East Asia

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 359–378 | Cite as

Dynamism in Adversity: a Comparative Study of Trends in the Performance of Listed Family- and Non-Family-Controlled Companies in Hong Kong, 1997–2014

  • Victor ZhengEmail author
  • Po-san Wan
  • Hao Gao


This paper addresses the long debate over the superiority of the performance of family- vs non-family-controlled companies from the contesting perspectives of entrepreneurial familism and managerial capitalism. Publicly listed family- and non-family-controlled companies in Hong Kong have been selected for a comparison of their overall performance. The focus is on Hang Seng Index constituent companies in general, and on two cases in particular: one non-family-controlled bank (HSBC), and one family-controlled bank (BEA). We found that family-controlled companies were not necessarily less competitive than non-family-controlled companies. Specifically, when HSBC and BEA were compared, the latter showed no clear inferiority in operating profit margin and return on assets, even though the former enjoys unparalleled advantages, such as an overwhelming superiority in size, the privilege of issuing notes, and status as Hong Kong’s quasi-central bank. Therefore, we argue that entrepreneurial familism seems to be a resilient source of business dynamism, particularly when family-controlled companies have been repeatedly tested by adverse socioeconomic crises. Based on the finding, it is suggested that governments across the world should provide a favorable institutional set-up to facilitate the development of family businesses.


Economic dynamism Entrepreneurial familism Family firms Financial performance Hong Kong Managerial capitalism 



An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2nd International Family Business Research Forum (2016). We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for giving us their very valuable comments. We also thank Ms. Sophia Lu, Ms. Akira Zhang, and Mr. Huang Shaobo for their research assistance.

Funding Information

This work was supported by the Global China Research Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Global Family Business Research Center, Tsinghua University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific StudiesThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatinChina
  2. 2.Global Family Business Research Center, PBCSFTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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