HSI-listed CEOs Have Some Common Traits

Want to be a CEO of a Hang Seng Composite LargeCap Index company? Then you need to be a male with a postgraduate degree, and have business management and international work experience. 

The latest Robert Half CEO Tracker confirmed that males continue to dominate the CEO position, representing 96% of the CEOs. In fact, only five are female. It shows a strong gender bias toward males. They tend to be older, with the youngest being 40 and the oldest 91. 

There is a strong bias towards those with tertiary qualifications. Eighty-two percent have an undergraduate degree, and 68% also have postgraduate qualifications. In fact, 17% have more than one postgraduate degree, making education an obsession to be at the top. A quarter (25%) have also completed an MBA.

When it comes to experience, 53% of the HSI-listed CEOs have industry experience in business management. A comprehensive understanding of all aspects of business is essential. It includes accounting, finance, marketing, sales, operations, and human resources

Finance is another area where CEOs excel. Almost a quarter (24%) have held roles in finance. Having a background in finance can help them to understand the financial environment. They can then interpret financial data into strategic insights.

Having international work experience is a critical need. Eighty-nine percent have worked abroad. Most of the CEOs (73) worked in mainland China, eleven in the U.S., seven in the U.K., six in Australia, and four in Macau.

“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,” said Elaine Lam, Associate Director at Robert Half Hong Kong. 

Where CEOs lack is in technology or IT knowledge. Only 13% have industry experience in engineering, while 9% have technology knowledge. This creates an issue as Hong Kong's large caps explore Hong Kong's Smart City Blueprint and the Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative. 

“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.

Many CEOs get there by being loyal. Seventy-five percent reached the top through internal promotion. Almost one in five (18%) came from outside, and 7% are the company founders. While loyalty pays, it did take those hired internally an average of 15 years to become the head honcho.

You can find more findings of the CEO Tracker here.