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Harry's impression: Hang Seng Indexes launches two new ESG indices

Hang Seng Indexes launches two new ESG indices

Hang Seng Indexes announced on 14 May two new indices to track the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) impact of listed companies. The HSI ESG Index and the HSCEI ESG Index have the same list of constituents as the Hang Seng Index (HSI) and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) respectively, but adopt different constituent weightings. Companies with higher ESG scores will have higher weightings in the new indices. Vincent Kwan Wing-shing, Chief Executive Officer of Hang Seng Indexes Company, said the launch is driven by growing interest from fund managers for ESG investing. “We believe the timing is right to launch the two new ESG indices as they provide bases for product issuers to develop investment products linked to the portfolios of our flagship indices but with a greater emphasis on ESG,” he said. Globally, ESG investment stood at US$30.683 trillion, 34 percent higher compared with 2016, according to Hang Seng Indexes.

Hong Kong issues four more virtual bank licenses

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has issued four more virtual banking licenses, in a bid to encourage innovation in the financial services sector. The licenses were issued to applicants with ties to China’s biggest technology companies: Ant Financial’s Ant SME Services; Xiaomi-backed Insight Fintech HK; Ping An OneConnect Company; and, backed by Tencent, Infinium. The HKMA has now issued eight licenses since March, and aims to help the city keep up with Mainland China, which has operated virtual banks for close to half a decade. “Through FinTech innovation, Infinium will collaborate with the HKMA and industry partners to promote financial inclusion in Hong Kong, allowing more customers to enjoy a brand-new, efficient and secure virtual banking experience anytime and anywhere.” Chief Executive of Infinium, Eric Sum, said. The virtual banks will begin offering banking services in six to nine months, and offer deposit and lending services to the general public and small- to medium-sized businesses.

Malware attack shuts down accounting company

A cyberattack hit tax and accounting software giant Wolters Kluwer earlier this month, leaving many of their customers – mainly small- and medium-sized firms – unable to work. The outage, which took place in the morning of 8 May, affected its vital storage services, and tax and accounting services, barring customers from accessing tax returns or personal information. The company took its system offline following the attack to prevent the malware from further spreading, however the move made it difficult for accountants and IT staff to reach the company for information. The company noted that it found no evidence that customer data or systems were compromised. It restored service to nearly all customer applications and platforms on 16 May, more than a week after the shutdown.

EY in tax partnership with Thomson Reuters

EY will partner with Thomson Reuters to bring together EY’s Tax Technology and Transformation services and Reuters’ ONESOURCE global tax technology, allowing EY teams to help clients deal with more complex tax issues. The partnership follows EY’s acquisition of Thomson Reuters’ legal services business Pangea3 earlier this year. Kate Barton, Vice Chair of EY said: “With the rapid rise in platform-based technology in the form of cloud and other secure access platforms, tax departments are beginning to solve problems, source business solutions and interact with tax authorities in a whole different way.”

FASB asked to delay accounting rules

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has asked the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to delay the implementation date for new lease accounting rules by one year. In a letter, released 13 May, the AICPA cites the implementation of other accounting standards, which deal with leases and revenue and loan losses, as a reason for the delay. It noted that “many private companies still need to expend significant resources to adopt the new revenue standard.” The letter follows an earlier letter submitted by the Associated General Contractors of America on 3 May also asking for the delay, saying “a one-year delay will allow both the preparer of the statements and their auditors more time to accurately implement this standard.” A spokesman for the FASB says the board is reviewing both requests.

World of numbers



The percentage of chief financial officers who do not have a successor for their role, according to the 2019 study by management consulting company Korn Ferry, which surveyed 222 CFOs in companies across the globe. It found that only 38 percent of CFOs had a comprehensive succession plan. John Petzold, Korn Ferry’s Senior Client Partner attributed this to organizations “being so busy trying to outpace the competition.”


The percentage of accountants who believe the profession is undergoing a major cultural shift as it enters the next decade. Factors such as evolving client demands, technology adoption and diversity within firms are changing the accounting landscape, according to a survey on 3,000 accounting professionals worldwide conducted by business solutions company Sage.


The percentage of accounting and finance firms facing trouble in prioritizing potential robotic process automation (RPA) initiatives, according to the 2019 RPA Survey by global consulting company Protiviti, which surveyed 450 executives. Factors such as concerns with cybersecurity and regulation remain obstacles to pursuing higher RPA adoption rates. A further 24 percent cite a lack of talent as another challenge.

The big four

PwC to open university in Sanya

PwC has announced plans to establish a university in Sanya, in a bid to boost innovation and competitiveness within the city. The Big Four firm announced the signing of a strategic cooperation agreement on the project with the municipal government, in China’s Hainan Province, on 29 April. The project will also support the development of Hainan Free Trade Zone, which could see the province grant foreign firms greater trade and economic freedom. “The PwC University project reinforces our corporate social responsibility, and maximizes our values by contributing to national development,” says Raymund Chao, PwC Asia Pacific and Greater China Chairman.

KPMG fined for bank audit

KPMG in the United Kingdom has been fined £4.5 million and reprimanded after admitting its own misconduct in its 2009 audit of Co-operative Bank. The U.K. Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said the failure came to light following the merger between the bank and building society Britannia, which led to the discovery of £1.5 billion missing in the bank’s accounts. The FRC added that KPMG had failed to inform Co-operative Bank about the risky loans it had acquired through the merger and failed “to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence.” KPMG said: “We regret that some of our audit work around specific elements of the bank’s fair value adjustments did not meet the appropriate standards.”

Slack technologies works towards June listing

Workplace messaging app owner Slack Technologies announced plans to go public on 20 June. The company, which currently has a valuation upwards of US$15 billion, will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “WORK” and expects to raise US$197 million. Instead of an initial public offering, it will go public via a direct listing, making it easier for existing shareholders to sell stock. It has since registered nearly 17 million shares of stock since 20 May. Slack, which is used by over 600,000 organizations with three or more employees, is one the most high-profile companies to go public this year, following Pinterest, Beyond Meat, Lyft and Uber Technologies. It plans to report first-quarter results on 10 June.

Mazars to probe former Nissan chairman

Mazars has been hired to investigate former Nissan chairman and Renault Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, who has been imprisoned since last November following charges of falsifying financial statements. Auditors will look into whether the high expenses claimed by the embroiled ex-chairman were for personal use. These include personal trips made by Ghosn and his family over a three-year period worth €4.8 million, an expense of over €12 million on high-end clothing and entertainment, and a €545,000 banquet at the Palace of Versailles. Ghosn, who denies all charges, claims he is the victim of a “conspiracy” by former colleagues at Nissan. Ghosn’s defense lawyer, Takashi Takano, says he is expected to go on trial in 2020.

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May 2019 issue
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