Doing business in Hong Kong: what you need to know

Hong Kong | BCBusiness
Another busy day for shops in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula District

A petri dish for the Mainland Chinese market, Hong Kong is a remarkably easy place to do business

Home to an estimated 295,000 Canadians, Hong Kong has undeniably strong ties to this country—especially Vancouver, with its outsized population of expats and permanent residents who move easily between the two places. The city of some seven million residents is almost two decades outside the protection of Mother Britain, having long shaken its colonial vestiges to become a springboard for entrepreneurs and companies interested in the purchasing power of China’s 1.26 billion consumers.

Build Trust, Act Fast

In Hong Kong, a signed contract is only worth as much as the relationship that led to it, says Jennifer Chua, managing director of Bank of Montreal’s Hong Kong branch. “Hong Kongers place a great deal of emphasis on relationship building.” Establishing trust with your prospective business partner—which typically includes at least one eight-course meal—will come before any sort of contract. “Don’t expect to come in and quickly strike a deal right away,” she adds.

But once the deal is sealed, the pace of business shifts into high gear. Hong Kongers tend to be in a hurry to make money, according to Andrew Work, former executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and current publisher of trade journal Harbour Times. “Anything can be done on a 24-hour turnaround,” he says. “Weekends are no excuse.”

The Asian Springboard

Hong Kong is the second-largest destination in Asia for Canadian foreign direct investment, buoyed by Canadian companies that buy and sell into the Chinese market and the city’s status as a hub for international finance. For companies looking to do business in China or Southeast Asia, Hong Kong’s stable common law judiciary (which can hear cases in English) and comprehensive protections of intellectual property rights make it an attractive place to incorporate and base operations, according to John Richardson, a Hong Kong-based consultant at Deacons private equity practice.

Add straightforward business visa rules and lax regulations on ownership and it’s easy to see why almost 200 Canadian companies, including B.C.’s White Spot, have decided to strike out of North America here first.