Investment industry figures have welcomed Christina Choi as the new head of investment products at Hong Kong’s securities regulator after a long-running saga stretching back to 2014. 

But there remains a question over the watchdog's coverage of China activities, which – like investment products – had been part of former deputy CEO Alexa Lam’s remit.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has appointed Choi as executive director of investment products for a three-year term effective from Monday, August 1.

Having been with the SFC for 11 years, Choi is senior director of investment products. She was also named acting head of the investment products division after Julia Leung was appointed executive director of the intermediaries division in June 2016.

Leung had originally been named as executive director of investment products, a role she took up in March 2015 when Lam stepped down. But in February this year the SFC said Leung would be moving over to head the intermediaries division, a switch seen as unusual, especially after such a short period of time.

Drawn-out process

The process to fill the role has been a very long and protracted one, noted Stewart Aldcroft, senior investment industry adviser at Citi. 

“Christina has been at the SFC for a long time; my guess is that she was up for the job when Julia [Leung] was appointed,” he said. “When Julia moved on to something else she clearly felt she needed to try again.”

But the SFC, as a government body, will have had to do a market search beyond its own ranks to consider other candidates, noted Aldcroft. 

Choi has all the knowledge and experience to do the job, he added. “And as far as the industry is concerned, we all know her very well.” The industry will hope she can bring about new developments and new ideas, as well as continuing to provide a safe pair of hands, said Aldcroft.

Choi’s appointment comes as no surprise and is a logical choice, agreed Effie Vasilopoulos, co-head of the Asia investment funds practice at law firm Sidley Austin in Hong Kong. “She is a veteran in this division and is well respected in the industry, and reportedly within the SFC as well,” she noted.

Choi has served in the role on an interim basis during a period when the SFC has moved forward with approval of a historic range of new products and schemes, including mutual recognition of funds and the approval of leveraged and inverse ETFs, added Vasilopoulos.

The China question

However, an outstanding question is whether the SFC still plans to find someone to oversee the China activities, which had been part of Alexa Lam’s remit when she was deputy chief executive (along with coverage of investment products and the international division). 

This was not mentioned at the time of the latest appointments of Choi or Leung, noted Aldcroft. Whether China coverage will be included in these functions or there is the intention to have someone heading these activities at some point has clearly not been decided, he added.

Nonetheless, both Christina and Julia have been spending a lot of time in China a lot in the past couple of years, he concluded; It may be that this simply now comes as part of their responsibilities.

The SFC could not be reached for comment by press time.