Representatives of the accounting profession from Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong on Wednesday signed an agreement pledging closer cooperation in turning the Greater Bay Area into a vibrant financial and innovation hub. Accountant Clement Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Registered Public Interest Entity Auditors and a representative of the city at the signing ceremony, said the agreement would grant local firms greater access to the bay area’s massive market. “Coupled with the Qianhai expansion plan, it will be a booster shot for local fledgling accountants in developing their career in the Greater Bay Area ,” he said. The bay area scheme, a pet project of President Xi Jinping, seeks to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and eight other Guangdong cities into an economic hub to rival Silicon Valley in the US by 2035. Expanded Qianhai economic zone could benefit Hong Kong’s financial sector Chan was referring to a plan, announced this week, to expand the Qianhai economic zone in Shenzhen, granting Hong Kong professional services providers a bigger foothold for operating in mainland China. Separate signing ceremonies were live-streamed from Macau and Guangzhou. Senior officials who witnessed the ceremonies included Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po , Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai-nong, Guangdong Deputy Governor Lin Keqing, and Tan Tieniu, deputy director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. Paul Chan, himself a former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said the sector played a crucial role in the region’s business development. “It serves the critical role of a bridge that supports and links up the quality development of finance, technology and logistics,” he said. Tan, meanwhile, said closer cooperation between the three places would boost mutual trust, and urged Hong Kong accountants to seize the opportunities presented by the Qianhai expansion. Speaking at a seminar after the ceremony, Hong Kong Cyberport chairman George Lam said accountants should be better versed in technology, as the business world was undergoing a digital transformation. “In the past, we said English proficiency was important for doing business. Now digital skills have become the new English,” Lam said. Speaking to the press after the seminar, accountant Mabel Chan, deputy managing partner of Grant Thornton, said she hoped the coming establishment of a stock exchange in Beijing would also offer more opportunities for Hong Kong accountants. Xi first announced plans to create the new exchange last week, with the country’s securities regulator saying it would be a base for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises.