Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Thomas Huang (黃天牧) said that global banks are looking to expand in Taiwan after China imposed national security legislation on Hong Kong, prompting some firms to rethink their Asian strategies.
Some US securities firms are considering an expansion in Taiwan, while other international banks plan to start new operations, Huang said, without naming any of the companies that have expressed interest in Taiwan.
“We aren’t trying to replace anyone, but that doesn’t mean we have no ambition,” Huang said in an interview. “We hope to appeal to the capital and talent from the rest of Asia, not just Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong has been embroiled in unprecedented political turbulence after more than a year of anti-government protests, and is now in the cross-hairs of a broader fight between the US and China. The territory faces intense competition from cities such as Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo to maintain its status as the key Asian financial hub.
The Taiwanese government sees a potential exodus of financial professionals from Hong Kong as a chance to reinvigorate an economy grappling with a peaking population, a shortage of skilled workers and shrinking exports.
Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) in July welcomed Hong Kong and multinational companies, establishing an office dedicated to easing immigration.
Foreign banks with the most assets in Taiwan include Citigroup Inc, Standard Chartered PLC and HSBC Holdings PLC, commission data showed.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is also looking for concrete measures to help Hong Kongers after her support for last year’s pro-democracy protests contributed to her overwhelming election victory in January.
Taiwan saw record immigration and investment from Hong Kong last year, a trend that has continued this year. The number of Hong Kongers settling in Taiwan in the first five months of the year almost doubled from the previous year.
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan (陳茂波) on Sunday sought to reassure financial institutions that the new National Security Law does not affect their ability to conduct business, allocate capital and trade securities. He also asked regulators to relay the message to brokers, banks and insurers to ease their concerns.
“As long as the financial industry continues to operate normally under the framework of Hong Kong’s existing laws, their business operations will continue as usual,” Chan said in a blog post.
Taiwan plans to relax some rules to raise its competitiveness, such as expediting a policy to allow domestic companies to open offshore banking accounts to win back Taiwanese capital from tax havens, Huang said, adding that financial regulations would also be aligned with international standards to lure foreign investment.
The commission is in talks with NASDAQ Inc about cross-listing options once a new trading venue for technology start-ups and small stocks is in place this year, said Huang, who took over the job in May.
The commission would also allow more products for financial institutions to cope with low interest rates, including reverse mortgages and wealth management tools for retirement, Huang said.
The commission plans to amend local insurance laws to encourage more green investment.
Huang said that he would talk to the central bank about insurers and fund managers’ need for hedging tools.
About two-thirds of life insurers’ investments were made overseas as of May, the Taiwan Insurance Institute said.
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