Celebrating its 25th anniversary since the establishment of HKSAR in 1997, Hong Kong is moving towards an era of stability, prosperity and opportunity.
September 12, 2022
Following one of the most challenging periods in its history, Hong Kong is once again demonstrating its legendary resilience, adaptability and creativity to emerge from the pandemic stronger and more dynamic than ever.
The city, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule in July, has been reminding the world why it is such a unique and vibrant global hub—not only for finance, but also for culture, technology, science and medicine.
The HK$3.5 billion (US$445 million) Hong Kong Palace Museum opened to widespread acclaim as part of the anniversary celebrations, hot on the heels of the hugely anticipated M+ museum of visual culture. Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, meanwhile, is driving forward with its ambitious plans to develop the city into a world-leading I&T hub, drawing praise from Chinese President Xi Jinping on his recent visit. And the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has succeeded in making a major breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with a groundbreaking blood test for early detection.
Above all, however, the city has reaffirmed its status as both one of the world’s most important international financial centers, and an irreplaceable bridge between China and the rest of the world. Not only is the SAR creating a wealth of new opportunities for investors inside and outside of China through its various Connect schemes—and thus ideally positioning itself to take advantage of what Nicolas Aguzin, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), calls “The Big Bang of Finance”—but it is also developing its financial services industry in areas such as fintech, ESG and sustainable investments.
Moreover, as pandemic restrictions and quarantine periods ease, the city has once again placed attracting the world’s best and brightest finance professionals to the city at the top of its agenda. As Christopher Hui, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury affirms, “Nurturing and attracting talent is always indispensable.”
Hong Kong’s can-do spirit is also exemplified by renowned healthcare insurance firm Cigna, which has been providing bespoke health insurance solutions to corporate and individual clients in the city for almost 90 years. As the company’s CEO, Jonathan Spiers, explains, Cigna views its role within Hong Kong as much more than just offering affordable and high-quality health insurance solutions: “At a very fundamental level, we see our role as being an integral part of the Hong Kong healthcare system.”
Another company working hard to make Hong Kong—and the world—a better place for everyone is leading property developer Sino Group. With a footprint in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Australia, Sino Group has placed sustainability and ESG at the top of its agenda, focusing on projects that are not only better for the environment, but which also meet communities’ cultural and humanitarian needs.
As well as striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through sustainable building practices—as evidenced by the company’s new developments including mixed-use urban oasis Grand Central and the spectacular The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong—Sino Group has also collaborated with the Hong Kong Government to create Wellness Lodge, a transitional housing project supporting the short-term housing needs of underprivileged families.
With innovation meeting community spirit in companies such as these, Hong Kong’s future looks very bright indeed.
A Bold New Era
A city characterized by its tenacity and can-do spirit, Hong Kong has emerged stronger than ever as it moves forward into a bold new era of stability, prosperity and opportunity.
As one of the world’s most important international financial centers, the city is continuing to leverage its unique position as a bridge between China and the rest of the world, creating a wealth of opportunities for investors inside and outside of China.
With China’s capital markets expected to grow from US$30 trillion to US$100 trillion in the next decade, Hong Kong is ideally placed to take advantage of what Nicolas Aguzin, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), calls “the Big Bang of Finance”.
Hong Kong is also leveraging its status as the world’s largest offshore RMB business hub by taking the lead in RMB internationalization, among other key areas of focus identified by Christopher Hui, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.
But Hong Kong is not just a global financial powerhouse. The city’s status as an international hub for art and culture has been underlined by the opening of two major museums in the past year. Following the opening of the M+ museum of visual culture in November 2021, the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM) launched in July tells the story of 5,000 years of Chinese art and culture while providing a platform for cultural exchanges with international institutions.
Innovation and technology (I&T) is another area in which Hong Kong is raising the bar, with government spending of more than HK$150 billion (US$19.1 billion) over the past five years, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, hailing the city as “China’s international I&T hub”.
