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Meet the New Chairman
Meet the New Chairman<br/>總商會新主席專訪

Meet the New Chairman<br/>總商會新主席專訪

Meet the New Chairman<br/>總商會新主席專訪

Bulletin: Congratulations on being elected HKGCC Chairman. Why did you take on this role given your long list of other responsibilities and duties?

Agnes Chan: Thank you. It is truly an honour to be elected Chairman and work with such a talented group of people.

I have been with the Chamber for more than 30 years. In fact, it was the first organization I joined after returning to Hong Kong from Australia in the early ‘90s. I remember that my first role here was as Chairman of the Taxation Committee, given my expertise is in tax. After three years, I went on to chair the Financial and Treasury Service Committee, and have actively served on other committees in various capacities over the years.

The Chamber commands a lot of respect in Hong Kong and the Mainland. I have been part of several HKGCC delegations to Beijing, where the government leaders we met have consistently commended the Chamber’s role in promoting Hong Kong’s economic and trade development over the past 163 years. They also recognize its contributions to the city’s prosperity and stability.

Throughout its history, the Chamber has advocated strongly for the business community, offering its diverse membership a strong platform for exchange and allowing them to share their insights, gain valuable knowledge and acquire business intelligence. It also helps them to build connections and expand their networks. I hope to build on this strong relationship and continue serving the Chamber and our members to the best of my abilities.


B: What are your priorities as you step into the new position?

AC: The Covid-19 pandemic and the social unrest had a devastating effect on Hong Kong’s economy. The city had to face unprecedented challenges, and some issues still remain, such as the manpower shortage and rebuilding investor confidence. My predecessor Betty Yuen did an admirable job in steering the Chamber through the tough years as Hong Kong chased economic growth. However, the city’s resilience is truly amazing. Every time, we have emerged stronger and have been able to find new opportunities.

At this juncture, it is crucial for the world to understand what Hong Kong brings to the table as an international financial hub. In this regard, I hope to boost the Chamber’s strengths via three perspectives.

First, we must work to strengthen our global connections. What we have learned in the past few years is that Hong Kong has to focus on boosting its international networks and encouraging foreign investment from diverse markets. In turn, these opportunities will allow us to share good stories about our city, so that the world can understand the actual situation on the ground.

Second, the Chamber is the bridge between the Government and the business community. After all, we are the “Voice of Business in Hong Kong!” Rest assured we will keep up our efforts to support the business community, sharing their views with the Government and actively lobbying on their behalf.

Third, our members are very important to us. The goal has always been to serve them in the best possible way. The Chamber will continue to provide a wide range of innovative services, events, seminars and workshops, as we pull out all the stops for our members to seize every opportunity, and help them grow and succeed.


B: The ongoing labour shortage is still affecting many industries. How can Hong Kong reverse the brain drain and upskill talent?

AC: The Government has been working hard to draw talent to Hong Kong. A case in point is last month’s Global Talent Summit, where over 1,200 international and Chinese leaders from various sectors came together to discuss the issues and have meaningful exchanges in talent development and trends. Meanwhile the city’s various talent schemes, which were put in place from the end of 2022, have to date attracted over 120,000 people from around the world to our shores.

From the Chamber’s perspective, we have advised the Government to undertake strategic planning in the next five to 10 years in order to map out the city’s medium- to long-term manpower needs. Cross-sector collaboration is also integral to attracting talent and creating a solid foundation for the city’s talent pool.

One thing that Hong Kong needs to prioritize, besides putting in efforts to attract overseas professionals, is regularly offering the local workforce opportunities to reskill and upskill, so that they are better equipped to navigate their career paths as well as contribute to Hong Kong’s high-quality development.


B: What can Hong Kong do to further bolster its status as a world-class asset and wealth management centre?

AC: Hong Kong is already doing very well as an asset and wealth management centre, attracting a diverse range of investors, financial institutions and funds.

According to a survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, Hong Kong is on track to unseat Switzerland as the world’s top banking centre by the end of 2025. The city achieved the highest growth rate in assets under management over the past five years, averaging annual growth of 13%, thanks to our robust financial infrastructure, top-notch professional services and attractive investment opportunities.

