The First 16 Years...
David Chiang, Founding Chairman of ACGA, was a keen student of financial markets. When the Asian Financial Crisis hit in 1997, he concluded that a significant underlying cause was an absence of corporate governance—a conclusion borne out with the passage of time. A little over a year later, David met with Jamie Allen in a small office in the heart of Hong Kong where they decided to create a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving corporate governance (CG) practices in Asia. Given the lack of awareness at that time of even the term “corporate governance”, this seemed an insurmountable task. Nevertheless, in late-1999, the Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) was incorporated as an independent, non-profit membership organisation in Hong Kong.
Over the following years, Jamie Allen and his small team set about to find allies to join the effort to embed strong corporate governance practices in the decision-making processes in Asian business organisations. To achieve this awareness and become a driving force for change, ACGA became dedicated to facilitating a dialogue among corporates, investors, auditors, regulators, and other participants across the entire financial eco-system. Today the organisation covers 11 markets in Asia with a membership base of 111 companies spanning across 21 countries.
The journey has been slow and fraught with hurdles: there is no one-size-fits-all solution in Asia. It took time to create a sense of trust among our stakeholders that ACGA could play a positive role to guide their long-term decision-making and investment processes. With the strong support of members, ACGA has worked conscientiously for the past 16 years to develop consensus around pertinent CG issues such as capital raising in Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan; dual-class share issuance in Hong Kong; concert party rules in Japan; and the importance of independent directors, audit committees, and proxy voting in much of the region.
When Japan released its first ever CG Code in June 2015, we felt that we had achieved a major milestone. For seven years we had been promoting fundamental CG reforms for this important financial market, and we were humbled and honoured to see most of the recommendations in our 2008 White Paper accepted as mainstream policies in Japan today (with many core principles embedded in the new Code).
During 2015 we felt that it was time to do a strategy review, so late last year we embarked on a program to solicit input from our members. We received a clear and consistent message that we should stay the course and not change our basic strategy or direction. ACGA will continue to engage with our different stakeholders through research, advocacy, and education, and we will be more proactive in our communication and updates to keep all of our stakeholders abreast of the latest developments.
I have had a privileged seat to experience first-hand ACGA’s progress over the past 15 years and to witness the improvements in the governance arena across the region. As I travel in my capacity as Chairman of ACGA, I am impressed by and proud of the incredible work that ACGA continues to deliver in its mission to improve the CG landscape in Asia.
I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank our Chairman Emeritus, Linda Tsao Yang, for her long and dedicated service to ACGA. The organisation would not be where it is today without her inspirational leadership. I also thank the ACGA Council for its hard work and dedication behind the scenes and all our members for your relentless support.