And Hong Kong is also making bold strides in the field of medicine, as exemplified by the recent breakthrough in early detection of Alzheimer’s disease at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Pioneered by world-renowned neuroscientist Professor Nancy Ip Yuk-yu and her team, the new blood test promises to be a life-saver for millions of people around the world.
A Global Gateway
Hong Kong’s unmatched connectivity with mainland China offers a world of economic opportunities.
Providing an unparalleled bridge between mainland China and the rest of the world, Hong Kong holds a unique position in the global financial landscape. And, thanks to the opportunities presented by ever-closer economic relations between the mainland and Hong Kong, as well as the staunch support of the national government, it is a position that the city is working hard to strengthen, as Christopher Hui, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, explains.
“Hong Kong’s financial sector has achieved remarkable development since our return to the Motherland 25 years ago, despite all the challenges encountered, thanks to our business-enabling environment and our country’s steadfast support,” he says.
One of the key factors in this success, says Hui, is the role played by mainland Chinese financial institutions operating in Hong Kong. These institutions act as invaluable connectors between the mainland and international markets, using their extensive networks and in-depth knowledge to facilitate investment in both directions through the various Connect schemes, including Stock Connect and Bond Connect.
In addition, they operate as reliable “guardians” of Hong Kong’s financial system, bringing both stability and innovation. As Hui points out, mainland Chinese banks account for over one-third of Hong Kong’s banking industry in terms of assets, while insurers with mainland interests contribute around one-fifth of annual premiums of in-force long term business. “We expect mainland Chinese financial institutions to continue to develop in a balanced and stable manner and serve as the cornerstone of our financial system,” he adds.
Another of Hong Kong’s strength lies in its status as the world’s largest offshore RMB business hub. With more than RMB800 billion (US$118 billion) in RMB deposits, the city provides liquidity support to global offshore RMB transactions and financial activities, and continuously strives to enhance its role in promoting RMB internationalization.
Recent developments include the launch of trading of ETFs under Stock Connect in July which offers more diverse asset allocation choices to investors, and promotes sustainable development of ETF markets in the two places, as well as the completion of a feasibility study on allowing stocks traded via the Southbound Trading of Stock Connect to be denominated in RMB.
To continue the development of the city’s financial services industry, Hui points out that “Nurturing and attracting talent is always indispensable.” As well as smoothing the immigration process for eligible applicants with in-demand skill sets, including talents in the fintech and Environmental, Social and Governance spheres, the Hong Kong SAR government plans to launch a three-year Pilot Green and Sustainable Finance Capacity Building Support Scheme, through which subsidies will be provided for training and the acquisition of relevant professional qualifications.
Meanwhile, the 2022 Hong Kong FinTech Week, in physical and virtual format, has invited dozens of iconic global leaders, regulators and disruptors in the field to the main conference from Oct 31 to Nov 1, reaffirming the city’s vibrant fintech ecosystem.
Most importantly for Hui, however, is that Hong Kong continues to leverage its position and the unique advantages of “One Country, Two Systems” in the face of the profound changes in the international arena.
“It is of utmost importance that Hong Kong should enhance its status as an international financial center, help establish a closer link between our country and the world by facilitating integration of mainland and foreign capital, promote economic growth and technological innovation, and use our financial power to build a sustainable future together with all parties,” he says.
Hong Kong ranked third in the Global Financial Centres Index in March 2022, just behind New York and London.
According to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), about 75% of global offshore RMB payments are processed in Hong Kong.
The premier fund management hub in Asia, Hong Kong’s asset and wealth management business at end-2021 amounted to some US$4.6 trillion. Non-Hong Kong investors remained a major source of funding, accounting for 65% of assets under management.
The volume of green and sustainable bonds arranged in Hong Kong amounted to US$31.3 billion in 2021, accounting for one-third of the Asian green and sustainable bond market.
