No clear leader in race for next chief of bourse operator

Top News | 30 Dec 2020

Bloomberg and Victor Zhong

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing has yet to find a replacement for chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia, who announced his retirement plan seven months ago.

It is split between prioritizing a candidate who can operate with confidence in China or one with a strong international background, sources said.

Chairman Laura Cha Shih May-lung sees the bourse's role as serving Beijing's interests and avoiding competition with the mainland's exchanges.

Just days before Li formally steps down tomorrow, the committee has yet to settle on a permanent replacement.

Candidates being considered include Liu Che-ning, co-head of Asia-Pacific banking at HSBC, as well as the HKEX's interim chief executive and chief operating officer Calvin Tai Chi-kin.

Liu previously worked at Morgan Stanley as head of the Hong Kong financing department before joining HSBC in 2009.

Before moving to the clearing business, Tai was co-head of equities, fixed income and currency in global markets division and before that the head of the trading division of HKEX.

Mark Machin, chief executive of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Philip Zhai, former JPMorgan Chase banker, have also been discussed, as has Wilfred Yiu, a former Goldman Sachs banker who joined the exchange as head of markets in 2019.

Prior to joining CPPIB in 2012, Machin had a 20-year career at Goldman Sachs, which he left as vice chairman of Asia ex-Japan, based in Beijing.

Zhai joined JPMorgan as managing director in 2009, according to his LinkedIn.

Yiu joined the HKEX in April 2019 after working as deputy chief executive and chief operating officer at Beijing Gao Hua Securities for nearly 10 years.

Li announced his intention to step down as head of HKEX more than a year before his contract would expire - amid reported strained relations with chairman Cha.

Cha was put off by his free-wheeling style, which led him to sometimes not inform the board of important issues at an early stage, sources said.

An HKEX spokesman said in an e-mail that the selection process for the group's next chief executive is being conducted by the board with "clear communication and transparency."

He said further announcements will be made when the process concludes and declined to comment on any "gossip or speculation."

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