Debating Hot Topics in International Business

Global Alumni Forum - Parallel Sessions

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School Global Alumni Forum provided deep insights into the biggest challenges to businesses in Hong Kong and around the world.

The CUHK Business School ‘Global Alumni Forum: Chaos • Order • Lead’ delivered a strong range of insights to 380 attendees on 29 June, with professors, distinguished alumni and expert speakers all offering their contributions to the debates surrounding how business leaders should manage these increasingly chaotic times and global challenges.

While the keynote speech and panel discussion garnered exceptional insights, a highly anticipated breakout sessions offered unparalleled knowledge on some of the most pressing business issues of our time.

Innovation and Strategic Renewal of Family Business

Leading the discussion was Kevin Au, Professor of Department of Management and Director of Centre for Family Business at CUHK Business School, who took his years of extensive experience and applied them to the real world of managing family businesses. The session included a workshop and strong audience participation, making it rich and rewarding in its number of top quality insights on how to combine innovation with the strategic renewal of family business.

Kevin Au, Professor of Department of Management and Director of Centre for Family Business at CUHK Business School

“In family businesses, one dilemma is that we need to maintain continuity but we also need to make changes. Both are as important,” Prof. Au said. “Some people think we should conquer dilemmas. But rather, I think we should understand and embrace them. A useful way to think about dilemmas is to see the value in the dynamics.”

Prof. Au delved into the nitty gritty of how family businesses can serve both individuals and the family as a whole, making changes and preserving tradition at the same time, and maintaining closeness while growing in size and resources. “As we all know, it can be difficult for family members to discuss some topics such as the future of their business. A consultant from the outside will be able to facilitate the discussion,” said Prof. Au.

And what can be learned from family business is also very applicable to corporations as a whole, according to Prof. Au. “What we talked about today is not just applicable to family businesses but all corporations. Good communication and leadership are important for any organisations. Big corporations can also learn from family businesses, and vice versa.”

When Banks Go Virtual ─ Featuring a Hong Kong Fintech Company

Hong Kong’s virtual banking scene is becoming one of the most innovative in the region with a whole host of licenses being granted. The topic was the focus of Seen Meng Chew, Associate Professor of Practice in Finance of Department of Finance, and Associate Director for MBA Programmes at CUHK Business School, with a “When Banks Go Virtual – Featuring a Hong Kong Fintech Company” talk that turned the heads of digital finance enthusiasts.

Seen Meng Chew, Associate Professor of Practice in Finance of Department of Finance, and Associate Director for MBA Programmes at CUHK Business School

“Fintech is not complex, ‘jargonny’ or impossible to understand – it’s as simple as your Octopus card, or the PayMe app on your smartphone,” said Prof. Chew, discussing the global explosion of digital payments from US$4.1 trillion in 2019 to US$6.7 trillion in 2023 and covering topics as wide as Alipay and WeChat Pay to Revolut from the UK, Grab and Gojek from Southeast Asia, and Prosper from the US.

While covering new opportunities, Prof. Chew also looked at risks such as data safety, privacy and over-reliance on tech. “Out of the eight virtual bank licenses granted by Hong Kong Monetary Authority, seven of them are backed by either a tech or banking mogul, only one is a true home-grown brand – WeLab,” said Prof. Chew as he introduced Mr. Kenny Cheng (BSc in Quantitative Finance 2006) to the stage, who is now Head of Finance and Treasury at WeLab Virtual Bank.

Mr. Kenny Cheng (BSc in Quantitative Finance 2006), Head of Finance and Treasury at WeLab Virtual Bank

WeLab was born out of WeLend, Hong Kong’s first online lending platform set up in 2013. Mr. Cheng described WeLab’s product philosophy in three words: “instant, intelligent and interactive,” adding that all digital payments, lending and personal finance products should aim for these goals.

The Engine of Digital Economy ─ Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data are the engines of the new global economy, a point that was consistently emphasised by Dr. Toa Charm, Associate Professor of Practice in Management and Director of Business Development, The Asia-Pacific Institute of Business, CUHK Business School.

Dr. Toa Charm, Associate Professor of Practice in Management and Director of Business Development, The Asia-Pacific Institute of Business, CUHK Business School

“Nowadays, AI applications have successfully penetrated into all walks of life, and helped address the pain points that are faced by customers and businesses,” Dr. Charm said.

Introducing his strong engagement with the tech ecosystem, Dr. Charm examined global AI trends, looking at what defines AI and looking at the core drivers for the global economy. While many observers focus solely on the US-China Trade War, they fail to see a larger trend. “By 2030, if a country doesn’t have an AI strategy, it is hard to survive. The US and China are not just under the trade war but are under another war – AI war,” says Dr. Charm.

AI can be used in a variety of industries from manufacturing to retail, healthcare, travel, finance and energy and agriculture. Dr. Charm compared the likes of machine learning to traditional coding, and examined applications that could be created such as automated approvals for financial loans using AI applications.

Dr. Charm also looked at risks such as the loss of jobs to automation and whether companies were ready to face the AI transformation. So how many of our current jobs will be gone by 2030? “Next year 3 percent of our jobs will be killed by AI automation. By 2030, 30 percent of our jobs will be gone,” said Dr. Charm.

Talent Development in the Greater Bay Area

Mr. Peter Kung, Adjunct Professor, School of Accountancy, CUHK Business School

We hear quite a bit about the Greater Bay Area (GBA) but what does it actually mean? Mr. Peter Kung, Adjunct Professor, School of Accountancy, CUHK Business School and Mr. Charles Fung (MBA 2003), Group CSR Manager, Starry Group, held a session to discuss the topic in detail. Joining Hong Kong and Macao and nine other cities in Guangzhou province for a total area of 56,000 km2 and population of 70 million as of the end of 2017, the concept has potential to develop strongly.

“The GBA can provide the talents with a much bigger market to excel. For example, Hong Kong people traditionally excel in financial services. How about our top science students? Can they easily find a job to excel in their career in Hong Kong? In the past, I will say that not many of them can do that if they choose to work in Hong Kong. But going forward, if they have the mindset to explore the GBA, they can have the opportunities to work for one of the top companies in the world,” said Mr. Kung.

Mr. Charles Fung (MBA 2003), Group CSR Manager, Starry Group
Mr. Charles Fung (MBA 2003), Group CSR Manager, Starry Group

Apart from the difference in terms of tax systems in Hong Kong and mainland China, culture is another area where Hong Kong people may find it difficult to fit in with their mainland counterparts. Mr. Charles Fung said one of the cultural challenges in working in mainland China is that Hong Kong people have to interact with people who have very different perspectives.

Indeed, different views, diversity and debate characterised the breakout session that capped off a fascinating day for all.