Since the launch of Stock Connect in 2014, the capital inflow brought by the Northbound Trading to the mainland A-share market has topped RMB1.6 trillion (US$237 billion), while the inflow brought by the Southbound Trading to the Hong Kong stock market has exceeded HK$2.3 trillion (US$293 billion).
Embracing the Big Bang of Finance
HKEX CEO Nicolas Aguzin explains Hong Kong’s pivotal role in taking global finance to bold new heights.
As one of the world’s most important international financial centers and the gateway to China, Hong Kong has long been characterized by the dynamism, innovation and the nigh-limitless opportunities of its finance sector. But while its past is undoubtedly illustrious, according to Nicolas Aguzin, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), the city’s future is an even greater cause for optimism.
“This is a time of significant and exciting change in finance,” says Argentina-born Aguzin, who was formerly CEO of JP Morgan’s International Private Bank before becoming the first non-Chinese person to take the helm at HKEX in May 2021. In particular, Aguzin points to what he calls the “Big Bang of Finance”: a once-in-a-generation structural change in global finance, led by China’s continued economic development.
With China’s capital markets expected to more than triple in value to US$100 trillion in the next decade, Aguzin notes that international investors currently own only 4% of the country’s capital markets assets, while the figure for Chinese investments in international markets is broadly similar—signaling a wide runway for growth in both directions.
“As the most international city in China, and the most Chinese city outside of the mainland, Hong Kong is perfectly positioned to be the super-connector that facilitates the capital flows between China and the world,” he says. “That’s why, at HKEX, we put connectivity at the forefront of all that we do, from our strategy to our client interactions to the operation of our markets. In fact, ‘Connecting China and the World’ is one of the three pillars of our strategy to build a ‘Marketplace of the Future’.”
Aguzin points to the successful Connect program that links Hong Kong and mainland China’s capital markets as an example of this strategy, with both Stock Connect and Bond Connect setting fresh turnover records in 2021. “The Connect scheme has revolutionized global capital markets by facilitating the capital flows between China and the world. It has been a game-changer because it perfectly leverages Hong Kong’s unique position,” he says. The addition of ETFs in Stock Connect earlier this year and the planned launch of Swap Connect mark the continuous expansion of Connect, strengthening the connectivity and offering more opportunities for investors.
Aguzin says HKEX is transforming to a more client-led business and that HKEX is considering opening new overseas offices in the U.S. and Europe, among other locations, to be closer to international investors, as well as to introduce Hong Kong’s vibrant markets to the world as a preferred destination for more global IPOs. “Having key overseas offices will allow us to more proactively engage with our clients, supporting our vision to build a highly connected ‘Marketplace of the Future’,” he explains.
Looking ahead, Aguzin is excited about the tremendous opportunities in ESG and sustainable finance where Hong Kong, with its strategic location and strengths, can play a pivotal role in leading this megatrend in Asia and beyond. “HKEX is in a unique position to be a leader in sustainable finance,” he says. Recently, HKEX has taken the lead to establish a new Hong Kong International Carbon Market Council with a number of leading corporates and financial institutions across the region to support its vision of building a leading carbon market and achieving net zero collectively.
“We want to use our China expertise, our strong and resilient markets and our connectivity to prepare, innovate and capture the opportunities ahead,” says Aguzin.
As of June 2022, around 2,570 companies were listed on HKEX, with a total market capitalization of close to US$5 trillion.
Mainland companies make up approximately 53% of all listings on HKEX, and 78% of Hong Kong stock market’s capitalization, with around 1,370 mainland-based firms currently listed.
Hong Kong has been the world’s top IPO destination in seven of the past 13 years, and had 98 listings raising more than US$42 billion in 2021.
The opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum underlines the city’s status as a global hub for art and culture.
One of the world’s great cultural crossroads, Hong Kong has long been a place where Chinese and other cultures collide, intersect and cross-pollinate—a unique heritage that is celebrated and continued by the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM).
