Ever wondered what it's really like working for a global firm? The Gateway caught up with two recruits from the J.P. Morgan Hong Kong office, to get the lowdown on working life in Asia's financial hub.
First-year analyst Flora Tsang explains why Hong Kong is a great place to start an international career in banking.
What first attracted you to investment banking?
I like to be surrounded by smart people and I like to be challenged every day. A career in investment banking provides both of these things. The exposure and involvement in high-profile transactions demands a lot of hard work, but the challenge is what makes it interesting. It's always satisfying to see the deals you are involved in on the news.
I am also a very detail-oriented person and I enjoy working on long term projects. Investment banking requires excellent attention to detail. In investment banking, whether it's an initial public offering (IPO) or an M&A deal, you need to take the time to organise your project, and we are all required to take the initiative and have a sense of ownership.
Why did you decide to apply to the Hong Kong office?
I grew up in Hong Kong and I speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin, which has helped me accelerate my career. I'm originally from the city, so I pretty much have the same culture as most of our clients in Hong Kong or in mainland China. Investment banking is a business which emphasises communication with clients, so if you have a common cultural background and speak similar languages, it is easier to forge a connection and build a relationship. But even if you are not from Hong Kong but can speak the language, you can still have a successful career in this region.
What are the benefits of working in the Hong Kong office?
The teams in Hong Kong are slightly different to the teams in London or New York. They tend to be smaller, and with a flatter team structure. As an analyst in Hong Kong, you might not be working with an associate all the time - sometimes you'll work directly with a vice president or managing director. So in that sense, you'll have more exposure to senior colleagues and more opportunities to meet senior clients early on in your career. You'll also get exposure to a variety of transactions. It's great for analysts because you learn faster and build your network very quickly.
What was the training in New York like?
It was an amazing experience! Investment banking analysts from J.P. Morgan offices all over the world came together to attend the training programme in New York. We learnt about valuation, modelling, accounting fundamentals and economics. There were also team projects and presentations to senior leaders of the firm. One of the best things about the training was that even though we all came from different offices, backgrounds and cultures, we had a lot in common when it came to work together. It was an amazing opportunity to meet future colleagues and to start building your global network.
Do you see yourself working in other countries in the future?
I think I'll stay in the Hong Kong office for the next few years - it's a great place to start, and build a solid foundation. However, I do see myself moving around within the firm to different locations. I'd love to experience working in New York or London, because just as Hong Kong is the centre of Asian finance, New York and London are the financial centres of Europe and the US. J.P. Morgan offers a lot of mobility opportunities for employees to further their career development, be it geographically or moving roles. The senior managers are very encouraging and supportive of mobility.
Future sales and trading analyst, Vivien Lee, talks about her time as a summer intern in the Hong Kong office.
Why did you decide to do your internship in the Hong Kong office?
A lot of the countries in Asia are still in a rapid growth mode. Not only does this make the work extremely interesting, but it also gives me a great opportunity to progress faster in my career. I also grew up in Hong Kong, so I speak the languages and have an understanding of the region's culture. All of these things together made the Hong Kong office a good fit.
Why did you choose Sales & Trading?
I decided to join the sales and trading team because I'm very interested in market movements. I was interested in how all the equities, bond and FX markets are linked together. This field definitely an area where I can apply some of the knowledge that I learnt from school in my economics degree. The fast-paced dynamics of the trading floor is also something that I really enjoy.
What kind of projects did you work on during the internship?
During the ten week summer internship I took part in projects, shadowed transactions and participated in a number of training sessions. In addition, I worked with a small group of other interns on a project where we had to develop trading strategies. We came up with a trading idea, structured it and then presented it back to the senior managers and other summer interns.
What was the best thing about the experience?
One of the unique things about interning in Hong Kong is that you get to meet and work with students from all over the world. In our intern class we had students from the UK, US and some other Asian countries. Exchanging ideas and learning about the other regions was great. UK and US students seem to have really different cultures in their workplaces so working all together was an invaluable experience.
Besides training and desk specific work, the firm also organised social events for interns to network amongst ourselves and with senior managers. For instance, two of our social events were horse-racing and art-jamming (painting on your own canvasses in a group). These were great opportunities to network with people from different divisions, and also with more senior people. It was great to get to know them all better outside of work.
Why should students consider applying to the Hong Kong office?
Hong Kong is very international and the culture itself is very inclusive. While fluency in Cantonese and Mandarin is an advantage, it is not a requirement. Another great factor to consider is the location - Hong Kong is at the centre of Asia. You can travel to India, Beijing, Thailand and other countries on weekends to explore the diverse dynamics of the region. And if you want to accelerate your career with more exposure, the rapid growth of Asia, the flatter team structure and the constant stream of record-breaking deals will allow you to see more and do more at an early stage of your career.