People Moves

Hong Kong Shrinks Gender Gap With Top-Level Move

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 27 April 2018

Hong Kong Shrinks Gender Gap With Top-Level Move

One of Hong Kong's most important financial organisations has appointed a woman as chair for the first time in its 18-year history.

Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing has struck a blow for advancement of women to senior roles in finance by naming Laura Cha, a non-executive director at HSBC, as its new chairman. This is the first time a woman has held the position in the company’s 18-year history.

Separately, the exchange is widening the type of firms that list, encouraging young, innovative businesses in sectors such as biotech to launch on its platform, a sign of how bourses are battling for new markets.

Cha was elected yesterday by HKEX’s board of directors. She takes over from Chow Chung-kong, HKEX said in a statement. The appointment is subject to approval of the jurisdiction’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.

Among other roles, Cha is a non-official member of Hong Kong’s Executive Council, the group advising the jurisdiction’s government. Cha has also held roles with the Securities and Futures Commission and China Securities Regulatory Commission (source: Bloomberg).

Her appointment comes at a time when around the world, the issue of the “gender gap” in the workplace, including senior roles in financial services such as wealth management and private banking, has been a talking point. In 2015, professional services firm Grant Thornton found that in Singapore, women held 23 per cent of senior business roles, while in Japan, the figures was an astonishingly low 8 per cent; for mainland China, the figure was 25 per cent (the report appeared not to give a number for Hong Kong). The highest percentage in the report was for Russia, at 40 per cent. In the UK, the result was 22 per cent and in the US, 21 per cent. 

Widening the door
This has been a busy period for the exchange. The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of HKEX, earlier this week said that proposed new rules to broaden Hong Kong’s listing regime will take effect on 30 April. The change is designed to encourage listing from emerging and “innovative” sectors.

“After a remarkable four-year journey of careful deliberation, HKEX’s new listing regime is finally open for business.  We are now at the dawn of an exciting new era for Hong Kong’s capital markets,” HKEX chief executive Charles Li, said. 

Under the changes, the exchange will allow listings of biotech issuers that do not meet any of the Main Board financial eligibility tests; permit listings of companies with weighted voting right (WVR) structures; and create a new, secondary listing route for Greater China and international companies that want to secondary list in Hong Kong. The exchange said it has also proposed safeguards to protect investors involved with “pre-revenue” firms.

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