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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

PwC Partner Loretta Fong gives masters class on the ins and outs of Hong Kong

She says upskilling is more than providing employees access to training. It’s about cultivating your people into agents of change.

Loretta Fong, Partner at PwC’s Entrepreneurial Group of the Assurance Division in Hong Kong, leverages her strong international background and extensive experience to provide accounting, audit and consulting services to public and private companies. She currently leads the telecommunications practice in Hong Kong.

Relevant experience in the TMT sector would include M&A and corporate finance services for technology, healthcare, media companies, online game developers and publishers based in Hong Kong, Mainland China or overseas.

Loretta helped companies complete IPO and second listings in both Hong Kong and the United States. She has also led and advised on acquisitions, disposals and privatisation of Hong Kong listed companies and registrants with the US Securities & Exchange Commissions. No doubt that this lady is always invited as a frequent speaker on accounting and auditing, as well as IPOs and mergers-related topics.

Hong Kong Business caught up with Loretta before the Technology Excellence Awards, as she walked us through the real happenings in the world city, into PwC, tech and everything in between.

Can you share with us your work experience and backstory that contributed to your professional career?

  • Bachelor degree in Business Administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Master Degree in Accounting Science from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Over 15 years experiences as an Assurance partner and Hong Kong Telecommunications Leader in PwC.
  • Drawing on my international background and professional designations in Mainland China and Hong Kong, US, and Canada, I leverage my technical expertise and cross-cultural project management skills to advise Hong Kong-based and Chinese-based companies on their international growth and listing on the HK and US stock exchange.

HKSTP announced that 108 startups just graduated their incubation programmes. What’s your view on Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem? Which new products or services do you think would thrive post-crisis, especially with 5G on the table?

View on Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem

  • Hong Kong has a lot of potential as a center for startups—Hong Kong is the 5th fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world with startup valuation of more than US$15 billion. Hong Kong now has 3,000 or more startups.
  • Hong Kong, a population of just under 8 million people, is home to eight unicorns, including BitMex, GoGoVan, Klook, Lalamove, etc.
  • Hong Kong is transitioning from a leading financial centre to a key fintech hub. Contributing factors include its status as top IPO hub in the world, harnessing sophisticated tech infrastructure, regulatory and government support, strong talent pool, gateway to Mainland China and regional markets.
  • InvestHK, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP), and Cyberport are the key incubators for startups in Hong Kong, providing great support to the ecosystem.
  • PwC Hong Kong and Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation announced a joint fundraising accelerator—Tech Raiser—a two-year fundraising programme that aims to build star companies, expand the investor community and attract quality tech companies to HK. Its long-term goal is to foster a robust innovation and tech ecosystem for Hong Kong to stay competitive in the new economy.

Which new products/ services do you think would thrive post-crisis?

  • 5G is the key to unlocking many emerging technologies, including cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, IoT and drones. Startups could focus on these to create entirely new applications and business models for their users
  • Separately given the policies to promote wealth connect, virtual banks in GBA and in Hong Kong, fintech is also an area showing lots of potential.


Invest HK, data

HKMA and others recently floated a wealth management connect scheme to attract cross-border investments. What roles does the Greater Bay Area play in Hong Kong’s position as a financial and innovation hub?

  • Within GBA, the economy of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao represents a huge market. Infrastructure connectivity promotes the flow of people, logistics and business, thus driving the flow of funds and the efficient circulation of information.
  • Consolidating the foundation of a world-class city cluster, the 9 PRD municipalities should strengthen communication with Hong Kong regarding improving the business environment and strive to improve the business environment of the city cluster in the short term.
  • Hong Kong is a perfect place for Innovation and technology, given its ability to attract and train talent from around the world. With HK’s top notch universities, tech R&D, a robust intellectual property regime, HK can play its part by pooling together the innovation resources from around the world to support I&T development in the bay area.
  • Hong Kong is the most international city in the GBA. With an extensive international connection as well as a status as an international financial centre, Hong Kong has a business-friendly environment, good tradition of the rule of law, free economic system, a well-established IT infrastructure, giving it an advantage to promote regional development, and attract investors of all types, to invest in the startups.
  • Circular No. 95 is a welcome update and addition to the Outline Development Plan. It helps give broader definition to the evolving vision of the GBA.
  • Implications for Asset & Wealth Management – Outlined in Article 20, the Circular encourages the establishment of GBA investment funds whereby insurers and bank wealth management platforms can provide funding for innovative industries and major infrastructure projects in the GBA.
  • These expanded channels can support increased focus on new tech investments in the GBA, including big data infrastructure and fintech.

Hong Kong has one of the most financial literate markets in the globe, says IFEC, but how is the country coping and which industries are staying resilient in these trying times?

  • Hong Kong was named Asia’s most resilient economy, despite COVID-19, ranking 19th worldwide out of 130 countries, according to the FM Global Resilience Index.
  • The HKSARG announced relief measures worth more than US$37 billion through two rounds of anti-epidemic fund and the 2020-21 Budget. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also introduced a number of measures on the monetary side.
  • Despite the epidemic, total loans and deposits in our banking system still register modest increases this year to date.
  • We foresee that the most resilient sectors include telecoms, cloud computing, education, e-commerce, and gaming.

Aside from doubling down on tech and digital innovations, what do firms need to consider to become more profitable and sustainable in the future?

  • Strengthen business resilience. To emerge stronger from this crisis, it’s important that businesses use this time to bolster their business resilience, especially in areas of cash flow and supply chain management, tax and regulatory compliance, securing jobs and investing in tech.
  • Reimagine digital. Amidst the unprecedented uncertainty, one thing is certain—organisations are now embracing digital transformation in everything they do at an accelerated pace. As the world moves into adopting new ways of virtual working, cybersecurity, digital finance, data optimisation, digital upskilling and transformation are now key pillars that need to be embedded across organisations to better enable both businesses and their clients to work together and co-create solutions. 
  • Transform for the new economy. Identify learning points and opportunities that can help companies to emerge stronger from the crisis. This includes rethinking and transforming their business strategy, customer engagement strategy, organisational structure and new ways of working the new economy.
  • New world. New skills. Organisations need to consider preparing and upskilling their workforce for a post-pandemic future where new technologies, processes and business models are introduced. Employers must keep in mind that upskilling is more than providing employees access to training. It’s about cultivating your people into agents of change, helping them learn how to think, act and thrive in a new world that is sustainable over time.  

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