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ECONOMY | 09-02-2021 16:54

JP Morgan's Aguzin named Hong Kong stock exchange's CEO

Argentine-born banker Nicolás Aguzin appointed Hong Kong Stock Exchange's new chief executive, at a time when Beijing is clashing with Western powers over its campaign to stamp out dissent in the financial hub.

Nicolás Aguzin, the head of JP Morgan's international private banking division, will be the Hong Kong Stock Exchange's new chief executive, the bourse announced Tuesday.

The Argentine-born banker will take up his post in May, at a time when Beijing is clashing with Western powers over its campaign to stamp out dissent in the financial hub.

But it also comes during a boom for the city's bourse, buoyed by a glut of recent big Chinese company listings and inflows of mainland cash.

"He brings with him a wealth of international and regional experience in capital markets and financial services, including extensive knowledge of Mainland China, having served as chief executive for JP Morgan in Asia," Laura Cha, chair of the stock exchange, said in a statement.

“Aguzin’s extensive experience in Hong Kong, mainland China, Asia and globally, and his deep knowledge of global capital markets, will help HKEX continue to build its competitiveness,” the company said in a statement. It will “support the ongoing growth and development of Hong Kong’s unique financial markets,” it said.

Aguzin held different roles during his three decades at JP Morgan and has experience in both Latin America and Asia Pacific, where he oversaw and led the firm's growth in China. 

Cha added that Aguzin's broad experience made him "extremely well-placed to lead HKEX" in a "post-Covid world."

In the same statement, Aguzin said he expected Hong Kong's stock exchange to remain "a catalyst that connects China with the world, and the world with China."

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon congratulated Aguzin on his “important new role.”

“Gucho is an outstanding leader and human being who has led businesses around the world for JPMorgan Chase with distinction over the past three decades,” he said in a statement.

Predecessor

Aguzin's predecessor Charles Li, also a former JP Morgan banker, resigned last year after a decade in the role.

Li, known for his deep ties with officials on the mainland, succeeded in linking the exchange more closely to China while facing increased competition from the rival exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

The pick of an outsider with deep roots in the international finance community comes as China’s tightening grip on the former British colony has raised concerns about the city’s status as a financial hub. He’s also stepping in as the bourse is riding a boom in big Chinese company listings and inflows of mainland cash.

In its long search, the board had been split between picking a candidate who can operate with confidence in China or one with a strong international background, people familiar have said. Aguzin, known as “Gucho,” will start on May 24, subject to approval by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission.

The choice was met with some scepticism in Hong Kong.

“Charles Li was able to push through landmark initiatives largely because he knows the mainland and how to navigate among Chinese officials,” said Christopher Cheung, a Hong Kong lawmaker representing the financial services sector. “It seems on the surface that Aguzin doesn’t have that background.”

In the last two years Hong Kong's exchange has seen billions pour in thanks to the listings of major Chinese companies such as JD.com, especially as Beijing pushed local companies to list closer to home as it clashed with Washington on trade and other issues.

The market has had its best start to the year since 1985, with mainland investors buying nearly US$48 billion worth of Hong Kong stocks in the first five weeks of this year – half the total – according to Bloomberg News.

– TIMES/AFP/BLOOMBERG

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