The city’s standing has continued to climb
By Sundeep Tucker 2009-10-21

In recent years, Hong Kong has established itself as a leading international financial centre.

Three years ago it hosted the world’s largest initial public offering, the $21.9bn listing of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and it remains a honeypot for listings of mainland companies.

If anything, Hong Kong’s status as a financial centre has continued to climb.

The decision by HSBC to relocate its chief executive from London to Hong Kong, effective in February, is likely to force many businesses to reassess whether they have enough senior bodies in the city.

In addition, Hong Kong closed the gap on London and New York in a ranking of competitiveness among the world’s leading financial centres, released last month.

The Global Financial Centres Index, compiled twice yearly by the Z/Yen Group think-tank and published by the City of London, combines a survey of financial professionals with factors such as office rents, airport satisfaction and tax rates.

London has topped every survey since it began three years ago, followed by New York. Both London and New York improved their overall scores since the March ranking. London added 9 points to reach 790 and New York rose by 6 points to 774 of a possible 1,000.

But their single-digit gains were dwarfed by the 45 points added by Hong Kong to reach 729.

“It is a reality that a lot of economic activity is shifting to Asia-Pacific and no one will be able to stop it. The question for those of us in London is, how do we work with it? It is not a zero-sum game,” says Sir Stephen Wright, the chief executive of International Financial Services London, which promotes City of London companies abroad.

It is a far cry from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, which badly hit Hong Kong, prompting a collapse in share prices and the property market – which underpin sentiment.

In the years afterwards, the intensity and importance of Hong Kong’s trade and investment links with mainland China increased.

Before the 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong was governed by Britain and many of its oldest banking names, including SG Warburg and Jardine Fleming, dominated the colony’s financial scene.

This changed in the following years, as global investment banks from the US and Europe expanded in the city, attracted by the ever-larger deals and business volumes emanating from China and India.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and UBS were among those to take several floors each in gleaming skyscrapers, such as the International Financial Centre.

Hong Kong is Asia-Pacific headquarters for all the global investment banks, and the region typically accounts for between 20 and 30 per cent of global revenues.

Rory Tapner, who recently stepped down as chief executive of UBS’ Asia-Pacific operations, recalls that, prior to 1997, the region was not as developed and there were few large deals.

He added: “Hong Kong will remain a critical centre and a gateway to China. It can only thrive by being on the doorstep of the fastest growing large economy in the world.”

A recent development on the financial scene is the emergence of a new breed of leadership that does not herald from the US or Europe.

Mr Tapner, a Briton, handed over the reins this summer at UBS to Yoon Chi-won, a native of South Korea. Admittedly, Mr Yoon is no ordinary banker but a former engineer who designed the satellite communications network used in the US space shuttle programme.

Nonetheless, more bankers born in China, India and Korea are moving up the career ladder within their organisations in Hong Kong.

The pecking order continues to change. The crisis forced many groups to scale back their operations across the region, with inevitable redundancies in Hong Kong.

Those planning to boost their presence in Hong Kong were able to recruit to fill any coverage gaps.

Nomura, the Japanese bank, last year acquired the Asian operations of Lehman Brothers, the collapsed US bank, boosting its status in Hong Kong.

Barclays, the UK bank, has also been on an aggressive hiring spree, seeking to make inroads in regional equity, as well as debt, markets.

Australia’s Macquarie Group has also established Hong Kong as a key global centre and springboard for its ambitions in China, while even mainland brokerages such as Citic Securities have beefed up their teams in the city to work on initial public offerings.

Veteran bankers say that the key to success in Hong Kong is to take a long-term view.

“Asian culture rewards longevity and local regulators and politicians remember which banks stayed after the Asian financial crisis and which scaled back their operations,” says Mr Tapner.

