Career Path

Building a secure future

by Grace Chan

Michael Ye (left), manager—China department
Thomas Kwok, manager—securities department
Chief Securities Ltd
Photo: Edde Ngan

The significant role that the financial service sector plays in Hong Kong's economy is a major factor driving people to choose a career in a field different from their academic backgrounds.

Michael Ye is a case in point. After graduating in physics from the University of Hong Kong, Mr Ye kicked off his career in 2003 as a dealing officer with major brokerage firm Chief Securities Ltd.

Since then, he has moved up into a challenging but rewarding managerial role and now oversees the company's China department. "The volatile financial markets keep me challenged and interested on a daily basis. This job is never tedious," says Mr Ye, who was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong before commencing his studies.

Strong interest

When Mr Ye first joined Chief Securities, the group had only one branch. This has since grown to 17, with an additional two representative offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

His current role is to explore mainland China opportunities and foster relationship with potential mainland clients by running investment seminars in Shenzhen.

He recalls a strong appetite for investment among mainland clients when market sentiment was particularly bullish in 2007. This made him acutely aware of the giant potential of the China market.

"I still remember attending a seminar in Shenzhen, which was scheduled to run for only three-quarters of an hour but carried on for another 90 minutes of discussion," he notes.

Mr Ye is thrilled by mainlanders' desire to raise their financial literacy and he spends much time reading newspapers and attending industry seminars to increase his market-analysis skills.

His typical day also includes overseeing the team of dealing officers during Hong Kong stock-market trading hours and helping to train staff.

Recognising the fact that he does not have an academic background in finance, he is currently studying towards his professional Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification.

Although his future looks promising, he advises aspiring young finance professionals to put personal integrity before material gain.

Client driven

Becoming a stock dealer seemed a natural option for Thomas Kwok, whose father has worked in the field for many years. So, after graduating in economics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, he started working as a dealing officer at a Hong Kong securities firm in 2000.

"When the stock market slumped in 2001, I left the profession to take up engineering, but it wasn't for me," he recalls.

Back in the finance field, he joined Chief Securities as branch manager in 2005 and he now manages the securities department, with his current duties involving plenty of business development and staff training work.

After nealy a decade in the field, Mr Kwok believes professional ethics and a positive attitude are essential attributes for success.

The financial markets and the range of investment products available are constantly changing, so people attracted to the field should not see it as a simple opportunity to make money out of stock market movements, he points out. The focus should be on providing clients with professional financial services.

New recruits usually start as dealing or customer service officers, he notes, adding that the former need to respond quickly to markets while the latter require dexterity and an outgoing personality.

Chief Securities offers a good training platform to equip newcomers with extensive financial knowledge and skills. The firm also provides experienced staff with the opportunity to choose the career path best suited to their interests.

Mr Kwok, who completed a master's degree in finance last year, believes continuous learning is key to professional advancement.

"Importantly, anyone wanting to join this industry needs excellent interpersonal skills and should enjoy dealing with people from different backgrounds. We're in a service industry and building good client relations makes all the difference," he remarks.

China opportunities

Frequent visits to Shenzhen have convinced Mr Ye that the increasing integration of Hong Kong and mainland China's financial markets presents major possibilities. "Hong Kong will definitely benefit from the mainland's outward capital flow and growing finance sector," he stresses. "Once the opportunity arises, finance professionals in the city will be able to join mainland securities firms and gain a better understanding of that market," he says.

Taken from Career Times 5 February 2010, A18

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