other regulatory roles may see changes at the top level.

The Securities and Futures Commission chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing and HKEX chairman Chow Chung-kong are set to stay on until their the end of their terms in 2018. However, some brokers believe Chow could be a potential candidate for either the financial secretary or the secretary for financial services and the treasury.

Meanwhile, SFC chief executive Ashley Alder will see his term expire on September 30. The incoming financial secretary will need to take this into account and examine the possibility of extending Alder’s contract or finding a replacement.

Moses Cheng has taken up the post of chairman at the Insurance Authority, which will formally launch operations this year, replacing the role of the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. A chief executive is also due to be appointed at the Insurance Authority. The new authority has initial government funding of HK$650 million needs to recruit 300 staff. The authority will be empowered to regulate insurance companies and to issue licences and regulate the 80,000-odd insurance salespeople in the city.