As the global economy’s gradual recovery continues, Hong Kong is working to safeguard its position as an international financial centre by rolling out myriad initiatives to try and attract global businesses and talent.
‘Regaining economic vibrancy is being actively addressed’
Speaking at the ACCA Hong Kong Virtual Tax Conference 2023 in late March, Joseph Chan, Hong Kong’s under secretary for financial services and the Treasury, said: ‘Regaining the resilience and vibrancy of the Hong Kong economy is an important issue that is being actively addressed. The government has attached great importance to it.’
For example, Chan said, to attract global businesses and demonstrate Hong Kong’s unique advantages, the government had led a team of business people and professionals on a visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and the UAE both have a clear development vision of economic diversification, smart cities and outbound investment.
‘The Middle East countries highly recognise the strength of Hong Kong’s financial services, business and professional services. They are considering expanding their investments here,’ said Chan. ‘Hong Kong as a regional green finance centre, which is also moving forward to become an innovation and technology centre, has abundant resources to be the investment platform for these countries.’
In the government’s policy address in October 2022, Hong Kong chief executive John Lee announced some targeted measures to systematically develop market systems and infrastructure for global businesses.
The creation of the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (Oases) is one example. Oases aims to attract companies with great potential from around the world, approaching businesses in industries that have high value to Hong Kong, and tailoring supporting measures in tax and land use for them.
‘Family offices from mainland China expect to invest globally through Hong Kong’
With Hong Kong aiming to be an asset management centre, InvestHK is being allocated HK$100m (US$12.5m) over the next three years to help attract family offices from around the world.
‘Hong Kong has the advantages of geographic proximity to mainland China, free flow of capital, and a low, simple and competitive tax system, attracting family offices worldwide to access opportunities in mainland China and Asia. Meanwhile, family offices from mainland China expect to invest globally through Hong Kong,’ said Chan.
The policy address introduced a mechanism to help companies domiciled overseas, particularly enterprises with a focus on Asia Pacific, to move their domicile to Hong Kong. ‘These companies may leverage our favourable business environment and professional services. We will conduct a consultation and submit legislative proposals in 2023/24,’ said Chan.
Improving the local industrial and business environment is another key factor in making Hong Kong more appealing, and the establishment of the Hong Kong Investment Corporation (HKIC) was announced in the 2022 policy address. ‘The HKIC will, based on the direction of enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness as well as leading and supporting the prosperous growth of strategic industries in Hong Kong, strengthen our ability to attract investments and enterprises, and enhance the structure of Hong Kong’s industries and the impetus of economic growth,’ Chan said.
‘The government will launch a fintech internship scheme for post-secondary students’
Chan said the government has taken steps to build the available pool of talent. The initiatives include the top talent pass scheme and the establishment of Hong Kong Talent Engage. A new capital investment entrant scheme will be introduced, and the Labour and Welfare Bureau is currently updating the talent list to better reflect the manpower demands of different professions.
The government is working to nurture local talent with a focus on finance technology and green and sustainable finance. Chan said: ‘The government will launch a fintech internship scheme for post-secondary students, under which subsidies will be provided to participating students in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The scheme facilitates eligible students to acquire practical work experience in fintech enterprises in Hong Kong or the wider GBA, and helps them develop an early interest in pursuing a career in fintech after graduation.’
Over 150 internship positions will be offered initially. The government has also launched a three-year pilot capacity building scheme to encourage local practitioners to participate in training in green and sustainable finance.
Foundation of finance
Chan thinks accounting professionals contribute greatly to the finance sector in Hong Kong. He believes the accounting profession represents the basic infrastructure of the Hong Kong market, speaks the universal language of business and offers professional services that are indispensable for building modern industry.
‘As an international finance centre, it is very important that global markets and investors have confidence in Hong Kong. The foundation of such confidence is contributed by accounting professionals all along the years, so we really pay close attention to the development of the accounting industry,’ Chan said. ‘We especially thank ACCA for actively cultivating local talent and improving the professional standard of the industry to help consolidate Hong Kong’s position as an international financial centre.’