Teaching & Learning
Career Advice from Distinguished Alumni
Andrew Fung: Financial industry professionals are like nomads.
Andrew Fung, Executive Director and Head of Global Banking and Markets, Hang Seng Bank
Andrew Fung, Executive Director and Head of Global Banking and Markets at Hang Seng Bank, graduated in English Literature and Translation. When he joined Hang Seng in the 1980s, the banking industry largely focused on retail banking and commercial banking. In 1990s, banks began to broaden their businesses to include investment and insurance services, and gradually developed into financial services corporations. Some banks have even been involved in venture capital investment in recent years. Andrew believes that the scope of banks’ businesses will continue to expand as they capitalize on new opportunities in the market.
“When I joined the industry, working in a bank was seen as a stable job that could be made into a lifelong career. But with the stock crisis in 1987, the Asian financial crisis in 1997, and the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the global economic cycle has become shorter and shorter, and the stability of the banking business has weakened. In contrast, however, the scope of business and career opportunities provided by banks have expanded and increased over the years,” says Andrew. He adds that banks have broadened the types of young talent they hire as a diverse group of people are needed to develop their growing range of business areas.
“The ‘agile office’ will develop even faster in the coming five years.”
“Retail banking is not just about frontline customer service. Individuals who are more introverted may choose to work in the middle or back office, in areas such as Operations, Information Technology, Product Research & Development, Compliance and Anti-money Laundering.” Andrew explains that the internal working model in banks is also changing. “As banks develop their Fin-Tech business, there are more agile offices now,” he says. An ‘agile office’ is a small team that integrates staff from front, middle and back offices to work closely together to develop new products.
“Agile offices encourage strong team spirit. IT colleagues in the back office no longer receive an order to code a programme and then do it in isolation. Rather, they now discuss its development with colleagues from the front office and the middle office, and colleagues from Finance, Risk Management, Product Design and Marketing. Colleagues must know each other well to make this type of structure work. I think young people are very interested in workplaces that provide this type of creative and dynamic atmosphere. I believe the agile office model will develop even faster over the next five years.”
An arts graduate, Andrew explains that language has been the key to his success throughout his career. “I got an internship at an investment bank when I was still studying and that gave me some idea of what banking business was about. As I had studied German and could read German-language documents, I was hired by a German bank when I graduated. A few years later, I used my proficiency in French to secure a position with a French bank and spent some time working at the Paris headquarters, which gave me a chance to learn more about the international banking business.”
By the 1990s, Andrew was working in middle management in a foreign bank. China’s economy was on the rise and the bank had to receive a number of Chinese government officials as well as high-ranking bank officials from the Mainland who came to Hong Kong to learn more about the industry. Since Andrew could speak fluent Putonghua, he was assigned the task of receiving these officials.
“Colleagues with degrees in Music and Fine Arts are good at communication.”
“You have to know how best to use your professional skills. For example, we have colleagues who majored in Chinese and Chinese Literature in the business development departments. They are good at both languages (Chinese and English) and take a central role in communications between the Hong Kong and the Mainland markets.” He says that arts graduates are usually better at giving presentations and that his retail banking colleagues with degrees in music and fine arts are good at communicating with clients.
Even civil engineers can find a role in banking in areas such as fund investment. “Some private equity funds invest in infrastructure projects or engineering companies that are not yet listed. These funds need input and guidance from people who have the related knowledge. Civil engineers may consider becoming real estate and construction stocks analysts,” says Andrew. “It is not too difficult for undergraduates to grasp the basic knowledge that is required. These individuals can work to obtain the professional financial qualifications during their final academic year to show their commitment to getting into the financial services sector and broaden their choices in the future.”
Tips from Andrew
1. Study hard
“Academic results may not reflect one's capability at work and people often shine if given the chance. But competition in the job market is severe. When an employer receives numerous application letters, academic results are crucial. And if the economy is bad when you graduate, you will have to work even harder to make yourself stand out."
2. Get ready for relocation
“Financial industry professionals are like nomads. Banking is a cross-region business and you should be prepared to be mobile and move around. If you join an international financial product department, it’s likely you will be assigned to an overseas posting for one or two years before you reach 35.”
3. Be punctual for interviews
“You should not be late for interviews. Being late implies you don’t respect the interviewer’s time or take the job seriously. It can also mean you arrive flustered with no time to take a breath and steady your nerves. Candidates should also think about the ways in which they stand out from others. This may not be academic results. It could be sincerity. You should also take time to read up on the business scope, background and the culture of the company before the interview, as an ability to demonstrate your knowledge of a company will help you leave a favourable impression.”
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