What is your role as a governance professional?
‘Currently I am working as the Corporate Secretary of Livi Bank Ltd, one of Hong Kong’s new digital banks awarded its licence by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in 2019. I joined in February 2020. I am helping to implement governance arrangements that can combine the thorough oversight required for a registered bank in Hong Kong, while retaining the flexibility needed to respond to customer needs in a rapidly evolving business sector. Livi has three shareholders, Bank of China (Hong Kong), JD Digits and Jardine Matheson Group, bringing a unique combination of financial strength, digital expertise and marketing scope.’
What was your career path to your current role?
‘My career began in the UK. I spent three years with a professional firm, where I qualified as a Chartered Secretary, before moving to listed companies in the City of London for 10 years. In 1989, I came to Hong Kong to join the Jardine Matheson Group as Group Corporate Secretary and, a few years later, as Director – Group Corporate Affairs of Jardine Matheson Ltd. My responsibilities covered the Stock Exchange compliance and regulatory requirements in five group listed companies – Jardine Matheson, Jardine Strategic, Hongkong Land, Dairy Farm International and Mandarin Oriental. The primary jurisdictional areas were the UK, Singapore and Bermuda. My role in corporate affairs covered both internal and external communications from the Group Head Office.’
What value does governance bring to organisations and to wider society?
‘Governance is core to the maintenance of a prosperous society. Research has proven that countries that have good governance and rule of law become more prosperous across all levels of society, no matter where they are or what natural resources they possess. Without good governance, wealth gets restricted to a few and this severely restricts growth and development. Similar dynamics apply to companies – poor governance can lead to bad business decisions, including lack of care for the workforce and failure to meet regulatory requirements, leading to an increased cost of capital and reputational risks.’
What qualities do you think are needed to be a successful governance professional?
‘Integrity and diligence, a strong moral compass and the ability to communicate and persuade. An understanding of the substance of an issue rather than taking a technical, box-ticking approach is also crucial – many of the biggest corporate scandals occurred in companies that met the technical requirements, for example Enron. So you need to understand what is right and act on it.’
How do you think governance will evolve in the future?
‘In step with society’s increasing expectations of transparency, equality and fairness, demands for good governance will increase. A great driver of this, of course, is social media. The actions of all businesses are now subject to far greater scrutiny from pressure groups, consumers, employees and competitors. This requires organisations to be run to high standards and for their values to be upheld in all that they do, while adapting to the ever increasing challenges of today’s disruptive business environment. Sound business practices, such as fair treatment of workers and suppliers, an understanding of the environmental impacts of the entire supply chain and paying taxes where profits are earned, need to be maintained.’
What inspires you in your life and work?
‘Over time, values and aspirations change. When families are young they are full time, but later one’s needs and responsibilities change, focusing on other areas where one can contribute to society, such as charitable bodies, The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries, etc.’
How do you fill your time outside work?
‘My main interests are walking, art and design.’