The WFE's Women Leaders 2023 - Bonnie Y Chan, Co-Chief Operating Officer, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited

By: Bonnie Y Chan, Co-Chief Operating Officer, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited Mar 2023

Name: Bonnie Y Chan

Organisation: Co-Chief Operating Officer

Job Title: Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited

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

Bonnie was appointed as co-chief operating officer of HKEX in February 2023, following a three-year tenure as head of listing for the exchange group. Together with Co-COO Wilfred Yiu, Bonnie is now responsible for all operational matters, with oversight of Corporate Communications, Group Strategy, HR, Mainland Development, Chief China Economist’s Office and LME Clear in particular.

Prior to her new position, Bonnie was in charge of HKEX’s Listing Division. Overseeing a team of around 300 people, Bonnie was responsible for various aspects of the listing function, including strategic planning, policy development, market consultations and regulator relations.

Bonnie continues to report 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 30 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 joining HKEX.

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 and baking her entire life, and in recent years she has embraced pottery as another way to relax.

3. What were your professional highlights and challenges in 2022?

If I were to describe 2022 in one word, it would be that it was a year of “strength.” Worsening geopolitical tensions, the Ukraine War, the global economic slowdown and the ongoing pandemic-related disruptions escalated the challenges facing global markets, Hong Kong and HKEX. Against this backdrop, my team and I remained resolutely focused on maintaining the overall quality and vibrancy of our IPO market, enhancing the competitiveness of our listing regime, while also laying the foundations of our and our markets’ future growth and success. And as part of the management team of the Group, we continuously sought to successfully navigate a fragile and complex landscape.

At the same time, as the leader of a 300-person department, I also focused on looking after the well-being of my team, ensuring the smooth running of our Listing division during temporary restrictions in Hong Kong. The department displayed a great level of strength, which enabled us to thrive and deliver our goals during some of the most turbulent times.

Increasing market attractiveness 

Despite the slowdown in the global IPO market, HKEX demonstrated resilience during the year. The number of new listings in the second half of the year nearly doubled that of the first half, with a total of 90 new listings taking place in 2022 – which is only seven less than 2021. Some 50 of these listings came from new economy sectors and represented 70% of the funds raised, meaning that our market continued to be a leading venue for the “companies of tomorrow.” Our IPO pipeline also remained strong, with 100 active applications at the end of 2022.

As one of the world’s leading fundraising centres, we’re always looking for ways to enhance our market attractiveness and competitiveness. Building on the success of our 2018 listing reforms – which made Hong Kong one of the world’s leading new economy and biotech fundraising venues – we made further enhancements to our listing framework during 2022, with the aim of promoting market quality and attractiveness while also protecting investor interests.

Our activity involved enhancing and streamlining our listing regime for overseas issuers, and launching a new listing regime for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) to attract high-quality, new economy companies to our markets. We also kicked off a market consultation on our new proposed listing rules for specialist, pre-revenue technology companies to raise capital in Hong Kong. The feedback to our market consultation has been positive, and we believe this will be a timely reform as capital markets pick up again on the back of China’s re-opening.

Progressing the ESG and sustainability agenda

As the global sustainability agenda continues to gain momentum, capital markets are taking the lead in fuelling the low-carbon economy transition, and in driving sound governance and sustainability practices. As a frontline regulator, in 2022 we remained focused on supporting our 2,500+ listed companies on their ESG journey through listing rules, guidance and market education.

For example, our big push on diversifying the boards of Hong Kong-listed companies – through banning single-gender boards in new IPO applications with all existing issuers to follow suit by 2024 – came into effect in the summer. Even though we’re in the early days, we’ve already seen an improvement in our markets, with the percentage of listed companies with one or more female board directors increasing to 73% in 2022 from 67% in 2019. We have also launched a brand new diversity repository – “Board Diversity & Inclusion in Focus” – which aims to improve the information and transparency around board diversity.

To facilitate issuers’ low-carbon transition, we continued to work 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. We also continued our work with the ISSB on international sustainability disclosure standards and conducted training and webinars, helping listed issuers on our market to get ready for the new climate disclosure regime.

Championing global parity and female leadership 

In 2022, I was also honoured to represent HKEX at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, where I had a large number of conversations with other women leaders and took part in forums focused on sustainability and female leadership. I also started to lead our efforts in supporting WEF’s Global Parity Alliance initiative – an action-oriented cross-industry group committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion around the world.

HKEX Women’s Network, an internal employee network of which I am the executive sponsor, continued to drive a number of engagements within HKEX and with external associations such as Women in Finance (WiFA) and The Women’s Foundation. And during the fifth wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong, HKEX more broadly deployed a number of measures to support our employees’ physical and mental well-being. This included providing day-to-day utility and working-from-home supplies, as well as hosting a Group-wide Global Wellness Challenge – whereby we challenged all employees to walk, run, swim and bike in the name of physical and mental health. This brought the added benefit of strengthening our morale and team bonds, and in turn improving our attrition rates. I was very proud to that the Listing team won the HKEX Global Wellness Challenge!

As a market regulator, as a business leader, and as an individual, 2022 was a challenging but fruitful year where I was able to move forward on multiple fronts – and I believe this exemplifies good leadership, which often shines through during tough times. As I embark on my new position as Co-COO of HKEX in 2023, I’m looking forward to my new responsibilities with a lot of excitement and optimism.

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

My father, who has a physical disability, will always be 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.

Drawing more specifically from 2022, Covid also inspired me because it forced me to prioritise what’s important and gave me the space to reflect on things that I didn’t always have the luxury to think about. It’s very unusual to deal with a contingency situation for a prolonged period of time – it’s a test of people’s resilience and perseverance and that in itself is very inspirational. I was moved by how my team came together to overcome our common adversity, and that inspired me to also stay strong and maintain our focus on the things we set out to achieve.

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

There may be some perceptions that in a male-dominated world, women can only survive and thrive in a leadership position by behaving in an aggressive and domineering manner – but I don’t think that’s the case.

In my experience, women tend to be good at showing empathy and emotion, and are naturally caring. And this certainly plays to our strengths during unusual circumstances like the pandemic. For instance, there was a time during the fifth wave in Hong Kong when we couldn’t go out to eat at night because restaurants closed at 6pm. There were a handful of us working from the office and some people in the team simply didn’t know how to cook. So in the mornings, I would do grocery shopping for the team at the wet market and prepare simple recipes for them to cook at night. Now you might think that’s a very “feminine” thing to do, but it had a very positive impact on my team’s mental well-being, and even brought us closer together as we bonded and laughed over cooking!

So my advice to women – and men too – is that we shouldn’t feel inhibited in expressing our true selves and our natural tendencies. Stay true to who you are and let your personality come through in your leadership style, which is essentially what authentic leadership is all about.


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.