After a brief stint lecturing about corporate governance in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Mark Dickens, the former executive director at Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission, has returned to the industry at local boutique manager Value Partners, where he will head legal, compliance and risk management.

Market soures say the move is required to bolster the firm ahead of a long-anticipated intital public offering of Value Partners, although Value Partner executives would not comment on that.

Dickens is not the only executive at Value Partners with a regulatory background: Yeh V-Nee, managing director of private equity, sits on the merger and takeovers committee at the SFC and is a council member and listings-commitee member of Hong Kong Exchange & Clearing (HKEx).

Dickens is however a highly experienced regulatory, having spent 14 years of a 23-year regulatory career at the SFC. He arrived in Hong Kong in 1993, the year its stock market was the best performer in the world. Deja vu probably does not reflect the changes he has seen from his regulatory perch: the emerging-markets gold rush of the 1990s, red chip fever, the Asian financial crisis, a colourful variety of corporate scandals, the dotcom bubble and the tom.com IPO. This last deal capped Dickens' regulatory career, as he introduced e-IPOs for the MTRC listing in 2001 after witnessing the queues by thousands of people to get a slice of tom.com.

He also counts among the founders of the merged HKEx and an author of the SFC Ordinance, an investor compensation fund, rules on market misconduct and on securities and futures tribunals.

His appointment to a newly created role at Value Partners highlights the increasing importance on compliance and risk management as investment firms branch into structured products, new markets and new asset classes, as well as the competitive need to design and distribute products at a faster clip.

The swiftness with which investment funds are being snapped up by Hong Kong investors - JF Asset Management and HSBC Investments have both had China funds sold out in a week or so - makes it even more important to protect against errors in execution and processing or breaches of investment guidelines.