On October 13th, a group of Columbia Business School students, alumni, professors, and industry practitioners gathered at the Columbia Club in midtown Manhattan to hear Lawrence Fok '76 speak about the Hong Kong Exchange's role in China's economic reform. Mr. Fok is the executive vice president and head of the Issuer Marketing Division of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx), and is responsible for promoting the role of the exchange to potential issuers. After giving the audience a brief history of securities exchanges in China and Hong Kong over the past forty years, Mr. Fok outlined the contributions and benefits of the Hong Kong Exchange to China's impressive economic growth since the early '90s. The crux of Mr. Fok's argument revolved around the HKEx's strategic positioning as a bridge between mainland China and the rest of the world, providing Chinese enterprises with a liquid market for foreign capital. The Chazen Institute hosted the talk as part of the Sir Gordon Wu Distinguished Speaker Forum.
Mr. Fok's speech centered on the connection between mainland China's impressive economic growth over the past fifteen years and the development of the HKEx as an international market with access to the otherwise closed Chinese economy. Since Deng Xiao Peng took office in the 1970's, China's economy has been gradually liberalizing. By 1993, industrial development had reached the point where many Chinese firms were capital-starved and needed access to international markets. The international investing community as well as Chinese powerbrokers had confidence in Hong Kong to act as a conduit between them. In this way, the HKEx provided a mechanism for Chinese firms and foreign capital providers to access one another. As a result, the exchange underwent a period of rapid growth and emerged as one of the world's leading and largest exchanges.