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Hong Kong Bids to Restore Global Reputation With Key Summit

Critics have claimed a talent crunch and geopolitical tensions have impacted Hong Kong’s international status

A general view of Two International Finance Centre (IFC), HSBC headquarters and Bank of China in Hong Kong, China, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
A general view of the Two International Finance Centre, HSBC headquarters and Bank of China in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Reuters


Hong Kong is bidding to restore its reputation as a global financial hub by hosting a host of top Wall Street executives this week.

The high-profile summit is the first in almost three years in the city since anti-government protests, the imposition of a sweeping national security law and strict Covid-19 containment measures hurt its status as a premier financial centre.

The Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit begins on Wednesday with participants including Goldman Sachs Chief Executive David Solomon, Morgan Stanley boss James Gorman, HSBC’s Noel Quinn and Standard Chartered’s Bill Winters.


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Alongside the main theme of “navigating through uncertainty”, the summit is widely expected to focus on whether Hong Kong can remain a global financial centre after almost three years of border controls and pandemic restrictions.

For foreign financial firms operating in China and Hong Kong, however, navigating Sino-US geopolitical tension and a depleting pool of talent in what is commonly touted as “Asia’s world city” will continue to prove challenging, analysts said.

“The Hong Kong government’s overarching goal is clear – to establish the narrative that the city has reopened … after years of Covid controls, protests and US sanctions,” said Chris Beddor, Gavekal Dragonomics’ deputy China research director.

Global banks are playing their cards reasonably well in the face of a deteriorating political environment, he said, though there has been a shift among the expatriate workforce in Hong Kong in particular to other locations, such as Singapore.

“The geopolitical situation has deteriorated rapidly over the past two years or so, and the political environment in China has clearly shifted as well, both of which present hard-to-quantify long-term risks.”

Underscoring the tension, two US lawmakers last week urged top American bankers to cancel their attendance, saying participation would contribute to human rights abuses by China’s government. Beijing rejects accusations of rights abuses.


Pre-Pandemic Hong Kong

The two-day summit, organised by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) – the de-facto central bank – has suffered at least two marquee participants dropping out after contracting Covid-19.

Blackstone President Jonathan Gray will not attend after testing positive for the virus, and will be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Michael Chae, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser will also not attend due to Covid-19 infection, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Those who make it to the summit will look for reassurances of the city returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, making it easier for them to move talent to Hong Kong.

HKMA head Eddie Yue told a local newspaper last week the event would send a clear message that “Hong Kong is back”, and it would be the “fireworks which draw the eyeballs of global talent”.

“I totally agree that the conference hopefully can be a very beautiful fireworks display,” said Hong Kong-based Gary Ng, senior economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis. “But it depends on what happens after.”


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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