White Collar

Hong Kong's SFC seen keeping tradition by hiring foreigner as enforcement chief

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 August, 2015, 12:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 August, 2015, 3:57pm

With Securities and Futures Commission executive director Mark Steward leaving next month, it is high time to identify his successor.

Many brokers speculate it is likely to be a foreigner with a legal background or regulatory experience who will take up the post. The SFC has already conducted a global search for a successor.

The brokers are justified in their assumptions considering the history of the SFC as the organisation has not had a Chinese director of enforcement over the past 26 years.

Steward, an Australian lawyer is by far the longest serving crime fighter after taking the post  in 2006.

Before Steward, Alan Linning occupied the office from 2001 to 2006. He was preceded by Paul Bailey  from 1999 to 2001, Mark Dickens  from 1997 to 1999, Gerard McMahon from 1993 to 1997 and Gavin Edie from 1989 to 1993.

Other SFC senior roles have been taken by local Chinese from time to time, with the chairman now occupied by Carlson Tong, the executive director of corporate finance is Brian Ho  and the executive director of supervision is Keith Lui. Both Ho and Lui last Friday had their contracts renewed for new three-year terms. The government in February also appointed Julia Leung  as executive director of investment products.

The person who takes the job  will have to be very independent. Even Steward gave his potential replacement the  advice to “be careful of people who are nice to you because they may not really be so nice”, adding that as a regulator, he maintained a distance from market participants to protect the independent nature of his position.

As such, many well connected Hong Kong professionals might be reluctant to take up the job.  

If  individuals investigated by the SFC are ex-colleagues, friends or relatives it poses difficulties. An overseas regulator who does not have any connections here may be in a better position. As such, it  will not be a big surprise if the SFC keeps the tradition of hiring a foreign regulator or lawyer to take up this sensitive post.

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