As I landed in Zurich yesterday morning aboard the Cathay flight from Hong Kong, and during the picturesque drive up to Davos with my colleagues, I got thinking about what the purpose of coming to Davos was, and why HKEX was heading to this week’s 50th World Economic Forum.
One of the key themes of this year’s Forum is “stakeholder capitalism”, which seems quite apt given the past twelve months of social unrest in countries as diverse as France and Chile, and in our own home in Hong Kong. Yet, to be here among some of the world’s most influential leaders, in the cosseted environment of an alpine resort to discuss this topic perhaps seems a little ironic. It brings to mind a sentence from Leo Tolstoy’s Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence: “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible… except by getting off his back.”
Events around the globe in the past year have left no doubt in the minds of most people that things must change. But what is the purpose of us being here in Davos? Will this just be paying lip service to addressing social inequality, action on climate change, better governance, and so on; or can this forum of heavyweights and global leaders make a difference? Will change be incubated here or will all be forgotten away from the media glare?
I, for one, will admit that, given the past year in Hong Kong, it would have been very tempting for us as a business and a community to shrink away from our international aspirations and to turn our focus inward. However, I believe that this would have been a terrible mistake.
Financial markets are critical to Hong Kong. They provide jobs and fiscal revenues needed to deliver key social services. They fuel our collective prosperity. The success of our financial markets is also the primary reason that Hong Kong occupies a place of critical importance in the world – why what happens in Hong Kong matters to people far beyond our own borders.
While there are many questions yet to be resolved in Hong Kong, what I know is this: as stewards of Hong Kong’s financial markets, it is our duty to continue to do our best to serve our customers, our shareholders and our community. This has been the guiding principle to which our colleagues have steadfastly adhered throughout the past year – we are proud of our resilience and dedication in the delivery of that goal.
Looking forward, in order to serve our stakeholders better, we must continue to forge ahead with our international aspirations, embrace new opportunities, and enhance the scale and scope of the Hong Kong market. Only by doing this will be able to secure our future and that of all those in our community who depend upon us – delivering on our corporate purpose “to promote and progress Hong Kong’s financial markets for the prosperity of all”.
While some of the challenges we face are unique, many are common to other communities and markets. Davos is an opportunity to learn from others and exchange experiences so that when we get back home, we can apply what we have learned. To be here and to have that opportunity is a privilege.
These, I think, are the key reasons why we are here in Davos. It is only through engagement, dialogue, the sharing of ideas and practical solutions that we, as a business and as a community, can move forward.