Happy Birthday, 388!
Written By
Jun 15, 2020

Updated: 15 Jun 2020

June is a special month for us at HKEX as it marks our 20th anniversary as a publicly listed company. This is an important milestone in our modernisation and in our deep heritage and legacy, which began long before we listed our shares.

All birthday celebrations should start with some reminiscing of earlier years. Hong Kong’s first formal stock market emerged toward the end of the 19th century and an earlier form of our exchange can be traced back to 1914. However, the modern era of todays HKEX consists of two distinctive periods on either side of 2000, the year we became a public company. As a football fan I like to think of these two periods as our time in the local leagues, and our promotion to the “Premier League” of capital markets.


The Early Years

For many decades Hong Kong had four different stock exchanges, like a league of local teams fighting it out in our small market. We were united and merged into one single stock exchange in 1986, but still operated with a small, separate futures exchange and clearing houses. Our formative early years saw many local successes, as well as setbacks brought about by global and regional financial crises that will forever define our collective memories. The generational changes to our regulatory systems in the aftermath of those crises, and significant technological advances in electronic trading, have brought us into the modern age.

And significantly, the breakthrough in attracting H share listings from Mainland China in the early 1990s represented great progress for HKEX and became the foundation for our subsequent success.


Premier League

Our Premier League era began in 2000 when we were demutualised, like many other leading global exchanges around the world, to become a public company with our iconic stock code ‘388’, our listing price on the day. It was also at this time that we brought the futures exchange and clearing houses under one roof to create the HKEX family.

This time did not come without growing pains as we adapted to operating as a public company, with cash and derivatives, trading with clearing, and building-out of our IT infrastructure. One of the most important transformations was to reconcile our new and statutorily-provided public interest and investor protection obligations, with the leadership responsibility to develop a competitive market.

Those efforts set the stage for three major breakthroughs over the last 10 years. The acquisition of the London Metals Exchange (LME) in 2012 brought commodities to our stable and signalled our international ambitions; the creation of Stock Connect and Bond Connect between 2014 and 2017 was a mutual market access breakthrough; and the launch of our new listing regime in 2018 to welcome new economy and biotech issuers brought far greater listed company diversity to our markets.

Our share price grew, along with our market capitalisation, making us one of the largest listed companies in Hong Kong and one of the largest market infrastructure and exchange groups globally; at the same time, our initial public offering (IPOs) fundraising has made us the world leader in seven of the last 11 years, and our structured products market has been the largest in the word for more than a decade.  Both signs of our increased global stature.


Future Growth

As we all know, the world is going through significant economic, social and political change. Globalisation is in retreat, public health crises are an increasing concern, global governance and legitimacy is under stress, and economic and racial inequalities are tearing communities apart. The rising tension between the US and China, the two pillars of today’s global order, is a key focus for international financial centres such as Hong Kong.

However, China and the rest of the world need each other. These difficulties may slow down the internationalisation of the RMB and the opening of China’s financial markets, but China is on an irreversible track to be more closely integrated with international markets. Hong Kong, and HKEX in particular, will continue to play a critical role of connector, translator, and bridge between China and the world. Our role has never been more relevant or more important.

The HKEX Strategic Plan 2019-2021 sets out our vision - to be China anchored, globally connected, and technology empowered. We are not only aiming to be the most important financial market leader in the Asia time zone, but we also aspire to remain the critical juncture where China embraces the world and the world embraces China. 

We have achieved a lot already but we dream of even greater things in the future. Thank you to everyone who has been on the journey with us. Happy Birthday 388!