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LCQ9: Supply of environmental, social and governance-related professionals
     Following is a question by the Hon Tan Yueheng and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):
     There are comments that the key to developing Hong Kong into a green finance centre lies in having a large number of professionals related to environmental, social and governance (ESG). However, currently there is a shortage of this type of professionals. According to the results of a survey on sustainable finance and investment published at the end of last year, over 40 per cent of institutional investors in the Asian region expressed that due to a lack of employees who had relevant professional knowledge or met relevant qualification requirements, they were unable to have more ESG-related investments. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) As the Government indicated earlier on that it was exploring the incorporation of more ESG-related courses into the Reimbursable Course List of the Continuing Education Fund, as well as the incorporation of more ESG topics into courses on business and finance, of the progress of the relevant work, and whether it has set relevant policy objectives; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) As ESG-related financial professionals were added last year by the Government to the Talent List of Hong Kong, of the total number of ESG-related professionals who have been attracted by such measure to work in Hong Kong so far; whether, in the coming three years, the Government will put in place other plans and measures to attract more ESG-related professionals to work in Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it has assessed the current shortfall of ESG-related professionals in Hong Kong, as well as the effectiveness of the existing policies and measures for attracting local and overseas ESG-related professionals to stay in Hong Kong for career development; whether it will put in place more measures to step up the training and development of ESG-related professionals; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     With the goals of our country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 and 2050 respectively, more Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-related business opportunities are expected in the financial services sector in Hong Kong and the region. The demand for ESG-related financial talents is expected to increase. The Government is committed to enhancing the local ESG-related financial talent pool.
     In consultation with the Labour and Welfare Bureau (LWB), the Immigration Department and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), my reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(1) and (3) The Government is committed to strengthening the nurturing of local ESG-related financial talents by providing internship opportunities, training subsidies and relevant data resources to market practitioners as well as prospective practitioners. The reimbursable courses under the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) are classified under the nine original course domains and the (14) areas of study and training registered under the Qualifications Register (QR). Statistics on ESG courses are not specifically compiled. Nevertheless, the number of CEF courses on financial services named under ESG is increasing, and there are currently about 10 courses. The course outlines of other individual CEF courses also cover ESG elements. Course providers may design and offer new courses for registration under CEF taking account of market needs. The LWB and the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications will provide assistance if course providers have questions or encounter difficulties in the application process.
     In addition to providing training subsidies under CEF, we have earmarked $200 million for launching the three-year Pilot Green and Sustainable Finance Capacity Building Support Scheme to provide subsidies for the training and acquisition of relevant professional qualifications in sustainable finance. We began accepting applications for registration as eligible programmes in end-October 2022. The Scheme is expected to be officially launched later this year when the eligibility requirements and procedures for individuals to make subsidy applications, the first batch of eligible programmes and other details will be published.
     We and financial regulators have also been working closely with the industry and the academia to take forward various initiatives at the individual and institutional levels, which include:
(i) Green and Sustainable Finance (GSF) Repositories on training, data and internship opportunities as launched in the first half of this year to support the industry and students in locating data sources as well as useful learning resources and opportunities;
(ii) Sustainable Finance Internship Initiative as launched by the Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group in October this year to create more sustainable finance internship opportunities in Hong Kong for students, facilitating them to gain relevant hands-on experience and supporting the development of the GSF talent pool in Hong Kong;
(iii) Alliance for Green Commercial Banks as co-launched by the HKMA and International Finance Corporation (IFC) in November 2020 to promote green finance in the Asia region. The HKMA has been collaborating with IFC to conduct green finance researches, offer market analyses, and provide capacity building and training support in a bid to support banks' development of roadmaps on mainstream green finance for incorporation into their core businesses;
(iv) A new GSF module under the Enhanced Competency Framework for Banking Practitioners. We are developing a set of common competency standards on GSF for the banking industry through the HKMA; and
(v) The HKMA's initial launch of the Future Banking Bridging Programme last year to nurture more new blood, which is taught by banking professionals and facilitates university students to gain practical banking knowledge at an early stage in the newest areas of banking, particularly green finance. The second round of the Programme was conducted in October this year. The HKMA has also launched the Banking Graduate Trainee Programme jointly with the banking industry this year to provide entry-level positions in the fast-growing areas, including green and sustainable finance, with a view to increasing talent supply in a more targeted manner and hence supporting the future development of the industry. Trainee employment commenced in September this year.
     The Government regularly updates the Manpower Projection, assessing the broad trends of future manpower supply and requirements in different key local economic sectors at the macro level.
(2) Upon internal consultation and review, we have added "financial professionals in ESG" to the Talent List of Hong Kong since 2021 to provide immigration facilitation to incoming ESG talents submitting applications under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS). As at October this year, a total of four QMAS applicants have been confirmed to have met the eligibility criteria of the relevant Talent List professions and allotted quotas.
     The Chief Executive's 2022 Policy Address has announced a series of measures to attract talents from outside Hong Kong, including streamlining the General Employment Policy and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals. For employers offering vacancies under the 13 professions with a shortage of local supply on the Talent List (including "financial professionals in ESG") or vacancies with an annual salary of HK$2 million or above, they are exempted from providing proof for substantiating the difficulties in local recruitment in making applications. This shortens the processing time. 
     Under the current immigration regime, respective policy bureaux may formulate specific talent admission channels for industries under their purview, hence facilitating relevant sectors in attracting incoming talents to work in Hong Kong.
     We and financial regulators will continue to listen to the views of the industry in formulating suitable strategies for ESG-related financial manpower requirement.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Issued at HKT 11:45
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