Urgent calls from three wise men
As a strategic location for fostering business links with the mainland, Hong Kong's sound legal and financial infrastructure, coupled with a clear understanding of international commerce, ensures the city enjoys several competitive advantages. But according to a panel of veteran business leaders, Hong Kong must remain committed to maintaining a forward-looking approach by sustaining standards and raising skill levels.
Replying to questions at the first in a series of executive summits organised by Classified Post, a panel of Hong Kong-based business leaders identified the city's strengths and areas they believe would benefit from improvement.
According to Simon Nowroz, Travelport president and managing director for Asia Pacific, for an entrepreneurial city, there is a shortage of activity in the IT sector. "Hong Kong has a large pool of highly skilled home-grown talent capable of delivering customer service but, surprisingly, for some reason, the buzz to experiment in the IT space you would expect to find is missing," he noted.
To remedy this, Nowroz said that at a government level, more could be done to attract overseas companies and the talent they bring with them to complement the expertise of local IT professionals.
"Singapore and even the mainland are offering a lot of support to companies in IT. If Hong Kong doesn't adjust to the challenge by making sure there is enough investment and support to develop IT, it could be overtaken by these places in the next two or three years," said Nowroz.
For Richard Lancaster, managing director of CLP Power Hong Kong, while the city's infrastructure is a major strength, there should be emphasis on training engineers to maintain the high standards.
"Infrastructure such as our airport and railway systems function extremely well, but if this slips, Hong Kong could lose some of its advantages," Lancaster said. "At CLP we are always in the market for engineers, so we need to encourage and promote what some might consider the less exciting areas of Hong Kong's workforce requirements. We need well-trained engineers to build railways and power stations and keep standards as high as they are."
Mark Conklin, general manager of JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, believes the city is a victim of its own success. "Hong Kong is such a desirable city to live and work in that many people do not want to leave," says Conklin.
As companies expand abroad, Conklin said skilled Hong Kong people are in a prime position to export their managerial talents. In Hong Kong, Conklin said JW Marriott Hotels had launched a "High Potential" programme designed to train individuals to become managers, but trainees should be willing to work overseas.
"We have so many career opportunities available through our expansion activities that we would like to see our Hong Kong people benefit from them," said Conklin.