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Mr. CHENG Hoi-chuen Vincent

62nd Congregation (2005)

Mr. CHENG Hoi-chuen Vincent
Doctor of Social Science

From the office of the Chairman of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation on the 34th floor of the HSBC building in Central you look out over one of the great business and financial centres of the world. This office is without doubt the pinnacle of banking in Hong Kong and arguably in the whole region. HSBC is of course a truly global financial institution and the leading bank in the Asia-Pacific, with branches in 22 countries and territories. It is from this office that the affairs of the Asia-Pacific region of the bank are directed. The man who occupies this office is Mr Vincent Cheng, who stands before us this morning. He is one of the most distinguished alumni of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the first Chinese to be Chairman of the HSBC Asia Pacific. Mr Cheng’s rise to great heights in the banking world is intimately bound up in the rise to financial and commercial eminence of Hong Hong itself. It is a moving story of success against the odds. Looking across the harbour from Mr Cheng’s spacious office you can see the dense, vibrant cityscape of Kowloon, including Shamshuipo, where he grew up in the 1950s. That was a very different world, where families struggled to make ends meet in crowded streets and cramped apartments. Mr Cheng himself also struggled to overcome adversities in childhood. But it seems as if this only strengthened his courage and determination, and made him more keenly aware of the sufferings of the poor and the handicapped. As a member of Legco and Exco, he worked tirelessly for the betterment of such people. One of the turning points in Mr Cheng’s life was when he became a student of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Here he began to display the qualities of leadership, respect for others and social concern that have marked both his later banking career and his tireless public service to the Hong Kong community. He was an active member of student organizations, becoming Vice-President of the University Student Union in the second year of its existence. He was also chairman of the Society of Current Affairs at New Asia College. He remained close to his professors despite differences of opinion, convinced that respect should prevail over arguments. Along with his teacher friends and fellow students, he helped to set up a new secondary school in Kowloon aimed at providing free education to poor children. When he describes his career as a banking executive, Mr Cheng simply says that he was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. The right place was the HSBC and the right time was 1978. He rose rapidly to become Chief Financial Officer in 1994. However much he plays down his own talents, Mr Cheng is clearly a remarkable man. In his capable hands, Hang Seng Bank – of which he was Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive from 1998 until May this year — reached new heights and won further recognition as a world-class bank. In the Financial Times’ FT Global 500 top world companies list, Hang Seng ranked 42 by market value when compared with other banks as at 31 March 2005. It was named “Best Domestic Commercial Bank in Hong Kong” in May 2003 and “ Strongest Bank in Asia” by Asiamoney in March 2001, topping the rankings for Asian banks for the second successive year. From 1999 until the end of 2003, Hang Seng achieved a total return of 106.3% for shareholders, as measured by share price appreciation and reinvested dividends. This was substantially more than the average return of 46.2% recorded by Hang Seng Index constituents over the same period. In absolute terms, the total shareholder value increased by HK$140.7 billion in the five-year period. Hang Seng’s attributable profit to shareholders rose to a record HK$11.4 billion in 2004, up from HK$6,788 million in 1998 when Mr Cheng joined the bank. In 2004, Mr Cheng received a Director of the Year Award from the Hong Kong Institute of Directors. The outstanding business results, together with these rankings and awards, testify to Mr Cheng’s dynamic and sound leadership of one of Hong Kong’s cornerstone financial institutions – as well as his strong emphasis on the importance of excellent customer service. Mr Cheng has brought his preoccupation with service to his new role at HSBC. At Hang Seng Mr Cheng had transformed the bank’s business model from a focus on corporate and mortgage lending to a focus on personal financial and wealth management services. At HSBC his vision is of a bank with which clients and shareholders alike are pleased to be associated, where employees are proud to work – an institution respected for its integrity and known for providing the best solutions to its customers. Given that HSBC operates in so many different cultural and economic environments, this client focus involves operating with local knowledge and sensitivity to local culture. Mr Cheng encourages bank employees to contribute to the development of the local communities in which they work, working as volunteers and donating to local charities. By getting involved in this way, a global bank can be also truly local. Mr Cheng’s personal philosophy, shaped by his early days at CUHK, is that service to others is the secret of success. Success can only be measured, not by how much one takes from society but by how much one contributes to it. For him, leadership in any organization involves vision, the power to communicate it, the ability to harness support from colleagues and the ability to adapt to change. But above all leadership involves the capacity to listen to advice and a genuine concern for every member of the team. One of his proudest achievements at Hang Seng was that he managed to lead the bank though the economic down turn of recent years without any involuntary redundancies. With him at the helm, HSBC will be known as a compassionate employer. Mr Cheng himself has given back a great deal to the Hong Kong community by way of public and community service. He is Chairman of various statutory and industrial bodies, including the Process Review Panel for the Securities and Futures Commission and the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service of the Hong Kong Government. He is a Vice President and Chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers and a Member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He was also a Member of numerous other key bodies, such as the Land Fund Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Long Term Housing Strategy Advisory Committee and the Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board. He has also played his part in key Government decisions in Hong Kong, as a member of the Legislative Council and of the Executive Council, and as a Hong Kong Affairs Adviser and a member of the Election Committee (Finance Subsector). He has been Chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Advisory Board and a Member of the Chief Executive’s Commission on Innovation and Technology, the Central Policy Unit, the Economic Advisory Committee and the Industry and Technology Development Council. Mr Cheng’s community contributions include his chairmanship of the Hang Seng School of Commerce from 1998 to May 2005 and the Board of Trustees of the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust. He is also a Vice-Patron of the Community Chest of Hong Kong and has served on the Hong Kong Ballet Limited Board of Governors and the Hong Kong Red Cross Advisory Board. Mr Cheng has also given a great deal of his time and wisdom to education in Hong Kong as a member of various governing councils, including the Council of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, the University Council of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Council of St Stephen’s Girls’ College. At this University he is on the Board of Trustees of New Asia College, where he has made many contributions of his time, effort and expertise for the advancement of the University. As a Visiting Professor of Zhejiang University and Shenzhen University and an Honorary Professor of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, he enjoys nothing better than sharing his insights in lectures to Mainland students. Mr Cheng has been honoured with an OBE in 1994 and this year with a Gold Bauhinia Star. He is a Justice of the Peace and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of this University in 2002. It is a great honour, Mr Chancellor, to present to you Mr Vincent Cheng, distinguished banker and alumnus of this University, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.