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Having lived in Hong Kong for 16 years, Chen Shuang fully understands the difference between the cultures in Mainland and Hong Kong and the best way to choose the right personnel. "As Hong Kong students are characterized with high qualities and dedications, they are very good at the middle or back office jobs such as legal, audit and human resources." He even shared that when he was studying in Hong Kong, he almost did one small thing that would be “in breach of trust”. He learned a lesson instead.
Chen Shuang first studied law in Mainland and was responsible for establishing the whole legal management system in the Bank of Communications. Since the legal system in Hong Kong is different from that in Mainland, he took a diploma program in law in HKU SPACE while working in Hong Kong. Due to the difference in the upbringing environments, the students from the Mainland and Kong have their own inexplicable different understanding of compliance, he said.
"In Hong Kong, it is ‘breach of trust’; in the Mainland, it is called flexibility."
"There was once when I was about to be late for class due to work. So, I called a local classmate, with whom I had a pretty good relationship, to sign the attendance sheet for me and I would hurry back to class for the second half of the lesson. My classmate flatly refused to do so.”
“She said it was in breach of trust. In the Mainland, this is called flexibility. I have to say, however, trust is extremely important in business. These subtle differences in culture are not something one could adapt to while studying in graduate school in Hong Kong for just a year. It takes time to blend in."
As the overseas investment flagship of the Group, the company indeed takes upbringing and personal background into consideration in personnel assignments and division of work.
"There are two kinds of front office and one of them is overseas market development. This department needs Hong Kong students, who are better in international affairs. I'm not saying that Mainland Chinese students are not good enough but cultural exchange is a very delicate thing and there are many details in it. It needs appropriate people to deal with. The Chinese market itself is very big and this, we mainly rely on Mainland Chinese students to develop."
Chen had worked in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover and was relocated by the Group in 2001 to station at Hong Kong. At that time, he had to manage the difficult issues of the severe damage caused by the Asian Financial Crisis in companies inside the Group. He was then invited to join the directors' board of China Everbright Ltd. in 2004. He took the leadership in 2007.
He thinks that, even having been through a hundred years of ups and downs, Hong Kong's financial system is still stable and her status as an international financial centre remains firm. Hong Kong, however, must not stand still.
"Hong Kong has been relying too much on the development of China. As an international financial centre, she should not rely overly on one growth factor. Instead, Hong Kong should look far more ahead. Hong Kong has to be more internationalized and reform herself."
"Hong Kong's legal environment, market-oriented operation, talent training and information flow still provide advantage."
"Hong Kong is still important to China though the level of importance has been declining in recent years. In 1997, Hong Kong contributed to nearly 20% of China's GDP but that percentage has declined to almost 3% only recently. GDP of Beijing and Shanghai has long surpassed Hong Kong's while Shenzhen's is now very close behind. In China's 13th five-year plan, the GDP of a number of cities will surpass Hong Kong in the future."
He points out that Hong Kong is facing intense competition from Singapore and Tokyo in the same region simultaneously and therefore should further speed up in alleviating her own competitiveness in the future.
Chen stresses that Hong Kong still has advantage in areas including legal environment, market-oriented operation, talent training, information flow, etc that cities in Mainland cannot supersede in the near future.
"The legal environment in Beijing and Shanghai is very different from Hong Kong which is an international city. Market economy is already part of Hong Kong's DNA. In addition, Hong Kong's highly mobile population and ability to receive global information in real time are also factors that attract international top-notch banks and asset management companies to come to Hong Kong."
Tips for young people
1. Feeling anxious is normal
"The society is developing very rapidly and it is completely normal for young people to feel anxious, and that is what we have been through before. I graduated from graduate school 24 years ago. In the past 24 years, things like technological development and democratic system have all been through significant changes.
China Everbright Ltd. has numerous high technology investment in the United States and Israel. The company has witnessed the speed of development being ever-accelerating. You either catch up with the times or be left behind. Every generation faces the problem of competition. All we can do is to keep learning and practising. Never be lazy."
2. Time will tell
"When the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) appointed me and other people with Chinese background into the board, the media said that FSDC was "infiltrated by the red". The fact was we were familiarized with the markets of both places. We could give practical suggestions on issues such as the internationalization of Renminbi, the going out of Chinese enterprises and one-belt-one-road so that Hong Kong needs not detouring. Our suggestions have been proved to be useful. Sometimes, we do not have to care about the debates. I have seen myself as a Hong-Konger for 16 years."
3. Blending into Hong Kong society
"When young people from the Mainland come to Hong Kong, they have to blend into the society. This is not something that can be done overnight but they must respect the culture here. Professionals are particularly respected in Hong Kong. You work hard and you will gain a place. At the same time, you have to contribute to the society. This applies to people and institutions from China."
Master of Laws Degree, East China University of Political Science and Law
Diploma in Legal Studies, School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Hong Kong.
Prior to joining China Everbright Group, Mr. Chen was the Chief of the Legal Department of Bank of Communications. He joined the Board in August 2004 and has been Executive Director and CEO of China Everbright Ltd. since 2007. He is currently the Executive Director and Deputy General Manager of China Everbright Holdings Co., Ltd, and Executive Director and Chairman of China Aircraft Leasing Group.
Mr Chen is also the Permanent Honorary Chairman of Chinese Financial Association of Hong Kong, the Vice-Chairman of Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong and the visiting professor of East China University of Political Science and Law. Other duties include:
Independent Director, Noah Holdings 2010-2015
Director, Everbright Securities 2007-2014
Supervisor, China Everbright Bank 2007-2014
Independent Non-executive Director, China Nonferrous Mining Corporation 2012-2014