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2017 is Peter Lo’s 15th year at Deutsche Bank, where he was the then Chief Country Officer of Hong Kong. He previously worked at Bank of America for 26 years and described himself as being “very lucky” to have the opportunity to leverage and develop his strengths with two top-tier international banks. He has been able to experience different roles in different countries and has enjoyed these challenges so much that his many years in the banking industry have flown by.
Speaking on the subject of what young people should aspire to in their careers, Peter points out that it is foremost to “Be honest. Be genuine. Be yourself.”
Go outside the counter, think outside the box
After graduating from the University of Hong Kong, Peter immediately joined the banking industry and since then has witnessed the ups and downs of the markets over the past four decades.
“When I first joined banking, the market was very simple. There were only a few products and pricing was largely regulated by the Hong Kong Association of Banks. There was a saying in the industry: ‘You don't have to go outside the counter.’ Clients and business would come to you.”
“But banks today are not the same anymore - just take the development of Fintech as one example. Now you have to think outside the box to win banking business. Today’s generation of bankers cannot position themselves for success in the same way that bankers in the past did. As another example, the pool of fees from Mainland China business now takes up almost 40% of the Asia region. It is a market not to be overlooked. You have to constantly think more broadly and more creatively.”
Financial centres coexist in Asia
The financial market of Hong Kong has been through a lot of changes and the corporate and investment banks are the best witnesses.
“Look no further than the IPO market for a good illustration of how much change we have seen: At the beginning, listing companies were mainly local corporates. Then in 1993, Tsingtao Brewery became the first H-share company listed in Hong Kong. Further down the line we saw Prada, an Italian luxury brand, choose to list here. Listing companies have become more international and the listing companies coming from Mainland China have also evolved from only state-owned enterprises to also include privately owned enterprises. Innovative financial products are also constantly emerging, such as dim sum bonds in recent years. I believe these trends will continue.”
Many think that the Hong Kong financial services industry faces enormous challenges from other Asian cities such as Singapore and Shanghai, but Peter is of the view that these three cities should be viewed as being complementary to each other rather than pure competitors.
“Geographical, political and cultural differences within the Asian region allow for three financial centers to coexist. Before RMB becomes fully convertible, Shanghai will always be the onshore financial center of China, with Hong Kong being a key offshore center and source of innovation. Singapore plays a valuable role as Southeast Asia’s financial center. So it is fair to say that each of these three cities has unique and complementary roles to play in the functioning of the region’s financial markets.”
Tips to those starting out in their careers
1. Be yourself
Peter thinks that being committed and motivated at work and having good communication skills are just the basics. It is more important to walk the talk. “I think the most important thing is: ‘Be honest. Be genuine. Be yourself.’ Every time I meet a new colleague I like to start the conversation with ‘tell me about yourself.’ I want to see how he tells his story and whether he is honest or genuine. My experience would tell me if that person is just pretending. That is not the time to try to score higher but rather not to lose any marks."
2. See the world
Given that financial markets are highly internationalized, they are in a way homogeneous. Corporates and talented individuals from Mainland China are working hard to “Go Global”. Peter reminds young Hong Kong financial services professionals that they are not only competing against their local peers but also against talented, hungry professionals from all over the world. Mobility is important. Ambitious professionals should go out more and see the world.