The WFE's Women Leaders 2022 - Bonnie Y Chan, Head of Listing, HKEX

By: The WFE Focus Team Mar 2022

Member: Bonnie Y Chan

Nominee’s name: Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX)

Nominee’s job title: Head of Listing

1. - Brief description of nominee’s role/job:

Bonnie leads the Listing Division of HKEX, one of the world’s largest exchange groups. Its Listing Division is responsible for supervising the listing process of equity, debt and structured products, the ongoing compliance by over 2,500 listed issuers on its markets with their obligations under the Listing Rules and ensuring those rules reflect best international practices.

With a team of circa 270 people, Bonnie oversees various aspects of the listing function, including strategic planning, policy development, market consultations, regulator relations and other key stakeholders. Bonnie reports to the chief executive officer and is a member of the Group’s management committee.

2. - Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):

Bonnie has more than 25 years of experience in legal and financial services. She began her career in private legal practice, worked in a number of investment banks and was a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell before assuming her current role. She was head of IPO of the Listing Division at HKEX between 2007 and 2010.

Bonnie has served on various public service boards, including the Financial Services Development Council, the Inland Revenue Board, the Standing Committee of Company Law Reform, and the Disciplinary Panel of the HKICPA.

She graduated from the University of Hong Kong and Harvard Law School and is admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong and an attorney at law in New York State.

Bonnie has enjoyed cooking her entire life, and in recent years she has embraced pottery as another way to relax. She finds the creativity and manual nature of pottery to be therapeutic, and with her hands covered in clay she can’t touch her phone, which is an added bonus!

3. - What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2021 (ie why should you be on this list):

2021 was another fruitful year for HKEX and for me professionally. As we entered into the second year of the Covid pandemic, global capital markets continued to be volatile. At the same time, the world has been continuing to find ways to capitalise on growth opportunities and new ideas. These have created new and exciting possibilities, especially in the areas of biotechnology, digitalisation, and sustainability.

Increasing market attractiveness 

As one of the world’s leading fundraising centres, we’re always looking for ways to enhance our listing framework. This is essential to maintain our attractiveness and competitiveness. We are now a world-leading fundraising hub for new economy and biotech companies. Building on the success of our 2018 listing reforms, we made further enhancements to our listing framework during 2021, with the aim of promoting market quality and attractiveness while delivering investor protections.

Throughout the year, we enhanced and streamlined the listing regime for overseas issuers; and created a listing regime for SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) effective from January 2022. And a taskforce was built to look at further enhancing the structure of our IPO regime. All these efforts support Hong Kong’s reputation as a global listing venue of choice, whilst further broadening investment opportunities.

As a market regulator, we approach innovation in a prudent and thorough manner. Take SPACs: while they are one of the hottest trends of the past few years, we carefully designed a framework to ensure Hong Kong’s reputation for high quality listings and stable secondary trading wouldn’t be jeopardised. This, we believe, has long-lasting and positive impact on the depth, diversity, and liquidity of our market – and ultimately its sustainability.

Enhancing market quality and governance 

During the year, we enhanced the requirements on board diversity and corporate governance, continuing our leadership role in this important area. For example, we published a conclusion paper to end single-gender boards, with a three-year transition period for existing issuers – one of the first regulators in the world to mandate this. This will create 800 vacancies for women directors at our 2,500-plus listed companies, and together with our ongoing efforts in driving board diversity has already begun to have a huge impact.

Even though the new rules only take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, we have required IPO applicants to make a commitment to increase gender diversity on their boards since May 2019. Since then, we have seen an increase in the percentage of new IPO applications with at least one female director on their boards grow from 70% in 2019, to 79% in 2021, and up further to 82% in 2021. Starting from July 2022, single-gender board IPO applicants will not be accepted. We remain fully committed to driving and shaping the diversity agenda in Asia and beyond.

Driving the sustainability agenda 

As the global sustainability agenda continues to gain momentum, capital markets are taking the lead in fuelling the low-carbon economic transition, and in driving sustainability. At HKEX, we see ourselves as a change agent. As a frontline regulator, we remained focused on supporting our 2,500- plus listed companies on their ESG strategy implementation. This includes through listing rules, guidance, and market education.

HKEX is working with the Hong Kong Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group, of which we are a founding member, to raise market standards and align reporting taxonomy in Hong Kong. To facilitate issuers’ low-carbon transition, we launched Guidance on Climate Disclosure to facilitate TCFD-aligned reporting which will become mandatory by 2025. We also launched the HKEX ESG Academy webinar series, to help issuers navigate and embrace risks and opportunities on the sustainability journey.

Leading by example 

Last year it was my honour to head-up the HKEX Women’s Network, as part of the newly created Diversity Network for our 2,200-plus employees across the world. This internal group run by passionate volunteer colleagues fosters a positive, progressive, and inclusive culture. This Women’s Network helps to celebrate and live our values of diversity, by empowering women, and educating male colleagues to become “allies”. As the dynamics of business become even more complex and intricate, we need to respect the differences in all of us as individuals and embrace the collective skills and expertise of these people as a business community to ensure that we chart the right course ahead.

As a market regulator, as a business leader, and as an individual, I feel like I have never stopped growing. And in Hong Kong – a place in which capital and opportunities intersect between East and West – we are optimistic and excited for the journey ahead.

4. - What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success:

My father, who has a physical disability, has been an inspiration to me. He always told me that there’s a solution to every problem, you just have to go out and find it, and he exemplified that in his own life as he overcame his disability. That influenced me to be a very optimistic person.

I have been given so many opportunities in my career, and I want to pass those opportunities on to the next generation. Working with women just entering finance and law encourages me to try harder as well.

5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions:

My advice is to stay nimble and learn to adapt. We lawyers are trained to follow process and precedents. There is a tendency to look at how we used to do it and try to follow tried and tested means. But this is a time in history where we need to also break away from precedent and challenge ourselves to see if we can disrupt the established ways - can we develop better and more efficient ways of doing things?

Some young women still think, in the back of their minds, that being a woman puts them at a disadvantage. Push that out of your mind, because if you think that it will limit your potential.

My personal professional journey has a lot to do with the fact that I just want to learn and experience things for myself. What is it like and what does it mean to practice law in the United States? What does it mean to become an investment banker, in-house counsel or regulator? If young women keep an open mind and remain curious they can embrace the opportunities as they present themselves. We must never stop learning.


The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.