Those seeking to establish family offices are flocking to Hong Kong, drawn by its experienced financial experts and its proximity to the Mainland, says Christopher HUI, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.

Hong Kong’s strategic advantage as a financial powerhouse is fueling the rapid growth of family offices in the city. Supported by a proactive government and a conducive business environment, these private wealth management entities are flourishing. The city is attracting affluent families from around the world who are seeking stability, expertise and a gateway to many of Asia’s vibrant markets.

Christopher Hui, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), believes that Hong Kong will be able to leverage its unique strengths to emerge as a global hub for family offices. This will drive economic prosperity and foster a new era of wealth management.

“This is an area where it is definitely less about competition and more about how we can use Hong Kong to serve as an asset and wealth management center, regionally and globally,” Hui says. “The reason that so many people are interested in parking their money here is very obvious. It’s because we have got everything it takes for investments to be placed safely,” Hui adds.

Credibility, stability, and a long-term focus

Family offices are driven by a desire for intergenerational wealth preservation, and the founders are looking for a financial environment that offers credibility, stability and a long-term focus. They prioritize continuity, requiring tailored services, diverse investment opportunities, and trusted professionals to navigate their unique wealth management needs effectively.

Hong Kong is able to serve such interests, Hui says. “It’s a bit like buying property. Those establishing family offices take a broad view of the location. They make their choice more strategically than tactically, and adopt a long-term focus. Compared to other jurisdictions, Hong Kong is well placed to serve these needs,” he says.

Hui cites Hong Kong’s robust international financial sector, which is underpinned by the rule of law and an adherence to international commercial practices, as a key starting point. The financial system as a whole is resilient and robust, and this gives a lot of confidence to wealth owners globally.

Hong Kong’s successful implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ principle is also an advantage. On the one hand, family offices can operate in Hong Kong using the commercial and legal practices that they are comfortable with. On the other hand, they are able to access the Chinese capital markets using the same interface as they use in Hong Kong, broadly speaking.

Hui believes that Hong Kong’s connectivity offers a wholly unique advantage because the city has access to mainland China, while maintaining its unique status as a separate international offshore hub.

Government support

Hui notes that Hong Kong is already the largest offshore RMB hub in the world, with 75 per cent of all offshore transactions being processed through the territory. Furthermore, the city in June this year set in motion the HKD-RMB Dual Counter for major stocks listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Providing more RMB-denominated products is also under planning to widen the offshore RMB ecosystem. “There are more and more reasons for global investors to use Hong Kong as a gateway to access mainland capital markets,” he said.

Another key advantage that Hui highlights is the high quality of financial professionals in Hong Kong. This has played an important part in the city’s growth and development.

“What’s unique to Hong Kong is that we have a high concentration of professionals working in financial or professional services. Family offices want to pick the right people to service them, and Hong Kong has them. Family offices know that they will benefit from the expert management available here,” he says.

Another compelling factor driving family offices to Hong Kong is the unwavering support of the Hong Kong government. Hui highlights the government’s commitment to the industry through the implementation of eight new measures. These wide-ranging initiatives include the introduction of the new Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, tax concessions for family-owned investment holding vehicles managed by single family offices, the establishment of art storage facilities in the Hong Kong International Airport, and the streamlining of the application process for charity foundations approved under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance.

Hong Kong is also working towards creating a robust platform for family offices to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange. An exciting development on the horizon was the launch of the Academy for Wealth Legacy in November last year. This groundbreaking initiative will provide a dedicated space for industry practitioners and next-generation owners to connect, share insights, and explore innovative strategies.

Hong Kong has a lot more to offer than its financial ecosystem and robust government support. Hui says that the aspirations of family offices are different as that they are often looking at non-material factors along with financial returns.

“Investing is one thing, but in the context of a more values driven society, many second or third generation wealth owners are big fans of charities, and they want to do philanthropic work. Hong Kong is well placed for that,” Hui says.

A tradition of giving

There is a favorable taxation environment in Hong Kong, and many established families have a long tradition of donating to local charities. There is a collective vision to strengthen NGOs through oversight and governance, not just through the donation of money. This also increases the quality of the NGOs.

Hui sees family offices playing a more active role in society in the future. As they become more sophisticated and specialized in their investment strategies, they will be able to offer something to society in general. “Family offices can set an example by contributing to society beyond just investing and accumulating wealth,” he says. “They can also help to sustain tradition while adapting to new trends and societal changes.”

Hui hopes to see greater synergies in the future. Many view financial services as consisting of specialized areas like accounting, trading, and derivatives. But family offices, Hui says, are an amalgam of such different sectors. “There is a very strong consensus that a family office is not just something that is good for financial services, but also for the economy. A family office brings something deeper to the community. So, we should keep the momentum going,” Hui says.