Stock exchange trading halts or shutdowns during Hong Kong’s typhoon or black rainstorm warnings were introduced for good reasons at the time.

Few could have foreseen how much would change in the following 70 years, leading to the end of the practice on September 23.

Progress that has made people safer from violent storms – such as better construction, flood control, transport and communication – has until now had little effect on absence from the office once typhoon signal No 8 is issued.

Factors that tilted the balance and finally made a difference to the stock exchange include the switch to electronic trading seven years ago, work-from-home experience during the Covid-19 pandemic and international and regional competition from other stock exchanges, including Shanghai and Shenzhen, that continue trading through severe weather.

Revealing the decision, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu cited a recent public consultation by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) that showed 90 per cent of market participants, including brokers and banks, supported the new arrangement.

This reflects the reality that HKEX needs to be an all-weather exchange because global capital requires seamless markets to function. Lee said the decision was in line with standards at global stock exchanges.

It can only be positive for efforts to sustain recent increases in turnover and applications for new listings.

Under the new arrangement, investors can trade Hong Kong stocks and derivatives, and buy mainland A-shares and other products through the Stock Connect schemes amid severe weather.

Lee said, rightly, that this could enhance HKEX’s competitiveness and Hong Kong’s role as a gateway for both global and mainland markets. Tropical cyclones and severe rainstorms have forced the market to shut down 11 times since 2018.

Wilfred Yiu Ka-yan, HKEX deputy CEO, said the exchange would require all brokers to allow staff to work from home, and have their system ready for investors to trade online, during typhoon signal No 8 or above or a black rainstorm warning.

He noted that most brokerages had already allowed staff to work from home during the pandemic, while most investors could trade and make payments digitally.

With fears of typhoons becoming more frequent amid global warming, the government will need to continue striving for a balance between competitiveness and keeping the city safe.

In that regard, preparedness and early warnings of typhoons and rainstorms that err on the side of caution, combined with a constructive and open-minded approach from all sides to the work-from-home option where practicable, can minimise loss of life, limb and property.

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