The HK$3.5 billion (US$445 million) Museum opened in July to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong SAR’s establishment. The Museum’s opening exhibitions feature more than 900 priceless treasures from the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, as well as new works by contemporary Hong Kong artists inspired by the rich culture of the Forbidden City, and a host of multimedia programs that help visitors understand the historical and cultural context of these treasures in an immersive and interactive environment.
“HKPM was established with a clear vision to become one of the world’s leading cultural institutions with a specific focus on promoting the inheritance and appreciation of Chinese culture to future generations, and to help build a deeper dialogue among world civilizations,” says Dr Louis Ng, Director of HKPM.
This vision, Dr Ng explains, has been achieved by taking a completely new curatorial approach, one that combines a local flavor with a truly global outlook.
“HKPM has its own innovative approach for curating and presenting the objects and artworks,” Ng explains. “With its unique East-meets-West multifaceted cultural and historical background, HKPM tells stories of the beauty of Chinese culture and its treasures from a Hong Kong perspective, creating a pioneering experience through which visitors can appreciate objects from the Palace Museum and the culture of the Forbidden City in a creative way.”
In addition to its curatorial approach, the vision for HKPM is also reflected in the Museum’s distinctive structure. Designed by acclaimed Hong Kong architect Rocco Yim, the seven-storey building is infused with traditional Chinese visual and spatial aesthetics that pay homage to the Palace Museum, formerly a palatial complex built along a central axis in Beijing. A special feature of the Museum’s interior is the Forbidden City-inspired “vertical central axis,” a trio of interconnected atriums that link the different floors where the nine galleries are located while guiding visitors upwards to explore the Museum.
Most impressive of all, is the depth, breadth and quality of the precious artworks on view. “The scale of the loan is unprecedented,” says Dr Daisy Wang, Deputy Director (Curatorial and Programming) of HKPM. “More than 900 treasures on loan to the HKPM are rich and diverse, covering all major categories in the Palace Museum collection, ranging from painting and calligraphy to bronze, ceramics, jade, metalwork, enamelware, lacquer, seals, costumes and textiles, jewelry, rare books, and architecture.”
In addition to the treasures from the Palace Museum, HKPM also features exhibits on loan from other world-class cultural institutions, which are juxtaposed with Chinese works to create an intriguing dialogue between cultures, styles and eras. For instance, the special exhibition The Grand Gallop: Art and Culture of the Horse presents 13 equine artworks from the Musée du Louvre alongside close to 100 works from the Palace Museum.
“HKPM is the perfect place to demonstrate the unique role of Hong Kong: we bring together a Hong Kong perspective and a global vision,” says Dr Wang.
HKPM is displaying 914 artifacts loaned from the Palace Museum, 166 of which are Grade 1 objects, which are regarded as “national treasures”.
The Museum features 53 multimedia projects across its nine opening exhibitions, including digital experiences produced by the Hong Kong Palace Museum, the Palace Museum, and Hong Kong-based artists.
Some of the paintings on display are more than 1,000 years old, and are so fragile that they can only be displayed for one month, after which they need to be placed in storage for at least three years before they can be put on public view again.
City of Innovation
Hong Kong is on course to become an international innovation & technology hub.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping remarked that he envisages Hong Kong as the country’s international Innovation & Technology (I&T) hub during his June visit to Hong Kong Science Park managed by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), it provided the ultimate endorsement of the city’s impressive progress in this sector.
Having spent more than HK$150 billion (US$19.1 billion) over the past five years to develop the I&T sector, the Hong Kong government has succeeded in putting the city firmly on course to becoming a world-leading I&T hub.
“With staunch support from President Xi, the Central and HKSAR Governments, HKSTP strives to fully realize Hong Kong’s I&T potential of becoming a global I&T hub. We will build on our value creation services to attract talent and support tech ventures in the I&T ecosystem,” Dr Sunny Chai, Chairman of HKSTP says, the first of which is a world-class I&T ecosystem to drive commercialization and impactful innovation.
