FIA Asia-V: HKEX’s Charles Li Bids Industry Farewell But Not Goodbye

Suzanne Cosgrove

Suzanne Cosgrove


In his last address to the FIA as the chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd., Charles Li looked back at 2020 and toward a brighter future “now that we are seemingly coming out the other side of the tunnel with the vaccines coming.”

Set to retire from HKEX on December 31 after 11 years, Li will serve as a senior advisor to the exchange board for another six months into 2021. Under Li’s watch, HKEX transitioned from a regional stock exchange into a global-focused marketplace.   

“What should have been a year of perfect vision” turned into a year of an unprecedented health crisis and tremendous political and geopolitical tensions, Li noted. “It’s a year we can’t wait to get over with.”

But as COVID continued, “we also had to find a new way of doing business, which gives us a lot to think about going forward,” he said. In addition, it was a record year for the HKEX in terms of financial and operational performances, he told participants at FIA Asia-V. 

The key to HKEX’s success in 2020 is that “we harvested the seeds planted years ago,” he said. “A lot of them have come to light this year, when we really connected our markets, and the global markets, with China. This year, through Stock Connect and other connect channels, we were truly connected with China through the rest of the world,” he said.

“We have Chinese capital and international capital; Chinese underlying and international underlying,” he said.

Another difference-maker was a change in the underlying at HKEX, Li said. Reforms of its listing regimes allowed HKEX markets, which have historically been a listing venue for traditional  companies, to become home to a number of very large companies in the technology space and in the new economy space, he said.

Looking at 2020, the Asia derivatives market has also gone through huge changes, he said. As the Hong Kong IPO market boomed, it allowed the derivatives market to get a boost. 

Now, anchored in China, connected to the world and powered by technology, “I still think the best is yet to come,” Li said.

“The last 11 years have indeed been the most rewarding and the most gratifying period of my career, ” Li said. It was always a pleasure to meet with my friends at FIA, he said, adding that although he was retiring, he was “coming back to Boca, back to Chicago and back to Singapore” in the future.

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