“Less protectionism” for developing financial centre in Macau – Panel

While it’s high time now for Macau to develop into a financial hub, this requires the importation of financial specialists and professionals from elsewhere, a panel of experts in the field stated today (Tuesday).

These remarks were made in the seminar, titled “Financial Hub: Wishful Thinking or the Definite Driver of Diversification?”, organised by MBtv — an online television channel under Project Asia Corp that owns Macau Business and MN — in partnership with the Rui Cunha Foundation and the Macau International Conferences and Conventions Association.

“For the diversification of the Macau economy, it’s golden time now,” says Sam Tou, Executive Director of Banco Nacional Ultramarino, one of the major banks in the city.

As the city has committed to diversify its economy from gaming for years, one of the latest focuses is the financial industry, for instance, the central government has proposed in the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area that Macau could ponder the possibilities of the set-up of a yuan-denominated equity exchange.

“With all the support from the central government… it’s a golden opportunity for the Macau financial sector to move forward,” Tou told the seminar today held in the headquarters of Rui Cunha Foundation, adding the local banking sector, one of the major pillars of the local economy for over the past few decades, has remained resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Monetary Authority of Macau (AMCM), the value of assets among local lenders totalled MOP2.22 trillion (US$277.5 million) by the end of 2020, rising 10.2 per cent year-on-year, while the operating profits of the sector reached MOP17.1 billion, inking up slightly from MOP17 billion by the end of 2019.

Acknowledging the development of the financial industry as a right way for Macau to diversify the economy, another panelist Jacky So, chair professor and vice president dean at the School of Business of Macau University of Science and Technology, adds: “The chances that we will be successful are quite high given our experiences and expertise in the financial sector.”

Streamlined importation schemes

And one of the keys to develop the financial sector, or any industries, is human resources. A study commissioned by the government-appointed Talents Development Committee, which was published this year, shows there would be ‘a steady hike’ in the demand of professionals for the local banking and insurance sectors in the next three to six years over the government’s push.

“The government has indeed asked all the universities, ‘Do you have students that have expertises in some areas, like the qualifications of Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Financial Analyst (CFA)?’ These are the experts they need for the financial market,” Prof So shares.

“When we talk about experts or specialists, in addition to accountants [and other financial professionals ], we also need lawyers that know about securities law, risk analysts [and so forth],” he continues. “In the near term, we have to borrow talents from somewhere else or we have to start training our own people.”

António Félix Pontes, Chief Representative for Macau at Greater Bay Area Impact Forum Foundation, also told the panel today it is necessary to have expertise beyond the city.

“Macau needs drastic changes in terms of the minds of many people — we need to have experts [from elsewhere],” says Pontes, referring to the anxiety of local workers towards the labour importation.

In the perspective of the former official at AMCM for over 30 years, the government needs to speed up the process of applications for labour importation in the financial field, as well as providing easier avenues for non-local university graduates in the city to work here after graduation like the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) in Hong Kong.

IANG, a special scheme set up in the nearby financial centre in 2009, encourages non-local students with a full-time university degree in Hong Kong to stay and work in Hong Kong, for instance, granting them a 12-month stay with no conditions after graduation to look for jobs.

Job security

Tou also agrees that the public could mull the possibilities of a similar scheme. “It’s a total waste of our resources to train up university graduates, MBA or PhD students that once they’ve finished the course they have to go away. For instance, the [mainland] Chinese students might also have their own networks in [the mainland] which can contribute to Macau’s development.”

“If this protectionism continues, it’s also not fair to other cities in the Greater Bay Area… [They might ask] why Macau is so protective [of its labour market],” he adds. “The protectionism should be minimised.”

“We do need some protection for our local people but we should not overprotect them,” Prof So says, adding the government has to ensure local workers feel secure about their jobs first before bringing in talents abroad.

More details about the content of the seminar will be published in the May issue of Macau Business.