HKSTP, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, has nurtured over 1,100 startups and tech ventures from 22 countries and regions, three of which have become “unicorns”. They are AI vision pioneer SenseTime, intelligent manufacturing and digitalization company SmartMore, and delivery app Lalamove.
“InnoHK is an example of bringing together leading researchers from around the world to conduct world-class and impactful collaborative research with local universities and research institutions,” says Chai, adding that two research clusters have been set up in Hong Kong Science Park to focus on healthcare and AI or robotics technologies. Chai also points out that InnoHK has attracted 28 R&D centers, involving more than 30 international institutions from 11 different economies, and pooling around 2,000 researchers from all over the world.
The second value-creation factor, says Chai, is the fostering of tech talent and an innovation culture. This year has witnessed a record high of 278 graduates from HKSTP’s Ideation and Incubation programs, which nurture high potential startups on their path to turning innovative ideas into world-changing solutions. InnoCell, a co-creation and living space, opened in the Hong Kong Science Park in 2021, creates an inspiring community of like-minded talents with communals and smart living technologies, further reinforcing HKSTP’s “Work, Live, Play, Learn” innovation culture.
To cultivate the next generation of tech leaders, HKSTP has launched various youth-focused initiatives. The Hong Kong InnoAcademy Society was set up to pool young talents from around the world and facilitate cross-sectoral collaborations, with continuous learning and development of innovation and leadership skills. One of the signature programs is Technology Leaders of Tomorrow. In addition, HKSTP’s Executive Shadowing Programme has been extended to engage secondary students to encourage them to explore their interests and career paths among the I&T sector.
Working in tandem with the government’s initiative to promote re-industrialization and advanced manufacturing, HKSTP has integrated I&T into industrial development and repositioned its three industrial estates in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Tseung Kwan O as “INNOPARKs” to support I&T-led manufacturing.
Chai highlights the unique opportunity that, created by the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), is another value-creation factor. “By leveraging its renowned position as a top-notch I&T research centre and an international finance hub, Hong Kong can serve as a two-way platform to ‘attract-in and expand out’—to help multinational I&T companies enter the GBA market and mainland I&T companies expand overseas,” he says.
Part of this strategy is the opening of the Hong Kong Science Park Shenzhen Branch to assist startups and technology companies in grasping business opportunities in the GBA. The plan also includes the setting up of a GBA-focused InnoAcademy and InnoExpress, which provide resources, training and an exchange platform for I&T talent across the region.
HKSTP has built Hong Kong’s largest R&D community with 17,000 people, of which 11,000 are R&D professionals.
In the past five years, there have been more than 220 investment cases within HKSTP, raising HK$80 billion (US$10.1 million).
880 start-ups have graduated from HKSTP’s Ideation and Incubation Programmes, in which 80% are still in business and three have filed an IPO application.
HKSTP’s Acceleration Programme has supported 70 companies to fast track their global expansion and raised more than US$300 million in total.
A Healthy Future
A Hong Kong-developed blood test for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease is set to be a life-changer for millions of people globally.
Population aging will be one of the biggest challenges facing the world in the next few decades, with the proportion of the global population aged over 60 predicted to reach 22% by 2050 (up from 12% in 2015), according to the World Health Organization. This demographic shift means that there is a greater urgency to solve some of the most debilitating conditions associated with aging—including the neurodegenerative condition Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common cause of dementia.
With around 20% of the population aged 65 or over in the 2021 census, Hong Kong is among the oldest populations in the world. It is perhaps fitting then that the city should be the source of one of the most important breakthroughs in the treatment of AD: a simple, non-invasive blood test that can be used to screen for and diagnose AD at a very early stage, and with an accuracy level of more than 96%.
