30 April 2019
Management Consulting Industry in Hong Kong
- Hong Kong is a leading management consulting centre in the region. Its status as one of the world's leading business centres has attracted most internationally renowned consulting firms to build their presence in Hong Kong.
- The Chinese mainland is regarded as offering the highest growth potential for exporting Hong Kong's management consulting services. Rapid export demand is expected from operations and process management and corporate and business strategy.
- The Mainland and Hong Kong governments signed the Agreement on Trade in Services in December 2015 in respect of applying liberalisation measures for Hong Kong service suppliers and professionals on the mainland from June 2016.
Range of Service
A wide range of services are provided by the management consulting industry. They can be broadly classified into six sectors:
General management - including corporate and business strategy, business process re-engineering and change management.
Financial management - including analysis of capital investment proposal, development of accounting and budgetary control system, and business valuations
Marketing management - including formulation of marketing strategy and customer service and pricing policies.
Production management - including logistic study, supply chain, material requirement planning, manufacturing resource planning, and just-in-time production.
Human resources management - including actuarial, salary survey, job evaluation and pay scale assessment, performance management and training.
Information technology management - strategic study and systems development (excluding technical or programming aspects in hardware and software development).
The consulting industry in Hong Kong is renowned for its leading position in the region, particularly in areas of logistics, telecommunication strategy, privatization, mobile strategy, service quality and governance. Most of the world's leading consulting firms such as Accenture, AT Kearney, McKinsey & Company, Mercer Management Consulting, The Boston Consulting Group and the Big Four (i.e. PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young) have established their presence in Hong Kong. They are attracted by our pool of experienced professionals, easy access to technology and rich client base. Hong Kong was home to 1,530 regional headquarters and 2,425 regional offices representing their parent companies located outside the city as of June 2018.
In addition, amongst the consulting firms in Hong Kong, the majority of them are local, small- to medium-sized general management consulting firms, which are typically set up by former consultants of the international players or former senior executives of multinational corporations. Many of the consulting firms in Hong Kong are engaged in human resources consulting services, business administration and management, overseas business consultancy and marketing and sales.
The profession is represented by the Management Consultancies Association of Hong Kong. In addition, the Institute of Management Consultants (IMCHK), a member of the International Council of Management Consulting Institute (ICMCI), serves to push the level of professionalism and provides examinations for certifying management consultants with an international designation which is the Certified Management Consultant (CMC).
Hong Kong’s management consulting industry continues to expand as the city is well-known for being a major international financial centre. Its financial industry comprises an integrated network of institutions and markets, including about 230 banking institutions (including local representative offices of overseas banking institutions) from over 30 countries, an open insurance market with about 160 authorised insurers, as well as numerous investment houses. These provide an extensive client base and significant opportunities for management consulting in fields of corporate and business strategy, financial management, marketing strategy, etc.
As a renowned international business centre, Hong Kong is also well-positioned to provide consultancy services to multinational corporations and other companies in Hong Kong, on the Chinese mainland and in the region. Hong Kong’s pool of experienced multi-lingual consultants, the majority of whom speak a mix of Cantonese, Putonghua (Mandarin) and English, ensures effective communication on top of their quality consulting services.
In December 2009, the Efficiency Unit of Hong Kong Government launched the General Management Consultancy (GMC) Services Portal to provide a convenient platform for consultants, bureaus and departments (B/Ds) to share relevant information. The GMC portal also assists B/Ds in their procurement of management consultancy services. Through the portal, consultants can apply for registration on the GMC list and update company information. As at April 2019, 139 GMC firms had met the registration criteria.
China’s Consulting Services Market
China has emerged as one of the most attractive markets for global consulting firms over the last decade. According to consultancy.asia (an online platform for the advisory and consulting industry) estimates, China’s consulting market grew by 12.0% (US$4.5 billion) in 2016, compared to 4.6% of the global market.
Manufacturing, energy & resources and financial services are the largest sectors for consulting, while demand from the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors is seen to grow fast in recent years. One of the strongest consulting services on the Chinese mainland is operational improvement, as Chinese businesses face diminishing cost advantages, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Technology, strategy and marketing are other strong consulting service segments on the mainland.
Many of the management consulting companies have served beyond Hong Kong's boundary, mainly the Chinese mainland and the rest of the region. Many of the companies have their headquarters established in Hong Kong. Exports of business and management consultancy & public relations services amounted to US$5,291 million in 2017, accounting for 5.1% of the total services exports (US$104.3 billion).
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between Hong Kong and the Mainland (CEPA)
After ten annual Supplements to keep widening and broadening the liberalisation measures in favour of HKSS, Hong Kong and the mainland entered into a subsidiary agreement under CEPA in 2014 to achieve basic liberalisation of trade in service trade in Guangdong (“Guangdong Agreement”). This was then followed in December 2015 by the Agreement on Trade in Services (“ATIS”) to extend the coverage of the 2014 agreement from Guangdong to the rest of the mainland. Unlike the Supplements which adopted a positive-list approach to introducing liberalisation measures, the two latest CEPA agreements adopt a hybrid approach to granting preferential access to Hong Kong using both positive and negative lists.
The ATIS, which covers and consolidates commitments relating to liberalisation of trade in services provided in CEPA and its Supplements and also the Guangdong Agreement, will be implemented from June 2016. There is no reserved restriction for HKSS under the negative list. National treatment is given to HKSS in the sector of management consulting services. Specifically, HKSS are allowed to provide, in the form of wholly-owned operations, management consulting services, including general management consulting services, financial management consulting services (except business tax), marketing management consulting services, human resource management consulting services, production management consulting services, public relations services and other management consulting services in the Mainland.
For management consulting companies to qualify as Hong Kong Service Supplier (HKSS), the companies must be incorporated or registered in Hong Kong and have engaged in the provision of management consulting services for 3 years or more. When establishing wholly-owned management consulting operations on the mainland, HKSS are subject to a minimum registered capital requirement of RMB 30,000. Details of the preferential access concerning the management consulting services sector can be found at this website.
As of March 2019, 52 HKSS certificates had been issued by the Hong Kong government.