Who are Hong Kong’s top chief executive officers?

By Robert Half on 10 May 2019

Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the world’s top hubs for business and finance also makes it a magnet for top-tier chief executive officers from around the world.

While there is no predetermined path or ‘magic formula’ leading to being appointed as a CEO, Robert Half’s CEO Tracker has uncovered trends in education, skills and experience that Hong Kong’s current top chief executives bring to the top job. Here’s a summary of what we found.


Most Hong Kong based chief executive officers have a strong educational background, with 82% of Hang Seng Index (HSI)-listed CEOs* holding an undergraduate degree and 68% holding a postgraduate degree.

The region’s CEOs come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, with the most popular undergraduate degrees being:

  • Bachelor of Science (13%)
  • Bachelor of Economics (10%)
  • Bachelor of Arts (6%)

Advanced degrees are also popular among Hong Kong CEOs. Among the chief executives holding a postgraduate degree:

  • 25% have an MBA
  • 11% have a Masters of Economics
  • 5% have a Master of Arts

Industry experience

Being able to understand and manage the big picture is important when working as a CEO. Accordingly, just over half (53%) of HSI-listed chief executive officers have industry experience in business management. Almost a quarter (24%) have industry experience in finance, showing that there it also value in understanding the ‘numbers’ underpinning an organisation.

Only 9% have experience in technology, which could easily grow in the future as more businesses embrace digital processes and platforms to increase innovation and stay ahead of the competition.

Want to know how to become a CEO in Hong Kong? Click here.

Age, gender and tenure

The average age of a HSI-listed CEO is 57, indicating that seniority still plays a big role in being promoted to the top job. But the overall age range among Hong Kong CEOs is still wide, with the oldest being 91 and the youngest 40 years old.

According to the latest population statistics, the gender ratio of the Hong Kong population is 54% female to 46% male. Despite this fact, only 4% of HSI-listed chief executive officers are female.

CEOs hired internally spent an average 15 years of tenure in a company to reach their current role. In the last 12-18 months, many companies have also been busy hiring for a new CEO, with 20% of current HSI-listed CEOs appointed in 2018 alone.

International experience

Almost nine out of 10 (89%) of Hong Kong’s chief executive officers have worked outside of Hong Kong, reflecting the fact that many companies that do business in the region operate across international boundaries. The top five most popular international locations for Hong Kong CEOs were:

  • Mainland China (64%)
  • United States (10%)
  • United Kingdom (6%)
  • Australia (5%)
  • Macau (3.5%)

Company headquarters

Just as Mainland China is the most popular place for Hong Kong CEOs to have gained previous work experience, it also has a considerable business presence in the region.

Slightly over half (52%) of HSI-listed CEOs lead a Hong Kong headquartered company, while 41% of CEOs lead a company headquartered in Mainland China. This leaves just 7% of HSI-listed CEOs leading a company headquartered elsewhere in the world.

Social media usage

Our research revealed that most Hong Kong CEOs aren’t tapping into the potential of social platforms, in spite of of nearly 60% of Hong Kong's population using social media, according to Statista. It was found that only 11% of HSI-listed CEOs have an active LinkedIn profile, while just 2% have an active Twitter profile.

*ABOUT THE RESEARCH - Robert Half has conducted research on CEOs leading companies featured on the Hang Seng Composite LargeCap Index (HSLI), by analysing publicly available sources of information about the HSLI CEOs. The objective is to track trends, including their professional and educational background, industry experience, gender, and length of tenure. The research was conducted between the dates of 20/03/19 and 12/04/19. The LargeCap Index includes 112 companies, representing the top 80% of total market capitalisation of the Hang Seng Composite Index. These companies are the largest listed companies operating in Hong Kong, which include a blend of organisations founded in Hong Kong, Mainland China and overseas.

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