“The major obstacle in effectively managing Alzheimer’s disease is the inability to diagnose the disease accurately, objectively, conveniently, affordably and, in particular, at an early stage when the disease can be treated,” says Professor Nancy Ip of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). “Most AD patients seek medical attention only after experiencing memory problems, but AD pathology, such as biochemical changes in the body, develops up to 20 years before symptoms appear,” she adds.
At present, says Ip, clinical diagnosis for AD is often based on demographic information, family history, and a set of subjective cognitive assessments, or through costly brain imaging. The new blood test developed by Ip’s research team, however, uses a proprietary 19-protein biomarker panel representative of an “AD signature” to distinguish healthy individuals from AD patients quickly and relatively cheaply.
Although there is currently no cure for AD, early detection will be a life-changer for millions of sufferers around the world, as Ip explains: “Early detection of AD will enable affected individuals to receive timely therapeutic interventions to control disease progression, while predisposed individuals can receive early preventive measures, thus offering improved disease management and a better quality of life.” The team is now working hard to optimize the blood test for implementation in a wider population.
While much of the painstaking work behind this breakthrough was conducted by Ip and her team, the world-renowned neuroscientist is quick to point out that it would not have been possible without the steadfast support of government funding bodies in mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as philanthropic foundations. “These resources helped us establish high-standard laboratory protocols and the pipelines for recruiting study participants and undertaking sample collection and data analysis from 2012 onwards,” says Ip, adding that funding from the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience and the Hong Kong Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases under the InnoHK research clusters also supported various aspects of the research work.
According to Ip—who will take up the role of President of HKUST in October—opportunities for this kind of collaboration are poised to increase dramatically thanks to the advanced interconnectivity of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), which will allow Hong Kong scientists to scale up their R&D capabilities while strengthening their networks for research subject recruitment, knowledge exchange, and clinical trial implementation.
“The accelerated development of science and technology in the GBA, from building advanced R&D facilities to training a critical mass of R&D talent, as well as greater movement of talent, information and connectivity across GBA cities, promises to bring invaluable opportunities for Hong Kong’s innovation and technology development,” she says.
More than 55 million people suffer from dementia globally, and that number is expected to almost double every 20 years, reaching 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).
The annual worldwide cost of dementia is estimated at more than US$1.3 trillion, a figure that is forecast to rise to US$2.8 trillion by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.
ADI estimates that as many as 75% of the world’s dementia sufferers are currently undiagnosed.
To discover more about how Hong Kong is blazing a trail in different sectors, read interviews with 25 prominent figures.
For more than half a century, Sino Group has been building a better community. Committed and together, the Group makes every effort to build a better life together, by embracing green living and wellness, pursuing meaningful designs, and exploring innovations while respecting culture and supporting the needy.
Established in Hong Kong in 1971, Sino Group has been growing alongside its home city into one of its leading developers. Today, the Group has a footprint in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Australia. It has participated in over 250 projects spanning over 130 million square feet of floor area, with a team that numbers over 11,000 across the region.
Sustainability and ESG goals are fully integrated into the Group’s business plans. Taking a holistic approach, from architectural planning and property management to education and exploring green innovations, from taking care of its staff to serving the community and preserving cultural heritage, the company seeks to build a better community.
In 2020, the Group unveiled its Sustainability Vision 2030, a blueprint charting its sustainability course towards 2030 and beyond. It entails the Group’s vision across crucial areas such as decarbonization, renewable energy, plastic reduction, green building certification and innovative solutions, all of which contribute to a more sustainable future.
Sino Land, one of the listed companies of Sino Group, signed up to support the United Nations Global Compact in 2020 as well as Business Ambition for 1.5°C and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in 2021, becoming one of the first Asian real estate developers to commit to the global call-to-action to build a more sustainable future together.
Carbon neutrality, crucial to tackling climate change, is at the top of its agenda in the belief that businesses play a crucial role in decarbonization and achieving net zero. Following extensive research with academia, the Group has unveiled its Decarbonisation Blueprint, a holistic roadmap towards net zero carbon by 2050. In addition to interim targets, a climate risk assessment tool has been developed to improve climate resilience of the Group’s properties.
