Founding president of the HKIS Kan Fook-yee played a key role in helping Hong Kong’s surveyors flourish
As Hong Kong went through a period of rapid economic development and political transformation in the 1980s, a number of professional groups–including engineers, town planners and solicitors–set about founding their own independent organisations.
Surveyor Kan Fook-yee and a group of like-minded professionals shared the foresight that a professional body representing local surveyors would help to ensure the onward development of the profession. In 1984, as Sino-British negotiations over Hong Kong’s future set up the city’s evolution from a colonial power into a new representative government, Kan and his associates founded the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS).
“The local profession saw that they needed to make their rightful contributions to the development of Hong Kong’s politics under the mission of a high degree of autonomy for the future of the region,” Kan says.
Before 1984, the surveying sector in Hong Kong was represented by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) based in Britain. Local surveyors, many of whom were expatriates, operated under the banner of the Hong Kong branch of RICS. This caused some initial challenges when it came to signing up members to the newly founded independent HKIS.
“The ‘de facto’ challenge was the rather thin membership at the beginning,” Kan says. “It was an issue of internal recognition in the profession. Initially, many members of RICS Hong Kong branch were expats. It was difficult for them to accept the sudden severance of the link to the world-renowned RICS. Hence, a wait-and-see attitude was adopted,” Kan says.
It helped that the HKIS was quickly recognised by the government as a functional constituency body in the Legislative Council – which was unprecedented for a local professional institute, according to Kan. The institute’s professional standing and influence were also quickly recognised by local universities that offered programmes in surveying.
With its new political status and recognition from the university sector, the institute rapidly signed up new members. “The sceptical thinking was quickly dispensed with,” Kan says. “Membership in the second year doubled that of the first year, following by even more spectacular growth in subsequent years. Now all surveyors trained by local universities are members of HKIS.”
In recent years, Kan says he is particularly pleased with the efforts by the institute to establish closer links with its members by providing professional talks, continuing professional development programmes and seminars.
“HKIS has had the local surveying profession under its charge for 30 years. The surveying profession should now move forward with time to suit the current needs of the community.”
He looks to tertiary institutes for this continued development. “Universities are the ‘nurseries’ of our future surveyors. They should work with HKIS on the revision of the curricula of various surveying degree programmes,” he says.
From his point of view as a general practice surveyor, Kan believes that the curriculum for general practice surveying should be broadened to cover business valuation in addition to property valuation, as demand for other specialised valuation skills is growing rapidly. “You only need to look at the locally listed companies in Hong Kong – less than one-quarter of them are focused on property development,” he says.
He also believes another subject – corporate finance – should be added. “We need this interdisciplinary knowledge. To prove my point, the City University of London now offers a degree in real estate and finance. Today’s commercial world goes for graduates with dual qualifications. It is no longer sufficient for managers working in a real estate company to know just property development. They also need to have financial knowledge and skills to excel in their jobs.”
In addition to his work with HKIS, Kan has acted as a member of Hong Kong’s Basic Law Committee, the HKSAR Election Committee, and was a Hong Kong delegate of the National People’s Congress. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star in 2003 and the Gold Bauhinia Star in 2015.
Kan believes that to succeed in the surveying profession today, young surveyors need three prerequisites. “They should have sound expertise, professional ethics, and be accountable. These three prerequisites will serve them well whether working as an employee or running one’s own practice.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Surveyors Times, the members’ magazine of The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Laying the foundations.