Money Moves

Hong Kong leaders warn of finance talent dearth

by Charles Mak

High-level workshop explores HR strategies for Hong Kong's finance sector
Photo: Edde Ngan
Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau calls on tripartite cooperation

At the "Developing Financial Talent for the Next Decade—A Tripartite Approach" workshop co-organised by the Advisory Committee on Human Resources Development in the Financial Services Sector (FinMan Committee) and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau last Tuesday, Julia Leung, acting secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, called for tighter cooperation between academia, the government and the finance industry to develop human resources in a bid to hone Hong Kong's competitive edge.

Ms Leung pointed out that Hong Kong's finance industry underpinned the city's success as an international financial centre but it was "long on financial engineers" and "short on risk managers".

Plenary speaker Peter Wong, HSBC's executive director and president of the Hong Kong Institutes of Bankers echoed her view. Mr Wong likened Singapore and Kong Kong to New York and London and said that Hong Kong's finance talent must grow in terms of size and competence. He emphasised also the importance of enhancing ethical standards among Hong Kong's finance workforce and that he was particularly "not happy" with the level of English proficiency in the current workforce.

Judy Tsui, vice president (designate) of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, shared his opinions in the plenary session. Professor Tsui added that concepts such as ethics and sustainability could be included in university curriculum. Despite recent volatility, she ensured that the finance industry was "still attractive".

Ms Leung in the earlier session quoted chief executive Donald Tsang in his Policy Address in October this year, stressing the significance of building Hong Kong into a centre for capital raising, RMB offshore business and asset management. She cautioned however that the focus on tapping into the mainland market should not undermine Hong Kong's "international form or substance", for such distinctive attributes essentially distinguish the city from its mainland counterparts.

The last plenary speaker Charles Li, chief executive designate of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, raised three key questions: how to attract overseas talent; how to retain such talent; and ultimately, how to get people of different ethnicities and professional areas to work together for the greater good of the finance sector.

Mr Li believes that Hong Kong has the best and brightest talent and advised that these people be put in the right positions. In his opinions, a shared sense of mission is key to the prosperity of Hong Kong's finance industry.

In the succeeding "breakout" session, three focus groups of 90 participants from the finance industry, academia, professional and regulatory bodies as well as the government discussed on three key issues—how to position Hong Kong for future opportunities on the mainland; developing a workforce that is adept at change; and tripartite cooperation in developing talent for the finance sector.

Chan Tze-ching, chairman of the FinMan Committee, summed up the discussions: "Looking ahead, we should work towards promoting greater collaboration among the industry, the academia and the government, maintaining our international characteristics, attracting talent from overseas and enhancing ethical elements in education and training in order to enhance our competitiveness as an international financial centre."

The FinMan Committee was assembled in 2000 by the government, gathering personnel from the finance sector, regulatory and professional bodies, training providers and the government, to facilitate interaction for the region's further development of financial talent.

Taken from Career Times 18 December 2009, p. A4

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