Closer to home, The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong, its latest hotel project in Hong Kong, has obtained WELL v2™ precertification, becoming the first WELL™— accredited hotel in Hong Kong and mainland China. WELL™ is the world’s first building standard focusing exclusively on health and wellness, a performance-based certification system that combines best practices in design and construction with evidence-based scientific research. This accreditation is a testament to the Group’s commitment to integrating wellness and sustainability aspects into its operations.
In its latest effort to support underprivileged families, the Group is collaborating with the Hong Kong Government and community partners on Wellness Lodge, a transitional housing project supporting the short-term housing needs of underprivileged families. Targeted for completion in 2023, Wellness Lodge will provide 85 residential units as well as an array of green, wellness and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) amenities. Through providing families in need with supportive services and a place they can call home at Wellness Lodge, the Group seeks to provide a safe, green, and healthy living environment, which will be conducive to the well-being and growth of the children.
“Our commitment to excellence and community spirit will continue to guide us as we seek to build a better community. We are committed to upholding sustainability while creating value for our stakeholders.”—Daryl Ng, Deputy Chairman of Sino Group
Cigna: Decades Of Hong Kong Heritage And An Unrelenting Focus On Affordable And Innovative Health Services
Jonathan Spiers, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Officer of Cigna Worldwide General Insurance Company Limited, outlines why the health services provider has proven so enduring for almost 90 years, and how it intends to continue to serve the people and communities in Hong Kong.
“Cigna has an inspiring mission to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve. Our goal is to make healthcare affordable, predictable and simple. We strive to deliver our mission and goals everyday through our long-term commitment to affordable and innovative health products and services, as well as through the interactions with our customers. Delivering on our mission keeps our market leadership and growth aspirations grounded in healthcare affordability, customer understanding and focus, product and service innovation, and quality. This is far more important to me than being the biggest by market share.”
It’s a striking statement from Jonathan Spiers, Chief Executive Officer of Cigna Worldwide General Insurance Company Limited (Cigna Hong Kong), a company that has been providing insurance solutions in the city since 1933. With the company’s increased focus on health in Hong Kong, Spiers is understandably keen to emphasize both Cigna Hong Kong’s unique positioning and its ongoing commitment to innovation across every area of its operation.
Integral Part of the Hong Kong Health System
Expanding upon what he sees as Cigna Hong Kong’s unique offer, he says, “The most important thing about us is that we are genuinely different. We don’t see our mission as just to sell our insurance products. Affordability is at the core of our mission, and this means that at a very fundamental level, we see our role as being an integral part of the Hong Kong healthcare system.
“By focusing on long term affordability through a wide range of our products which have innovative service offerings, and a range of price points matched to different needs of groups and individuals, our products are accessible to the people of Hong Kong. This accessibility reduces pressure on the stretched public health system, a system that is dealing with growing waiting lists for access to many treatments.”
This focus is also a wider part of Cigna Hong Kong’s mission, with Spiers saying, “People in Hong Kong can’t have peace of mind if a loved one can’t access the public health system for months, while also being excluded from the private system on affordability grounds. The Health Bureau of the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China introduced the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) in 2019 to help address accessibility and take pressure off the public system, and we are proud of our role in supporting their efforts. We were the first insurer in Hong Kong to offer a Certified Plan with deductible options, providing more price point choices to customers.”
Innately Innovative, Supremely Service-minded
In order to make good on the company’s aspirations and to maintain its unique position within the market, Spiers is adamant that innovation has to be at the heart of its health strategy. Expanding upon this, he says: “Our unique selling proposition has always been that we provide our customers with the most relevant and innovative healthcare services and products. In 2019, for example, we were the first health insurer to introduce a tele-medicine service in Hong Kong, and we expanded this offering globally for our Elite customers who have access to some 50,000 doctors around the world on a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week basis. Our virtual consultation usage has increased by nearly 80 times between 2019 and Q1 2022, at a critical time of uncertainty through the pandemic.
