Professor Ma was born and educated in Hong Kong. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1973 majoring in economics and history.
Since graduation, he had taken up different major positions of various local and overseas banks, financial institutions and major companies, including Chase Manhattan Bank, Royal Bank of Canada Dominion Securities, JP Morgan Chase, Kumagai Gumi (HK) Limited and Pacific Century Cyberworks Limited. He has rich experience in banking and financial sector. In 2002, he joined the Hong Kong Government as the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury and assumed the post of Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development in 2007. He resigned from the Government in July 2008 due to medical reasons. In October 2008, he was appointed as an Honorary Professor of the School of Economics and Finance at the University of Hong Kong.
Professor Ma was appointed as a Member of the International Advisory Council of China Investment Corporation in July, 2009. In December 2011, he was appointed as a Permanent Honourable President of Hong Kong Special Schools Council. In January 2013, He was appointed as a member of Global
Advisory Council of the Bank of America. In August 2013, he was appointed as an Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Business Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In October 2014, he was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Social Sciences by Lingnan University. In October 2016, he was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Social Sciences by City University of Hong Kong. In April 2017, he was appointed as the Council Chairman of The Education University of Hong Kong. In March 2018, he was appointed as a member of the Chief Executive’s Council of Advisers on Innovation and Strategic Development. Currently, he is an Independent Non-Executive Director of FWD Group, a director of Husky Energy Inc and a director of New Frontier Corporation.