Corporate Banking

Investment banker forges mega deals

by Martin Williams

Chang Tou-chen, managing director and head of investment banking
Asia-Pacific, HSBC Global Banking
Photo: Wallace Chan

Young aspirants immersed in global business dynamics

The HSBC investment banking division currently has recruitment focuses: experienced hires to fit specific needs; and continuous on-campus recruitment where undergraduates will become analysts and postgraduates joining as associates.

Among graduates and postgraduates all over the world, only the cream of the crop would be recruited to HSBC's investment banking division. Yet they will have an opportunity to work on deals that are worth billions of dollars, and to become future leaders of the financial services giant.

While with regular banking, tellers and branch managers deal with a multitude of regular people, investment bankers serve corporate clients on their capital markets financing, and merger and acquisition needs.

Some banks specialise in just investment banking, but HSBC is a "universal bank", says Chang Tou-chen, managing director and head of investment banking, Asia-Pacific, HSBC Global Banking. Mr Chang explains that being emerging markets-led and financing-focused distinguishes HSBC from competitors in the sector.

"Some banking institutions have entry-exit strategies for emerging markets but Asia is the base for HSBC," says Mr Chang. "We focused on the emerging markets long before this particular sector became fashionable. We grew up in them."

Thanks to its strength in emerging markets including Saudia Arabia, HSBC ranked second globally in the league table during the first five months of this year by Dealogic for initial public offerings among investment banks.

Keen players

Even with around 20 graduates and postgraduates recruited each year for Asia, the division is still seeking to recruiting from universities in the near future. In particular, Mr Chang will pitch to students at the University of Hong Kong later this year.

English is the lingua franca across the division, though there are specific language requirements for certain markets —M andarin is required for mainland China, and Korean for work in South Korea. Mr Chang and his team seek candidates who are team players and passionate about the business. Ideal candidates must also be numerate since much of the work involves financial analysis.

"The recruitment process is very interactive," he says. "We enjoy meeting our candidates, and make sure we employ people with the right fit." Early in the process, candidates' commitment and career aspirations become relatively clear, though reasons for interest differ between candidates. Some are attracted by the idea of working with a multinational while others enjoy the intensity of the challenging work. "If they are very keen upfront, they tend to enjoy the job and stay on," says Mr Chang.

Graduates and postgraduates typically have studied a finance, accounting and economics programme. Yet Mr Chang says a few individuals from other backgrounds have become so enthusiastic about investment banking that they have made considerable efforts to learn about the business and the tools, and subsequently made a successful transition to becoming investment bankers.

Candidates who make it through the recruitment process join other new HSBC investment banking analysts and associates from around the world in a four to five week's global training programme in London.

Then, new recruits are immediately immersed in pitches and transactions to experience a range of work, and interact with both team members and clients.

Learn and lead

"New recruits mainly focus on absorbing knowledge and learning the ropes," Mr Chang notes. As well as learning on the job, they receive regular training on both technical and soft skills such as giving presentations and conducting negotiations.

In addition to a career in investment banking, he emphasises the HSBC Group makes great efforts to identify future leaders. "For example, Simon Cooper, who is now CEO of HSBC Korea, worked in investment banking when he joined the bank. He transitioned to head of corporate and investment banking in Singapore and was promoted to HSBC group general manager prior to his current position," he exemplifies.

Mr Chang adds that new recruits can expect an extremely exciting career. "There's intensity and exposure to different industries and deals that may involve huge sums of money," he says. Last year, the division raised US$5.4 billion for CITIC Bank, US$1.9 billion for Soho China, and administered a US$3.2-billion merger for Dongfang Electric. "We were involved in shaping the financial needs and strategies of our clients, ensuring they succeeded in the market. There had to be constant focus on quality of judgement," he stresses.

Throughout financing processes, investment bankers are making judgement calls on variables such as pricing parameters. "If we get it right, we succeed," Mr Chang concludes. "We become involved with our clients, so when they succeed, we are very proud. It's rewarding when we meet good people and we can make a difference."


Taken from Career Times 18 July 2008, p. A14
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