Hong Kong Large Caps Prefer Experienced, Educated Male CEOs

Male dominance is nearly absolute when it comes to running Hang Seng Index-listed companies. New research on the Hong Kong Hang Seng Composite LargeCap Index showed that 96% of CEOs are male. Only 5 are female, highlighting the skewed gender ratios in major Hong Kong companies.

These CEOs take education seriously. According to the Robert Half CEO Tracker, the typical Hong Kong CEO is also a postgraduate degree, a background in business management and international work experience.

Tertiary qualifications also matter. More than eight in ten (82%) have an undergraduate degree, and almost seven in ten (68%) also have postgraduate qualifications. A quarter (25%) completed an MBA, while 17% have more than one postgraduate degree.

Many of these CEOs value well-rounded work experience. More than half (53%) of the HSI-listed CEOs have industry experience in business management. It gives them knowledge about accounting, finance, marketing, sales, operations, and human resources.

Gaining international work experience is also high on their agenda. Almost nine in ten CEOs (89%) have worked abroad. Seventy-three of them worked in mainland China, 11 in the U.S., seven in the U.K., six in Australia and four in Macau.

“In today’s globalized world, obtaining experience of different working cultures is an important way for business leaders to differentiate themselves. As technology continues to develop and make it easier for more businesses to work across international boundaries, being able to demonstrate success in different countries and global assignments is a credential in business leaders that is highly sought-after,” said Elaine Lam, associate director at Robert Half Hong Kong.

The work experience will help them steer their companies in an increasingly complex business environment. “And with global business challenges rising, indicated by the continuing US-China trade war, CEOs who have a good understanding of doing business overseas and understanding its culture are in a good position to help navigate challenging and uncertain times,” she added.

Finance skills are crucial to joining this male-dominated CEO club. Almost a quarter (24%) has held previous roles in finance. The researchers noted that it helps them to understand the economic environment. In turn, it provides them unique business insights.

One area that is lacking is the technology experience. Only 9% have a background in technology. This will need to change as larger companies invest in digital to drive Smart City initiatives. Also, many of them are not marketing or legal savvy. Only less than 1% have such a background.

“The DNA of the modern CEO continues to evolve as businesses operate in an increasingly competitive and changing environment. With the advancement of automation, digital transformation, regulatory frameworks, and globalisation, companies need leaders who can not only meet business goals, but also successfully leverage these changes, whilst possessing a strong people focus as well as financial and business acumen in order to keep their organization afloat and prosperous during continuously fluctuating economic conditions,” said Lam.