Hong Kong CEOs plan to tap wealth management, ESG opportunities in Greater Bay Area in 2024, survey finds

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By Blegug Nan

For New York-based investment bank Citi, Hong Kong and the rest of the bay area will be a key area of focus, according to Aveline San, CEO for Hong Kong and Macau.

“Citi’s global network is increasingly relevant to the fast-growing mid-size companies in the Greater Bay Area, which are … going global at record pace,” San said.

Hong Kong CEOs plan to tap wealth management, ESG opportunities in Greater Bay Area in 2024, survey finds
‘Citi’s global network is increasingly relevant to the fast-growing mid-size companies in the Greater Bay Area,’ says the investment bank’s Hong Kong and Macau CEO, Aveline San. Photo: Enoch Yiu

“Our aim is to support these clients and help them achieve their aspirations for international expansion and growth. Equally, we are able to support business owners and entrepreneurs on their wealth needs.”

In Hong Kong, San said Citi sees “opportunities for further growth from local corporates and … several hundred Fortune 500 companies that operate in areas such as green and sustainable financing.”

“We will continue to invest in our wealth management business as Hong Kong solidifies its position as Asia’s premier wealth management hub,” said Luanne Lim, chief executive of HSBC Hong Kong. “HSBC has developed a range of private banking, family office, wealth management and insurance services to capture the growing opportunities.

“The government is also engaged and providing active policy support, including a focus on family offices, tax breaks and an investment migration scheme.”

‘We will continue to invest in our wealth management business as Hong Kong solidifies its position as Asia’s premier wealth management hub,’ said Luanne Lim, chief executive of HSBC Hong Kong. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The city’s largest note-issuing bank is scheduled to hold the first ever HSBC Global Investment Summit in April, bringing investors, companies and thought leaders from across the world to Hong Kong, Lim said.

The lender is also going full steam ahead with “ digital currency and tokenisation developments.”

“We will continue to work with the authorities and industry partners to roll out initiatives such as digital currencies for cross-border payments, tokenisation of financial instruments and further CBDC (central bank digital currencies) pilots in Hong Kong, bringing efficiency, transparency and lower costs to traditional finance,” Lim said.

For Julius Baer, China and the wider Asian region present ample opportunities for wealth management. To tap them, talent acquisition is paramount, said David Shick, market head for Greater China and branch manager Hong Kong at the Zurich-based private bank.

“The wealth management landscape in Asia is witnessing a significant shift towards discretionary mandates,” he said. “We expect a faster adoption of discretionary investments, driven by insights from past cycles and a generational wealth transfer favouring delegation.”

To tap the opportunities in Asia, talent acquisition is paramount, said David Shick, market head for Greater China and branch manager Hong Kong at Julius Baer. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

In 2023, the bank opened its new office at Two Taikoo Place in Quarry Bay. It is now looking to boost its recurring revenues and expand its presence through talent acquisition, Shick added.

For Singapore-based digital wealth adviser Endowus, the wealth management business should be “conflict-free” and have a deep impact on lives, society, and future generations, according to Gregory Van, its CEO. Endowus expanded in Hong Kong last year as it sought to leverage the city’s bid to become a top wealth centre.

“Serving the Hong Kong market is a top priority in 2024,” Van said. “Hong Kong investors – individuals, family offices, and endowments – want to diversify, demand evidence-based advice, institutional-quality solutions and greater fee transparency.”

‘Serving the Hong Kong market is a top priority in 2024,’ says Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus. Photo: Dickson Lee

Meanwhile, a potential rebound in China’s economy and the benefits businesses are likely to gain from it should also come hand in hand with sustainability and broader ESG goals, said Vantage Capital Markets CEO Federico Bazzoni.

“My main priorities will be on being nimble, and diversifying and tailoring product offerings, being positioned to take advantage of a potential Chinese rebound and be concise in sustainability initiatives,” he said.

“In the current changing environment, clients and businesses are increasingly looking for flexible solution that are specifically tailored to the client group.”

Zurich Insurance will be betting on ESG and the bay area in the coming year, said Hong Kong CEO Eric Hui.

Fellow insurer Manulife Hong Kong and Macau is taking another tack by enhancing its services for mainland Chinese visitors, according to CEO Patrick Graham.

“To achieve these goals, we will continue to bolster our agency support with digital tools and advanced data analytics for more effective customer service, while also further expanding our medical partner networks across Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China,” said Graham.

Abrdn is seeing a “growing interest in sustainable investment across Asia-Pacific” and will therefore focus on this area, said Irene Goh, head of Hong Kong at the UK-based investment firm.

Others, including Deutsche Bank, and sustainable tech start-ups Archireef and I2Cool are looking beyond Hong Kong and mainland China to drive growth.

“We will focus on leveraging the strong foundation that we have built globally and in the Asia-Pacific region to drive consistent revenue growth, operational efficiency and efficient capital management,” said Joe Lai, CEO of Deutsche Bank Hong Kong and chairman, origination and advisory, Asia Investment Bank.

Archireef is planning to enhance its data collection to measure the impact on marine ecosystems, said co-founders Vriko Yu and Deniz Tekerek in a joint statement.

“We also want to increase our investment in core R&D, which will mostly be driven by a recruitment push across Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi,” they said.

I2Cool’s focus in 2024 will be on ‘penetrating the Middle East, US and Southeast Asia markets, which offer significant growth potential,’ says Martin Zhu, co-founder. Photo: SCMP Handout
Founded in 2021 by PhD students and research staff from City University of Hong Kong, I2Cool’s focus in 2024 will be on “penetrating the Middle East, US and Southeast Asia markets, which offer significant growth potential.”

Intellectual property protection will also be an important focus as I2Cool will “prioritise patent research and development to safeguard our innovative ideas and ensure a competitive edge in the market,” said co-founder and CEO Martin Zhu.

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