金融中心:香港超英赶美?
作者:英国《金融时报》 森迪普•塔克 2009-10-21

近年来,香港已确立了自身作为主要国际金融中心的地位。

3年前,全球规模最大的首次公开发行(IPO)——中国工商银行(ICBC)的上市落户香港;如今,它依然是中国内地公司追捧的上市场所。

如果说有什么不同的话,那就是香港作为金融中心的地位在不断上升。

汇丰银行(HSBC)将其首席执行官主要办公室从伦敦迁至香港的决定(明年2月生效),有可能迫使许多企业重新评估自己在香港的高层机构是否足够多。

此外,在上月公布的全球主要金融中心竞争力排行榜中,香港已经拉近了与伦敦和纽约之间的距离。

全球金融中心指数(Global Financial Centres Index)由智库Z/Yen Group编制,由伦敦金融城(City of London)发布,每年发布两次。该指数将针对金融专业人士的一份调查,与办公室租金、机场满意度及税率等因素结合了起来。

自该指数3年前推出以来,伦敦在历次调查终一直稳居榜首,纽约紧随其后。自今年3月份的排行榜发布以来,伦敦和纽约的总分均有所提高。伦敦提高了9分,至790分;纽约提高了6分,至774分,满分为1000分。

但与香港相比,它们一位数的增长显得相形见绌。香港提高了45分,至729分。

伦敦国际金融服务公司(International Financial Services London)首席执行官斯蒂芬•赖特爵士(Sir Stephen Wright)表示:“大量经济活动正转移到亚太地区,这是一个事实,没有人能够阻止。对于我们在伦敦的人而言,问题是如何应对?这不是一场零和游戏。”伦敦国际金融服务公司鼓励金融城的企业走出国门。

这与1997至1998年亚洲金融危机时期的情况大不相同。那场危机令香港遭受重创,并导致维系市场人气的股市与楼市双双崩盘。

此后这些年,香港与内地之间贸易、投资联系的密度与重要性不断增强。

在1997年回归之前,香港由英国统治,因此,英国许多最老牌的银行——包括华宝银行(SG Warburg)、怡富资产管理公司(Jardine Fleming)——主导着这个殖民地的金融版图。

这种情况在接下来的几年内发生了变化:受来自中国内地与印度规模越来越大的交易及业务量吸引,美欧地区的全球性投资银行开始在香港进行扩张。

许多投行纷纷在香港国际金融中心(International Financial Centre)等熠熠生辉的摩天大楼买下好几层自用,其中包括高盛(Goldman Sachs)、摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)、摩根大通(JP Morgan)、德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)和瑞银(UBS)。

香港是所有全球性投资银行的亚太总部,该地区一般会占到这些银行全球收入的20%到30%。

最近刚卸任瑞银亚太业务首席执行官的谭信乐(Rory Tapner)回忆道,在1997年前,亚太地区还没有如此发达,大额交易少之又少。

他补充称:“香港仍将是一个关键的中心和通往中国内地的门户。只有作为通往全球增长最快的大型经济体的门户,它才能繁荣发展。”

这个金融版图上的一个最新进展是,近期涌现的新一代领导群体并非来自美欧。

身为英国人的谭信乐,今年夏季将其在瑞银的权力交给了韩国人尹致源(Yoon Chi-won)。诚然,尹致源不是一位普普通通的银行家,他曾是一名工程师,为美国航天飞机项目设计过卫星通讯网络。

不过,更多出生于中国、印度和韩国的银行家在香港的金融机构里获得了晋升。

尊卑次序继续发生改变。危机已经迫使许多集团收缩亚太地区业务,这不可避免地要造成裁员。

那些计划拓展香港业务的公司,能够招到填补任何业务缺口的人才。

日本银行野村(Nomura)去年收购了倒闭的美国银行雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)的亚洲业务,从而提升了其在香港的地位。

英国银行巴克莱(Barclays)也在大举招兵买马,试图进军亚太地区的股票和债券市场。

澳大利亚麦格理集团(Macquarie Group)也已将香港确立为关键的全球中心和在中国内地大展宏图的跳板;甚至连中信证券(Citic Securities)这样的内地证券公司,也已在香港扩充队伍,以开展IPO方面的业务。

资深银行家表示,在香港获得成功的关键,是拥有长期眼光。

谭信乐表示:“亚洲文化看重资历,当地监管者和官员会记得,在亚洲金融危机过后,哪些银行留了下来,哪些削减了业务规模。”

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