Laura Cha moves a step closer to chair Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing after board appointment

Government appoints veteran regulator to HKEX board for a two-year term from April

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 7:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 11:54pm

Laura Cha Shih May-lung has taken a step closer to becoming the first woman to chair the stock exchange operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in its 127-year history after the government on Monday appointed her to the board for a two-year term.

In reply to a query from the South China Morning Post, Cha, a member of the Executive Council and chairwoman of the Financial Services Development Council, said that she was “happy to return to the HKEX board again and was looking forward to the role” without elaborating further.

A source familiar with the situation told the Post that “the government’s appointment for Cha to join the HKEX board is the first step towards becoming the chairwoman of the exchange given her previous experience on the board and deep knowledge of the local financial market”.

Could 2018 see Hong Kong’s stock exchange get its first woman chief in 127 years?

Cha will succeed Chow Chung Kong, also a government-appointed director, after he steps down at the annual general meeting in April after serving six years as chairman. 

The HKEX board has 13 directors – six appointed by the government and six elected by the shareholders plus chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia.

The 13 directors will elect a chairperson from among themselves, but that role would need to be approved by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Cha is the current head of the FSDC, a government advisory body to promote the local financial market. She has previously served as deputy chairman of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission in the 1990s; she then went to Beijing as vice-chairwoman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission from 2001 to 2004 and was later appointed in 2006 as a director of HKEX for six years.

She is also non-executive deputy chairwoman of HSBC and a director of several leading companies in the region.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, who announced Cha’s appointment to the HKEX board, said “her diverse experience in the financial services fields in Hong Kong and the mainland, strong expertise in the securities markets and excellent connection with different sectors of the financial services industry will be an invaluable asset to the HKEX.”

Chan on Monday also appointed Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, chief executive for Greater China and North Asia Region of Standard Chartered Bank, as director of HKEX for two years.

“Appointments to the board of the HKEX represent an important safeguard of the interest of the public. Mrs Cha and Mr Hung are both well-respected figures with extensive experience in the financial and business services sector as well as in public services,” Chan said. 

Besides Chow, Timothy Freshwater will also retire from the HKEX board in April.