BERNARD CHARNWUT CHANPRESIDENT, ASIA FINANCIAL HOLDINGS / HONG KONG DEPUTY, NATIONAL PEOPLE'S CONGRESS
Bernard Charnwut Chan was born into a Thai-Chinese family in Hong Kong in 1965. He was educated locally before finishing high school (The Hill School) in the United States. Unlike many Hong Kong students, who often favour business-related or technical subjects, Bernard then studied studio art at Pomona College, the noted liberal arts college in the US. His favoured style was pointillism, and his work has been published.

After graduating from college, Bernard worked in New York for an investment bank before returning to Hong Kong. After working for his family’s privately held investment company, he moved to the publicly listed Asia Financial Holdings, which owns Asia Insurance and invests in the insurance, health care and other sectors. Today, he is the President of both Asia Financial Holdings and Asia Insurance, which has gained a reputation as one of the financially strongest insurers in Hong Kong. He is also an advisor to Bangkok Bank (China) Co Ltd.

Among his business successes are the formation in 1999 of Bank Consortium Trust, a joint venture of nine Hong Kong institutions that provides Mandatory Provident Fund services and of which he was founding chairman. Bank Consortium Trust today has over US$16 billion of funds under its management. In 2006 he arranged the sale of Asia Financial Holdings’ subsidiary Asia Commercial Bank at a price-to-book value of 2.5 times in order to prepare for expansion of the company’s insurance and other interests. It was the highest ever multiple for a bank of that size in Hong Kong.

Bernard sits on the boards of several local and overseas companies in the financial services, utilities and manufacturing sectors. In 2015 he joined the governing board of the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund in Hong Kong.

Bernard is also a chairman of the Hong Kong-Thailand Business Council, which encourages the development of trade and investment between the two places and the growth of Hong Kong and Thailand as gateways to their respective hinterlands in the Pearl River Delta and Mekong Region.

In January 2008, Bernard was elected to the National People’s Congress, the highest organ of state power in China, in which he is one of 36 Hong Kong deputies. From October 2004 to January 2009 Bernard was a non-official member of the Executive Council, Hong Kong’s highest policy making body. He is appointed as a non-official member of the Exco again in July, 2012. From 1998 to 2008, he was a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, where he represented the Insurance Industry.

His interests in three particular social policy areas – welfare, quality of life and education – are reflected in a number of his public service activities.

The plight of the disadvantaged and the lack of social cohesion in modern Hong Kong have led Bernard to think about the need to build meaningful bridges between the business world and the welfare sector and its clients. As the chairperson of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service – an umbrella group of welfare agencies – he is proud to have played a part in the creation of Caring Company, a framework that creates partnerships between the business and welfare sectors. He was also Vice Chairman of the council of Oxfam Hong Kong from 2001-14, and is chairman of its annual Trailwalker event – a fund-raising 100-kilometre race that attracts teams from around the world and which Bernard himself has completed several times.

Bernard is also concerned about the quality of life in Hong Kong, such as the physical environment, health, pollution, cultural life, quality of services and other issues that keep the city competitive and attractive not just as a business centre but as a home for its ambitious and international population. He was the chairman of the Antiquities Advisory Board from 2009 to 2012, which advises the government on historic buildings and monuments. He was also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Revitalisation of Historic Buildings from 2008-2016, which reviews and advises the government on proposals for innovative uses for heritage sites. In May 2016 he was appointed to the Jockey Club CPS Ltd. Advisory Committee, which is responsible for advising on the overall strategic direction relating to the operation and management of the revitalized Central Police Station Compound.In October 2016, he was appointed a Board Member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

He was appointed Chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development (Mar 2009 – Feb 2015), which advises the government on urban environment issues, and has focused particularly on sustainable building design, proposals for municipal solid waste charging and new approaches to energy saving. In 2014 he was appointed Chairman of the Steering Committee on Restored Landfill Revitalisation Funding Scheme, which considers ways to reuse restored landfills for public leisure or conservation purposes. And in 2015 he was named Chairman of the new Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food, and became a member of the Aviation Development & Three-runway System Advisory Committee.

In the education area, Bernard was the Lingnan University Council Chairman (2008-2014). Like Pomona in California, Lingnan University is dedicated to the principles of liberal education. He was a trustee of Pomona College from 1995-98 and again from 2008. He has also served since 2013 as Chairman of the Innovation and Technology Scholarship Award Scheme, which enables Hong Kong scholars to pursue top-class technology courses at international universities.

Among his previous public service activities, Bernard was from 2001-06 Chairman of the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service, an independent body that advises the Hong Kong government on pay and conditions for police, prison, immigration, emergency and similar services.

He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 2002, and a Commander (3rd Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand in 2004. In 2006, still barely in his 40s, he was awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong SAR Government.In 2015, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate of humanities by Lingnan University and an honorary doctorate of social science by City University of Hong Kong. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Architectural Conservationists and Honorary Professor in the Division of Architectural Conservation Programmes under the Faculty of Architecture of The University of Hong Kong.

He is married and has two children.