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The Australian Financial Review - "Wang’s vision for Asia-Pacific"
Source: The Australian Financial Review - 23 JUN 2012 2012

George Wang has a grand vision: Asian investors trading online into Australia – millions of them.

He picked up a stock exchange licence from the carcass of the Austock group in 2008 and is determined to launch his own exchange in Australia this year, specifically designed to attract Chinese investors.

“Our exchange will be built as an alternative to Shenzhen, Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchange. “ Wang makes the point Chinese companies need to grow and there are more than can be accommodated in China alone.

His vision for an Asia-Pacific stock exchange is a vehicle to allow Chinese investors to trade online into Asian companies listed in Australia as a way to gain a foothold in the West.

And the Chinese-born Australian has the money, determination and political influence to pull the audacious plan off.

Having recently dined with Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and meeting old friend and former banker Greg Medcraft, now head of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Wang is doing the rounds of key federal ministers to enlist them to his cause.

The idea for the exchange, which flourished during the Beijing Olympics where Wang was a principal sponsor of the Australian team, is now taking serious shape.

The APSX had its listing rules approved by federal Treasury last year and is now having its business rules and computer systems tested by ASIC.

Wang has poached former ASX executives David Lawrence and Sharmila Hedge and appointed former ASX director Ray Schoer and recently retired former vice-chairman of Merrill Lynch Greg Bundy to their board.

The exchange has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese broker, China Development Bank Securities, has also opened an office in Shenzhen and is preparing further agreements for companies such as Wang’s Singapore-listed AIMS AMP Capital Industrial REIT to list on the exchange.

Wang also considers that a key is to the exchange’s success will be to allow the Chinese investors to trade in Chinese currency to minimise costs and barriers to investment.

“Like all investors, Chinese investors prefer to trade in their own currency that they know and are comfortable with,” he says.

Parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer Bernie Ripoll recently visited the exchange’s Sydney offices, where Wang was advised to remove the photos of him with former Liberal prime minister John Howard just in case they upset the Labor MP.

Oh, and he better remove the photos of him with a beaming Queenslander Kevin Rudd, who Ripoll publicly slammed for “wrecking the [Labor] party” during this year’s leadership stoush.

Aside from being adept at political diplomacy, Wang is extremely confident that politicians will “get it”.

“It will promote Australia as a hub to introduce Asia to the Western world. They can set up a presence here, so that will bridge the gap,” the enthusiastic Wang says.

“It will create a lot of jobs; a lot of capital will flow to Australia,” he says, sipping green tea in the lobby of Melbourne’s Crown Promenade Hotel at a recent stockbrokers’ conference.

While people have warned Wang against starting an exchange in the current volatile market, the man who arrived in Australia in 1988 as a 26-year-old with only $3000 to his name is used to beating the odds.

After arriving in Sydney, Wang built his mortgage investment company AIMS Financial Group from nothing. It has now raised more than $4 billion from capital markets and was involved in the controversial takeover of property fund manager MacarthurCook in 2009.

Wang has long knocked on the door of the BRW Rich List with an estimated wealth of more than $116 million.

He is also influential as an adviser to a number of Chinese government bodies and deputy president of the International Trade Council of China and president of the Australia-China Finance and Investment Council.