Hong Kong’s financial market regulator announced last night that it has reappointed Alexa Lam as deputy chief executive officer and executive director of policy, China and investment products.

The extension of Lam’s contract for three years from March 1, 2011, was welcomed for the continuity it offers following the announcement by incumbent SFC chief executive Martin Wheatley last December that he would step down in June this year.

The Hong Kong government has been engaged in a recruitment process for the role of SFC chief, although an announcement has not yet been made about a successor.

Lam herself was touted as a possible replacement, but at least for now she will continue to focus on cultivating closer collaboration with counterparts in mainland China.

Now a key factor in the government’s decision on who succeeds Wheatley will be whether or not he or she will be able to work effectively with Lam.

The SFC has had the benefit of Lam’s services since 1998, when she joined as chief counsel. She has been deputy CEO and an executive director since 2008, with her division overseeing investment products in the city, including mutual funds.

Lam was heavily involved in the consultation paper to enhance investor protection in Hong Kong and in the rewrite of the SFC Handbook for Unit Trusts and Mutual Funds, Investment-Linked Assurance Schemes and Unlisted Structured Investment Products.

Mark Shipman, a funds partner and co-head of Asian regulatory practice at Clifford Chance, believes Lam’s reappointment is good news for Hong Kong.

“I think Alexa has done a lot in terms of promoting China-related business in Hong Kong. She is well known in terms of promoting China fund management companies coming to Hong Kong. She has been a big mover in terms of making sure the Hong Kong regulatory regime was such that PRC managers could open up here.

“Whoever follows Martin Wheatley will be able to learn a lot from Alexa, and I hope they do learn a lot, if they are new to the SFC.”

He suggests Lam’s reappointment means it will be business as usual for Hong Kong. On the subject of Wheatley’s successor, he adds: “Whoever takes the [CEO] role needs to be fully aware of the international markets and where regulation is moving on a global basis, not necessarily to follow it blindly but rather to work out what best suits the Hong Kong environment, which is not the same as what Europe is doing or what the US is doing, necessarily.”

In its statement, the SFC also announced the appointment of Carlson Tong as non-executive director for a two-year term, effective from April 1.