“We have also taken the lead with our Care Manager Service, an in-house group of locally registered nurses who are employed by Cigna Hong Kong, and are dedicated to guiding and helping our customers. The team offers assurance in navigating the Hong Kong health system such as providing one-to-one medical treatment advice from pre-hospitalization to follow-up clinic visits with practical and emotional support, making sure our customers receive the best care and have a speedy recovery.
“Additionally, we have embraced many of the digital options that have become open to us and that are valued by our customers, which is what prompted us to launch an online assistant, a WhatsApp chatbot service, as we believe accessibility is of paramount importance.”
This commitment to innovation has also led Cigna Hong Kong to enter into a range of strategic partnerships to deliver bespoke health solutions that meet the needs of its customers in new ways. One example is that recently, Cigna is working with a multinational client to design a musculoskeletal (MSK) care program because after reviewing the client’s employee claims data, it was clear that MSK claims were the largest category of Outpatient spending. The program will be holistic and multidisciplinary for this client, to treat the root cause of the conditions that were driving up treatment frequency and costs, with the aim of improving the overall health and wellbeing of the employees.
For Spiers though, innovation is not just about adopting new technology for technology’s sake. As customers are always at the center of its business, Cigna Hong Kong will look for ways to grow by innovating its current products and services to improve the experience based on customers’ evolving health needs.
“Sometimes, it’s all too easy for companies to forget the basics and fail to give customers the frictionless experience they clearly crave, and this is even more important when dealing with the emotions of health,” he says. “For example, many of our clients indicated they wanted the facility to seamlessly make a claim via an app and minimise paperwork. We’ve taken that on board and made it possible. A customer can simply take a photo of their medical payment receipts, together with associated notes from their doctor, lodge the claims on our MyCigna or CignaEnvoy app or website, and have access to track them 24/7. This improves accuracy, saves the customer’s time and allows faster payment.
“Similarly, during the pandemic, it became apparent that our customers want immediate health protection. That is why we are investing heavily in data analytics and research to enhance our capabilities to better assist customers earlier in their health journey, and building virtual and in person services around their specific needs.
Hong Kong Heritage, Committed to Continued Excellence
“We have the broadest and most comprehensive health insurance offering in the market for individuals and groups, ranging from basic individual plans, through to full international medical plans with Inpatient/Outpatient/Maternity, and group plans offering value-for-money coverage for local small companies with single digit employees, as well as for multinational companies.
“We’re continuing to invest heavily in services across the board, including highly tailored product offerings for SMEs and small local businesses. We believe we offer some of the most flexible solutions on offer anywhere, with policies at highly competitive price points that suit businesses of all sizes so they can focus on running their business.”
Spiers is also resolutely confident that the company is genuinely delivering optimized solutions for one particular, fairly incontestable, reason: “We pride ourselves on always listening to what our customers are saying, striving to better understand and anticipate their needs,” he maintains. “This is why I am confident when it comes to our future growth prospects.”
Overall, to the company’s customers, prospects, business partners and the industry in general, Spiers has one simple message he wants to convey: “We are now nearly 90 years old and we have a 100% commitment to the Hong Kong market, we’re here to stay.”
The information contained in this article is for information only and does not represent the entire coverage or features of relevant insurance product(s). This article does not constitute a contract of insurance or an offer, invitation or solicitation to any person to enter into any contract of insurance. It does not constitute an offer to sell or solicitation to purchase or provision of any insurance product outside Hong Kong. It does not purport to provide legal or other advice and should not be taken as such. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of the content of this article without seeking professional advice. For specific insurance plans which can enjoy tele-medicine or Care Manager service, please refer to Cigna Hong Kong website for details. Issued by Cigna Worldwide General Insurance Company Limited.