Licensed Finance Professionals To Return

Hong Kong Wants Licensed Finance Professionals To Return

HONG KONG – Amid efforts by the Chinese territory to revive its status as a global financial hub, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is in talks with financial companies to bring back their licensed employees who have been working abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.

Sources who requested anonymity revealed that there’s growing concern at Hong Kong’s top market regulator over the prolonged absences of licensed managers at the brokerages and investment companies it oversees.

As such, SFC communicated with some financial companies and asked them to have key personnel return to the city. The watchdog emphasised that the flexibility it has permitted during the pandemic is temporary, said the sources.

This move comes as Hong Kong seeks to revive its status as a global financial hub after nearly three years of harsh pandemic measures severely impacted its economy and led to an exodus of talent. Some companies have relocated operations and employees permanently or temporarily to Singapore, which has already removed its travel and social distancing curbs.

The watchdog is concerned about operational risks at licensed firms doing business without a responsible manager located in Hong Kong, the sources said. Nonetheless, as long as the harsh quarantine rules are in place, SFC expects there will be little appetite among fund managers and bankers to return to Hong Kong. Hence, it is only urging for a greater gradual comeback of employees, two of the sources said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early-2020, the watchdog permitted finance companies to let employees work overseas as a temporary contingency measure. It required companies to report on how long their licensed managers planned to stay abroad and renew the arrangements as needed.

Meanwhile, the finance sector is urging the SFC to move slowly in withdrawing the flexibility it offered.

“I wish the regulator would exercise discretion on rolling back flexibility for individual situations to avoid causing major disruptions to businesses,” said Robert Lee, who represents the financial services sector in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

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