Arbitration aspirations

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As Hong Kong reopens its borders, Mariel Dimsey, recently appointed secretary-general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, explains her new role and plans to enhance the city’s reputation as a leading dispute resolution hub.

HKIAC Mariel Dimsey
Mariel Dimsey

Asia Business Law Journal: How do you feel about your new role, what will be your main responsibilities, and what do you want to achieve for the HKIAC?

Mariel Dimsey: In terms of how I feel about the new role, I’m obviously very excited to be doing it. This is very different from private practice in many ways, but I find it a very unique opportunity in that it combines the arbitration worldwith business skills in the sense that I’m running a business at the secretariat. I was very intrigued by the role, and I think there are particular aspects of it that were not present in my private practice career. So I’m very pleased to be honing my skill set in these aspects as well.

In terms of my main responsibilities, I am generally responsible for running the secretariat of the HKIAC, which includes keeping an eye on case management, which is usually done under the very capable support of our case management team. I am also responsible for corporate governance matters, and liaise with the HKIAC Council and standing committees, the number of standing committees that the HKIAC has. I also plan the annual budget.

There is also a large business development [BD] element in what I do and will do, and I’m very pleased now that we are opening up in Hong Kong, that a few trips will be on my agenda very soon. It’s very important to get out there now, after our two-year hiatus.

So it’s a very broad set of responsibilities, which is quite different from private practice in the sense that I’m not working on one particular topic for six hours a day, as I may have been in the past, but engaged in many more diverse tasks throughout my day, so it is very dynamic and interesting.

In terms of what I want to achieve, it’s still early days, and for the time being we have a number of major BD projects, which are keeping us busy. One such project is the International Council for Commercial Arbitration [ICCA] Congress. Edinburgh hosted the congress this year and several members of the HKIAC attended, as Hong Kong is hosting the next ICCA Congress in 2024.

In terms of further projects, as I mentioned, there is some travel on the cards to certain strategic events in which we will also hone our messaging about Hong Kong. There is a lot of information circulating about Hong Kong and China at the moment. From where we stand as an arbitration institution in Hong Kong, we do think that a lot of this messaging can be nuanced and enhanced. Part of the BD endeavour with our upcoming business trips is to reinforce the message about Hong Kong as a safe, reliable place to do arbitration.

HKIAC Mariel DimseyIn addition to that, we are hoping to revise our rules next year to produce a 2023 edition of the HKIAC administered arbitration rules. We are also looking at a couple of technological initiatives, which I think is a natural consequence of digitalisation, not only generally, but also of the developments in the pandemic. So we have quite a few projects on the cards.

ABLJ: You have a very impressive resume with rich experience in many international arbitration institutions. So what aspects of the HKIAC attracted you the most?

Dimsey: In my career in private practice, I acted as counsel and arbitrator under many different institutional rules. I should start by emphasising that I do not see that this is a contest. I do believe that the existing institutions, particularly in the region, but also those farther afield, can coexist because everyone has a large domestic and regional market that they are servicing, in addition to international work. I do think the way the major regional institutions are set up in Asia allows everyone to operate side by side.

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