Nicolas Aguzin to leave HKEX CEO role two months early, with Bonnie Chan taking over from March 1

Nicolas Aguzin will step down as CEO of local bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) at the end of this month, passing on the top role to Bonnie Chan Yitang two months before his contract expires, according to a stock exchange announcement on Friday.

“As the Lunar New Year approaches, and following up on last year’s announcement that I would not seek another term as HKEX CEO, I am pleased to report that the leadership transition has been going extremely well,” Aguzin said in a statement on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Saturday.

“I have, therefore, decided to fully hand over the role of CEO as of 1 March to my successor, Bonnie Chan Yitang.”

Aguzin’s last day will now be on February 29, when he will announce HKEX’s 2023 annual result.

The bourse operator said on December 15 that Aguzin would not seek a renewal of his contract when it expires on May 23. Chan was named his successor the same day and will become HKEX’s first woman CEO.

Chan and other senior team members will “drive HKEX forward as a superconnector, enhancing its long-term commitment to businesses and investors around the world, further building on its vital role underpinning the stability of the global financial system”, Aguzin said.

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Bonnie Chan speaks at an HKEX special market closing ceremony on 8 March, 2023. She will assume the role of CEO on March 1. Photo: May Tse

Aguzin’s early departure shortens his term at HKEX to two years and 10 months. He has, however, implemented a series of reforms in his tenure, including the promotion of derivatives and exchange-traded funds trading at the Hong Kong exchange, the introduction of yuan share counters last June and the set up of offices in New York in June and London in September.

“During his tenure as CEO, and against a challenging macro backdrop shaped by Covid and weak global markets, Mr Aguzin has strengthened HKEX’s core competencies and enhanced HKEX’s international presence,” the firm’s board of directors said in its exchange filing.

An Argentine, Aguzin, 54, is the first non-ethnic Chinese to lead Hong Kong’s exchange operator since the modern bourse’s establishment in 2000. He is a permanent resident of Hong Kong.

Asian Financial Forum: Aguzin underscores Hong Kong’s ‘superconnector’ role

Known to his colleagues as “Gucho”, Aguzin joined HKEX on May 24, 2021, on a three-year contract. HKEX headhunted him while he was the CEO of JPMorgan’s international private bank. Before that, he was chairman and CEO of the US bank’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“It has been an absolute honour to lead HKEX over the last three years and I am very proud of all that we have achieved,” Aguzin said.

Chan, 54, the incoming CEO, is one of HKEX’s two co-chief operating officers (COOs). Formerly a partner at law firm David Polk, she joined HKEX as head of listings in January 2020 and was promoted to her current role on February 1, 2023, to oversee group strategy, human resources, mainland Chinese development and LME Clear.

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The early handover of the CEO role also brings forward other senior executive appointments. Wilfred Yiu Ka-yan, 54, the other COO, will have the additional role of deputy CEO from March 1, while Vanessa Lau Bik-yun, HKEX’s chief financial officer, will have the additional role of co-COO. Both Yiu and Lau will continue in their current offices after adding on their new roles.

“The early transition of the HKEX senior management should be a positive move, as it will allow the new management to carry out any reforms needed to promote the Hong Kong market,” said Tom Chan Pak-lam, permanent honourable ­president of the Institute of Securities Dealers, an industry body for stockbrokers in the city.

HKEX shares rose on Friday, the last trading day of the Year of the Rabbit, and closed 0.3 per cent higher at HK$242.60. The bourse operator has dropped 29 per cent over the last one year.

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