Hong Kong exchange operator losing top execs after tough year

HONG KONG • Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) is losing two executives days after a senior staffer in charge of strategy was replaced, capping a challenging 12 months that brought protests in its home city and a failed bid for London's bourse.

Mr Roland Chai, head of post-trade and a member of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) bid team, has resigned so that he can return to Europe for family and career reasons, a spokesman for HKEX said. He joined the firm in June 2017 after several years at LSE's LCH unit.

HKEX's deputy group risk officer Ketan Patel may also leave after eight years at the firm, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named discussing information that is not public.

The spokesman declined to comment on Mr Patel.

The moves come days after Mr James Fok, the head of strategy, was replaced. He remains with HKEX and will join its London Metal Exchange subsidiary.

Chief executive Charles Li is going back to the drawing board for his dream to connect the bourse with other global markets. Last year had "many twists and turns", and "caused us anxiety", he said in a blog post that also shared his hopes for improved fortunes this year.

The company last October abruptly dropped its unsolicited US$39 billion (S$53 billion) proposal to combine with London's 300-year-old exchange after political and shareholder resistance. Its third-quarter revenue fell 6.1 per cent from a year earlier, even as it managed to post a record HK$12.6 billion (S$2.2 billion) in revenue over the nine-month period that ended in September.

Overall average daily trading on the bourse last year slid 19 per cent from the previous year, it said in a report on Tuesday.

But the exchange retained its global crown as the top spot for initial public offerings last year, boosted by a US$13 billion listing from Alibaba Group Holdings.

More technology firms are discussing secondary listings in Hong Kong to follow in Alibaba's footsteps.

Hong Kong has been rocked by months of protests, prompting some finance executives to reconsider where they would like to be based.

The streets and shopping malls close to HKEX's headquarters were often sites for lunchtime protests by white-collar professionals, while schools have been disrupted after violent clashes, and growth has slowed in the former British colony.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2020, with the headline 'Hong Kong exchange operator losing top execs after tough year'. Print Edition | Subscribe