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SFST's speech at Forum of Industry/Academia Collaboration on Nurturing Financial Talent Series II: Enhancing Quality with Strengthened Training (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Frederick Ma, at the Forum of Industry/Academia Collaboration on Nurturing Financial Talent Series II: Enhancing Quality with Strengthened Training today (June 10)(English only):

Vice Chancellor Professor Tsui, TC (Chan Tze-ching), Distinguished Guests, Fellow Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It is my pleasure to join this Forum today.

     As you all know, Hong Kong has a strong financial services sector and I am fortunate enough to have witnessed the emergence of Hong Kong as an international financial centre. I started my career in the financial services sector when I graduated from this university in 1973.  At the time, I was very lucky to get a job at the then Chase Manhattan Bank as a management trainee.  In 1973, although Hong Kong was already a leading regional manufacturing centre and entrepot, our financial services industry was still at its infancy.  The stock markets were in doldrums and there was no futures market. The prime channel for financial intermediation at that time was the banking sector.  However, for the first time in Hong Kong's history, Hong Kong being a "regional financial centre" was highlighted in the 1973's Policy Address.  This set an important milestone for Hong Kong's development in this area.

     Our economy has undergone successful development and structural transformation throughout these 30 years. Today, Hong Kong is not only an international financial centre, but also the premier capital formation centre for the Mainland.  Our stock market now ranks eighth globally and second in Asia in terms of market capitalisation which hit the historic mark of HK$10 trillion for the first time last month.  In 2005, we overtook Tokyo as the number one equity fund raising market in Asia.  We are the world's 15th largest banking centre with 71 of the world's top 100 banks operating here.  With 175 authorised insurers, Hong Kong also has the highest concentration of insurers in Asia.  All these showcase vividly where our financial market stands in the world.

     Hong Kong's success story is not a coincidence.  It is a combination of factors working together which bring us to where we are today, to name a few - the rule of law, free flow of capital and information, simple and low tax regime, world-class infrastructure and a well established regulatory system.  These factors have provided a strong foundation for our growth. But above all, our people are the key to our success.

     Compared with 10 years ago, our pool of talent in the financial services and related professional sectors has grown considerably.  To cite a few examples.  Our Chartered Financial Analysts have increased from about 200 to more than 2,900; our Certified Public Accountants have grown from about 11,500 to more than 25,000; our qualified actuaries have almost tripled during the same period.  Nevertheless, our financial markets have also been expanding tremendously.  The market capitalisation of our stock market has grown by 3.5 times and our daily turnover has also increased by 6.4 times.  Our financial services sector's demand for talents is huge and growing rapidly with the encouraging developments of our financial markets.  The potential of this sector is excellent and there are ample opportunities for our young people.

     While some students may rejoice at more job opportunities for them as the market grows, I would caution that the celebration should not come too early.  In fact, what is behind more opportunities is more competition.  When I graduated in 1973, Hong Kong produced no more than 2,000 university graduates every year.  Today, the number has jumped by over seven-fold and there are more than 3,000 graduates from Business Faculties alone.  It would be much larger if overseas graduates are also counted.  The much larger flow of talent on a global scale means you are not competing among your peers, but with people from all over the world, including your Mainland counterparts.

     I am often asked by young people including my younger daughter for advice to succeed in the financial services industry.  Based on my experience, I have seven 'tips' for you.

(1)  Be prepared to work 20 hours a day: certain jobs, particularly those in investment banking, require very long working hours, especially for juniors.

(2)  Have the 'Never give up' attitude: Financial services business is a tough business.  There is no shortage of competition.  In order to do well, one must have what I call the 'Never give up' attitude.  Otherwise, your boss will give you up in no time.

(3)  Language skills: As the Mainland is our hinterland, professionals in the financial services sector today are required to master not just good English and Cantonese, but also Putonghua, something new for guys like me.

(4)  Interpersonal and communication skills: More so than some other industries, good interpersonal and communication skills are essential in this sector because the jobs require dealing with people.

(5)  International Exposure: We are operating in a globalised world. Therefore, international exposure is another major requisite.  Firms are looking for talents who know the world.  Joining international exchange programme is definitely one of the effective ways to learn about the world, but reading international magazines and browsing news and business websites also provide you with a window on what is going on in other parts of the world.  So, read international magazines, not just your favourite local magazines.

(6)  Lifelong learning: Do not stop learning after you get a job.  You should improve yourself through continuous professional development.  For example, I studied accounting courses in the evening after I joined the bank in order to sharpen my credit analysis skill.

(7)  Think 'out of the Box': Remember, sharp and creative brain power, not copy cat, sells in the financial services business.

     In financial services business, its assets go up and down the elevator everyday.  In order to reinforce our status as an IFC, our education and training must cater for the changing needs of the industry in the age of globalisation.  This is why the Government established the FinMan Committee in 2000.  In the last six years, the FinMan Committee has held fast to its mission of fostering the coordination of efforts between the academia and the industry on financial services manpower development.  The Committee includes representatives from the industry, regulators, professional bodies, training providers and the Government.  It places huge emphasis on encouraging dialogues among the stakeholders to ensure that education and training provided by the institutions are serving the future career needs of our students.  The forum today demonstrates the tremendous effort that the Committee has been making under the able leadership of TC in bringing the stakeholders together for collaboration and co-operation on this front.

     Ladies and gentlemen, human resources are the most invaluable asset for Hong Kong, and the financial services industry is a major pillar of our economy. To maintain and further strengthen Hong Kong's position as an international financial centre, we must make concerted efforts to expand and further enhance the quality of our human resources to support the future development of the financial services sector.  For students attending this forum today, I hope this forum will inspire you to consider pursuing a career in financial services industry and to have a better idea about how you may prepare yourselves for such a career. I look forward to seeing you soon becoming members of our dynamic financial services industry.  

     I wish you all a rewarding and fruitful discussion today.  Thank you.

Ends/Saturday, June 10, 2006
Issued at HKT 11:26