Hong Kong finance sector teams up with universities to plug green finance and ESG talent gap, tap China opportunities

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Hong Kong’s financial sector and universities are working together to equip the city’s professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to tap the huge decarbonisation opportunities in China, an SCMP webinar on green finance and ESG (environmental, social and governance) talent development has heard.

In the next 30 years, some 480 trillion yuan (US$70.8 trillion) of green financing will be needed in China to fund the transformation of its economy into one that is carbon neutral by 2060, according to a report published last year by the green finance committee of the China Society for Finance and Banking.

“Even a small portion of that requires Hong Kong green finance services, and that will be enough to drive a huge increase in demand for talent,” Ma Jun, chairman of the committee as well as the Hong Kong Green Finance Association, told the Redefining Hong Kong series webinar on Thursday.

Around two thirds of the green bonds issued in Hong Kong are used to fund projects in the mainland, he noted.

To meet demand, Hong Kong needs more green finance professionals who are well versed in the classification of projects that would qualify for environmentally friendly finance.

“There are more than 200 standards defining what is green,” Ma said. “You need to [know] what are the key ones, what are the ones that are going to be converging towards a set of forthcoming global standards.”

Besides, many financial products with green credentials – or environmental benefits – have been created, including those backed by carbon reduction credits.

“A lot of training and knowledge is required in order to tailor the products to the investment needs of clients,” Ma said.

The Hong Kong Green Finance Association and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) will jointly launch a pilot six-module green finance and ESG investing course next month, he said.

And next year the Hong Kong Polytechnic University will launch a series of “upskilling” seminars to educate accounting professionals on how to adopt green finance in capital-intensive projects, said professor Lu Haitian, co-director of the university’s Centre for Economic Sustainability and Entrepreneurial Finance.

More business school students are also getting trained on sustainability issues.

“We have heard directly from employers that they want students who already have a ‘101’ grounding in sustainability and environmental issues [and the science involved],” said Christine Loh Kung-wai, chief development strategist of the HKUST’s Institute for the Environment.

The HKUST’s division of environment and sustainability, and its business and management school, will jointly offer an undergraduate sustainable and green finance programme with a first intake of 30 students this September.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has received “positive” feedback on its policy announced late last year to add ESG professionals to its “Talent List” program for attracting overseas talent by making their immigration requirements easier, said Christopher Hui Ching-yu, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

The government also announced in February that it will subsidise green finance and ESG training courses. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is collaborating with the Securities and Futures Commission to compile a list of reimbursable courses, Lu said.

The government is also developing a common green and sustainable finance qualification framework, to facilitate talent development to better meet industry needs, Hui said.

Source: South China Morning Post

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