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Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023

Exclusive: Hong Kong is back, and the financial world welcomes it, HKMA says

Exclusive: Hong Kong is back, and the financial world welcomes it, HKMA says

The meeting, with the theme “Navigating Beyond Uncertainty”, will be the biggest congregation of global financial heavyweights in Hong Kong since the Covid-19 pandemic drove the city into three years of quarantines and social-distancing.

Hong Kong’s charm offensive to woo global financiers has been enthusiastically received by more than 200 invitees in a collective endorsement of the city’s appeal as a global financial centre, according to the de facto central bank.

Thirty chief executives of global banks and funds including Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered and UBS will attend the Global Financial Leaders’ Forum on November 1 and 2, according to a programme seen by South China Morning Post.

The meeting, with the theme “Navigating Beyond Uncertainty”, will be the biggest congregation of global financial heavyweights in Hong Kong since the Covid-19 pandemic drove the city into three years of quarantines and social-distancing.

The ensuing clampdown on large, in-person public gatherings pushed many global conferences – including SuperReturn Asia and Token2049 – to other Asian cities, a loss for Hong Kong’s aspiration to be the regional nerve centre for financial events.

“It is really a great opportunity for us to reconnect physically with the world,” said Eddie Yue Wai-man, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), during an interview with the Post.

“Global connectivity is extremely important. We want people to come and see Hong Kong, and after this event, we want them to have a very, very clear impression that Hong Kong is back.”

Eddie Yue Wai-man, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), during an interview at SCMP’s office in Causeway Bay on 28 September 2022.

The gathering will kick off with a closed-door meeting on November 1, when the HKMA and Hong Kong’s financial officials hear from invited guests about issues they care most regarding the city’s financial competitiveness.

The first day will be topped by a gala dinner at the M+ visual culture museum in West Kowloon, to give conference attendees an “on-the-ground feel of Hong Kong’s vibrancy”, Yue said.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po will be keynote speakers during a half-day public forum from 8am till 2.15pm on November 2 at the Four Seasons Hotel, according to a programme seen by the Post.

Blackstone’s president Jonathan Gray, Goldman’s chairman David Solomon, Morgan Stanley’s chairman James Gorman and UBS’ chairman Colm Kelleher are featured as speakers on three panel sessions during the public forum.

Panellists will share their insights on how they and their stakeholders adapt to cope with stagflation risks, rising interest rates, geopolitical conflicts and tension, and how to capture the opportunities, according to the programme that is being sent to guests on Wednesday.

“These are long term friends of HKMA. [When] we issued the invitations half a year ago, they all marked their diaries, except for one or two who cannot commit due to conflicting schedules with their board meetings,” Yue said.

“Nobody asked about quarantine restrictions [then], or any arrangements needed to come to Hong Kong. They said simply that they wanted to come to support Hong Kong.”

Travellers at the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport on 27 September 2022, days after the government eased the quarantine rules for inbound travellers.

Hong Kong badly needs the support of global bank executives, as the city’s ranking in the Global Financial Centres Index slipped to fourth place behind New York, London and Singapore, according to the London-based think tank Z/Yen Partners.

More than 113,000 residents – including many expatriates who have become permanent residents in the city – have left Hong Kong in the 12 months through June, according to government data, creating a desperate shortage of talent among the city’s top jobs.

“Banks or asset managers in the last few days [are showing] signs of people who were temporarily working outside [wanting to] come back,” said Yue. “More importantly, banks say they can now attract overseas talent to Hong Kong. It was difficult half a year ago, but now people are a lot more willing to come back as they see the opportunities here.”

Hong Kong scrapped inbound travel restrictions starting from this week, scrapping the rule that previously required travellers to be quarantined at hotels.

Inbound travellers at the Hong Kong International Airport on 26 September, 2022, after the government cancelled its compulsory hotel quarantine.

BlackRock’s president Rob Kapito, Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser, HSBC’s chief executive Noel Quinn, JPMorgan Chase & Co’s president Daniel Pinto and Standard Chartered’s chief executive Bill Winters have all committed to speak on a panel to discuss how technology reshapes the future of finance, according to the programme.

The forum will also discuss sustainable finance, featuring Citigroup’s Fraser, Amundi’s chief executive Valerie Baudson and KKR’s chief executive Joseph Bae. It will be moderated by Nicolas Aguzin, chief executive of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), the city’s exchange operator.

Global conferences that moved away from Hong Kong will return after the November summit, Yue said.

“As travel continues to open up post-Covid, we expect to run events within our portfolio in both [Singapore and Hong Kong] going forward,” said Dorothy Kelso, the global head of SuperReturn, which moved its 2022 and 2023 private equity and venture capital industry conferences to Singapore after more than a decade in Hong Kong.

Token2049, the largest annual digital asset conference, moved its Asia conference to Singapore after its Hong Kong gathering was cancelled twice due to Covid-19 restrictions. Cosmoprof Asia 2022 will relocate from Hong Kong to Singapore in November.

“International events are promotions for Hong Kong,” said Edmund Wong Chun-sek, the practising director of Patrick Wong CPA, who represents the accounting constituency in the city’s legislature.

“They help us interact with the world, and show that Hong Kong is no different from what we were before the pandemic,” he said.

“Our financial system is still stable amid all the turbulence around the world. We lag behind the world in opening up, but our unique connection with mainland China [gives] Hong Kong the ability to catch up and maintain our role as a financial hub.”


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