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IN THE FAST-CHANGING WORLD of securities exchanges, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing sits in an enviable position. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which it operates, is the world’s fifth largest by the market capitalization of its listed companies, $2.83 trillion, and one of the most profitable. Over the past five years, it has had a greater volume of initial public offerings, $141.7 billion, than any other exchange in the world thanks to its status as the premier gateway to corporate China. At home it enjoys a statutory monopoly that protects it from upstart electronic exchanges, which have bedeviled established bourses elsewhere. Not surprisingly, investors have rewarded HKEx with a market cap of $21.5 billion, making it the most valuable exchange in the world, ahead of No. 2 Chicago-based CME Group.

Yet for all of the company’s strengths, CEO Charles Li Xiaojia knows he can’t afford to be complacent.

HKEx has a much narrower business than most of its global rivals, relying mainly on equity trading for its revenue and profits. The lucrative IPO business is vulnerable to erosion if the powers that be in China decide to promote their domestic exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Li needs to make the company bigger and broader if he wants to assure its continued success.

The former investment banker is moving quickly to do just that. Last June, HKEx outbid half a dozen rivals, including CME, Intercontinental­Exchange and NYSE Euronext, to acquire the London Metal Exchange for £1.4 billion ($2.2 billion). The deal gives HKEx control of the world’s largest metals-trading venue and will, Li believes, enhance the LME’s position in China, the world’s biggest consumer of metals. He intends to use the LME’s platform to expand into other commodity sectors, such as energy.

In addition, Li and his team are creating a slew of investment products based on the renminbi, ranging from futures contracts in the Chinese currency to renminbi-denominated stocks and derivatives. This initiative is still in its early stages, but the potential for growth is enormous as China gradually liberalizes its currency and allows freer movement of capital in and out of the country.

“We are building HKEx into an integrated, multiple-asset-class exchange,” Li, 51, tells Institutional Investor. “Our mission and aim is to be the global exchange of choice for China-based clients and international clients seeking China exposure. The key thing is, we need to be in every single important place. We will leverage London Metal Exchange as a catalyst to help facilitate an accelerated opening of China’s capital account.”