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Executive brings expansive experience

Patrick Lau

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a large, diverse organisation with a broad remit – to further the interests of the city’s businesses across the world. Running such a body requires an equally diverse, broad skillset and knowledge base.

The HKTDC’s newly appointed Deputy Executive Director Patrick Lau, who replaces the current Deputy Executive Director Raymond Yip who is retiring on 22 May, fits the bill perfectly – as his polymath résumé shows.

At the HKTDC, Dr Lau will help create opportunities and facilitate deals for Hong Kong businesses. His portfolio includes the HKTDC’s work on the Belt and Road Initiative, product and service promotion, external relations, corporate communications and marketing, as well as the organisation’s network of 50 offices worldwide.

No stranger to Hong Kong, Dr Lau was based in the city from 2001 to 2014, where he first worked on mergers and acquisitions at international law firms Baker McKenzie and Skadden Arps. Later he went into investment banking as Executive Director at UBS. Giving him an insider’s view of finance in Mainland China, he moved on to China Construction Bank (CCB) International where his last post was as Managing Director, Head of Mergers & Acquisitions and Assistant Head of Investment Banking. He is recognised as a seasoned banker, investor and dealmaker in the region.

Prior to joining the HKTDC in 2019, Dr Lau was the CEO of a digital infrastructure company, Director of Investments at the Malaysian Government's sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional, and Board Director and Investment Committee Member of venture and private equity fund Xeraya Capital.

Dr Lau graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree and also a Bachelor of Laws degree with first-class honours from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he attended medical school and law school concurrently.

Two focal points for the HKTDC – the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and the Belt and Road Initiative – are literally home soil for Dr Lau, whose home town is Sibu in Sarawak, the largest province in Malaysian Borneo. He will draw on his familiarities with the ASEAN and other emerging markets to further expand the HKTDC’s work on the Belt and Road Initiatives.

As he prepares to take up the position, Dr Lau discusses his plans for the HKTDC.

You have a knack in completing cross-border deals as banker and investor. How would that help at the HKTDC? What will be your key priorities for the HKTDC?
I am very honoured and excited to join such a dynamic organisation as the HKTDC.

Bringing my banker and investor background, I would like to cultivate a creative, deal-making and alliance-oriented mindset within my teams, beyond marketing. The biggest work in cross-border deals involves connecting and bridging different cultures, in particular, the East and the West and the HKTDC will promote Hong Kong as best suited to be such a bridging hub for the whole world. Starting from 2001, I worked for overseas clients wishing to tap Hong Kong’s expertise and legal system to make inbound investments into Mainland China and, later, the mainland’s first few outbound acquisitions tapping Hong Kong firms to assist in those deals. I believe Hong Kong needs to leverage the rise of the mainland and step up its involvement in such initiatives as the Belt and Road and more.

The HKTDC’s 50 offices worldwide are a powerful proposition to aid the promotion of Hong Kong’s products and services. These offices already have an excellent track record in reaching out to their home markets and are key touch points for the organisation. I intend to fully harness those resources. 

Digital products and services will be key elements of our future, exemplified by the Hangzhou Brain, a suite of big-data applications which turns the capital of China’s Zhejiang province into a digital-first city. I will want to pay particular attention to digitalisation and Industrial Revolution 4.0, and make them part of Hong Kong’s competitive advantages.

A good example of Hong Kong’s potential lies in its very well-developed property and infrastructure sector. The city can export its expertise in such areas as finance, construction, infrastructure development and transport services.

As the HKTDC looks ahead to its next three-year planning cycle – the current one wraps up this financial year ending 31 March 2020 – we need to focus on our long-term plans and see how we can take the city forward.

What do you see as the main opportunities and challenges ahead for Hong Kong?
Amid today’s precarious and highly competitive global economic environment, the main challenge for the city will be defining and playing its role in world trade. Hong Kong needs to work hard and creatively to maintain its global hub role, and so we need to find new markets, new business, new partners and new technology. A key strategy is to fully harness the potential of the mainland’s development and programmes such as the Belt and Road and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The city needs to promote its own products and services.

At the same time as we support businesses, I will also be focusing on helping entrepreneurs and start-ups, right from the beginning. You cannot support a vibrant business in Hong Kong without supporting the entrepreneurs at the same time.

You studied law and medicine, both demanding disciplines, then went into business, giving you a very diverse background. How is this relevant to your current work?
I have been a very hardworking and tenacious person since I was young, and have reinvented myself as a lawyer, banker, investor as well as in a start-up. Hongkongers are known to be hardworking, and efficient; we are the “do-ers” who get things done. That’s why I stayed on and really enjoyed working in Hong Kong from 2001 to 2014 and I am glad I exemplify this Hong Kong spirit!  Bringing with me my diverse background, I am excited about my role at the HKTDC as we seek to produce even more results.

Your work experience has included the medical-technology sector. In what other ways have you applied your medical education?
Both my parents, who are my role models in life, are doctors, so I was naturally interested in medicine. My medical background has helped give me a perspective on the human side of business. It has given me a calm, truthful and scientific approach that is at odds with the traditional image of investment bankers as aggressive dealmakers.

ASEAN is important to the Belt and Road Initiative. Will your knowledge in this area stand you in good stead going forward?
ASEAN countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, all have great development potential for Hong Kong businesses to tap into as new markets and to find new partners in. One of the most important considerations when I structured or advised on any deal was to identify a win-win scenario for the parties involved. Indeed, I believe achieving a win-win outcome is very much part of the Belt and Road Initiative. For example, Malaysia and the mainland have worked out the East Coast Railway Line project which is a key success for the Belt and Road as it benefits Malaysia’s local development as well as other parties involved, and in addition, palm oil trade between Malaysia and the mainland was also announced. On the theme of win-win deals, I will leverage the HKTDC’s expertise and track record to offer Hong Kong as the conduit to help all ASEAN economies use their resources and traditional strengths to take themselves forward.

The HKTDC can help Hong Kong businesses and investors find opportunities beyond ASEAN – in Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Niche areas we can develop include renewable energy and green investing in general as well as Islamic finance. And the Belt and Road goes beyond the historical Silk Road to include Latin American economies and advanced European countries such as Italy and Switzerland.

Closer to home, facilitating trade and investment into and out of the Greater Bay Area will keep us very busy.

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