The Government is going all out to welcome family offices with relaxed regulations and tax policies. Last year, the authorities announced eight measures to attract family offices to facilitate investments, philanthropy, etc. By the end of 2023, around 2,700 family offices were established in Hong Kong and more are in the process of setting up.

The Government also introduced the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme migration programme, for wealthy individuals and their families to gain fast track residency with investments of at least $30 million in Hong Kong-listed stocks, bonds, deposits, funds, etc. This will go a long way to attract and retain incoming professionals.


B: Given your extensive China experience, can you share your insights into how Hong Kong can pursue better integration with the Mainland?

AC: This was my second year attending the Two Sessions in Beijing, and I was touched and encouraged by the way Beijing supports Hong Kong. Mainland authorities value the city’s uniqueness and encourage it to work to its many advantages and strengths, in particular “One Country, Two Systems.” This governing principle provides access to the huge Mainland market under the “One country” arrangement, alongside common law, a low tax regime and international standards under the “Two Systems.” 

The key phrase at the Beijing meetings this year that Hong Kong should act on is “new quality productive forces.” What this means is that technological innovation is the key driver of development, in addition to high quality and high efficiency. Hong Kong should embrace innovation as it boasts a diverse business landscape and has also fostered an excellent atmosphere for research and development. From MIT to our own universities, the city is a hotbed for pioneering research and groundbreaking inventions.

However, we cannot be complacent any more as the world has changed. In this regard, the term “new quality productive forces” can be applied to all aspects of business in Hong Kong, channeling technological advancement and embracing digitalization and automation. To facilitate national integration, Hong Kong must continue to strengthen its status as an international financial hub, which requires pushing the frontiers of innovation, science and technology.


B: Hong Kong has a key role to play in China’s plan for the Greater Bay Area, one of the most promising growth engines in the world. How can local businesses seize more opportunities in the region?

AC: The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) Development Plan was unveiled five years ago to transform the GBA into a growth engine. It is a region of remarkable potential, with a population bigger than that of the United Kingdom or South Africa. Its GDP is nearly US$ 1.7 trillion, exceeding Canada or South Korea. The cities in the GBA also enjoy excellent connectivity – day trips are now so easy, thanks to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.

To make the most of opportunities available in the region, it is necessary to understand the different set-ups across the 9+2 cities, based on sectors and fields of growth. The Chamber’s GBA Working Group has led missions to all the nine Mainland cities to facilitate knowledge-sharing among our members on the policies and schemes in various sectors such as technology, green finance, professional services etc. We regularly welcome delegations from the GBA, which always garner a lot of interest from our members. The Chamber is also lobbying the Government for more talent flow between the GBA cities. Some rules have already been relaxed, such as visa applications for foreign enterprises with offices in Hong Kong.


B: How can Hong Kong attract investment, encourage entrepreneurship and promote the “Hong Kong” brand?

AC: To attract investment and promote entrepreneurship, we must remember that investment will come where there are opportunities to make money. Recently the stock market has been doing well, due to measures by China Securities Regulatory Commission as well as improved liquidity and funding. The Government is also leading overseas missions to connect with foreign economies and explore new markets and regions, especially ASEAN countries and the Middle East.

At home, the spotlight is also firmly trained on a range of mega events. This is a great way to show the world that the city has a lot to offer, which they need to see and experience for themselves. I believe embracing innovation and premium experiences is important if we are to attract more visitors. Hong Kong has always been called a “Shopping Paradise,” but I believe it should be renamed “Shopping and Experiences Paradise.” In fact, Xia Baolong, Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said every place in Hong Kong has the potential to be a tourist hotspot. Besides our shopping malls, the city boasts breathtaking natural landscapes and hiking trails. It is also famed for putting on world-renowned events like the Rugby 7s. We truly have so much to offer!

As an open and externally oriented economy, Hong Kong is vulnerable to geopolitical tensions, economic uncertainty, inflation and rising interest rates. It takes time to recover from the effects of the pandemic, so we need to be patient because rebuilding cannot be done in a day.

However, we mustn’t forget that Hong Kong’s fundamentals remain stronger than ever – the city ranked seventh most competitive among 64 economies in the International Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Yearbook 2023. Additionally, under “One country, Two Systems,” we are solidly backed by the Mainland. As we head down the road to recovery, it is important to stay true to ourselves, sharpen our competitive edge and work hard for the future development of Hong Kong.


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