Geoffrey

Corporate Finance & Capital Markets / Hong Kong

“Being able to attract top rated and talented people who are a good fit within our team is my proudest achievement…”

Joined CLSA: 2011
Studied: Cornell University and the University of Michigan
Hometown: I was born in Beijing but I grew up in an island city near Shanghai called Zhoushan
Languages: English, Mandarin

I started my career as a consultant in New York, before going to business school at the University of Michigan. After that I worked in London, and then in Hong Kong where I joined CITIC Securities International, which was later integrated into CLSA, to start building the Debt Capital Markets (DCM) team.

Hong Kong is a great place professionally for me, given my background as a Mandarin speaker and my experience in the offshore capital markets. I can leverage my cultural background and my understanding of Chinese corporates. At the same time, my expertise focusing on the offshore markets allows me to offer to our China clients my knowledge of these markets and how to access global capital.

I joined the company in 2011 as I saw a very rare opportunity to be able to quickly transition from focusing on execution work to actually build a team. Back in 2011 there were fewer people coming from global banks to join Chinese firms. Now it’s much more common, and people don’t really see us as a purely Chinese bank. This is one of our unique advantages.

I match investors with the right type of financing, at the right cost. I’ve been doing DCM in London and Hong Kong for 11 years now. You grow as the market changes and that’s the part I like about the job. I rarely get bored. We’re more in tune with what our Chinese clients need. We may not always get it right, but we try our very best.

I can have 5 things on my to-do list at 8am in the morning, but by noon I’ll have 11. A typical day starts around 8am going through emails and preparing for meetings by reading our fixed income traders’ comments written overnight, as well as market news and commentaries that I subscribe to. Our fixed income desk puts out a daily credit note that I always read through. The DCM business has a quick turnaround. On average, if it’s a repeat issuer sometimes a deal can happen within 2-3 weeks, or less. A debut transaction can be completed in three months. We’re always on multiple deals at the same time, juggling multiple projects at the same time. A lot of the time my colleagues and I are travelling to see clients. Conference calls and plenty of physical meetings across the region are the norm.

CLSA encourages a culture of entrepreneurialism. We’ve been doing a lot of recruiting lately, and one of my key pitches is that we have a very flat structure. Everyone has access to senior management; we discuss ideas as equals, and try to solve problems together. It’s more of a partnership than a strict reporting line, and that helps things get done more efficiently.

We haven’t lost a single person to a rival firm. Being able to attract top rated and talented people who are a good fit within our team is my proudest achievement. Everyone in my team is very capable. I’ve seen them grow. We are a team that people like to join and want to work with.

My advice to graduates seeking a career in finance is be detailed oriented, and be a fast learner. I always tell our interns, new joiners and fresh graduates to be curious. Ask questions. Introduce yourself to people who are sitting in the office. Make a connection, build a rapport. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet them again down the line.

As I get older I place even more importance on a work/life balance. Work is great, but it’s not everything. I don’t like to work on weekends unless I really have to. I tell my team to do things quickly and efficiently, and don’t live at the office. I try not to bring work home, so if I have to, I’ll come to the office to get things done – after 2pm on Sundays when the air conditioning comes on! I don’t consider myself a workaholic and I don’t want to be one. I love to unwind by reading a good book and I also try to hit the driving range or the golf course.

As most of my friends and colleagues know, my favourite pastime by far is reading. Even though my bachelor’s degree is in Engineering, I have an MBA, and am a CFA charter holder, my paternal grandmother was a Chinese teacher, so I grew up loving reading. I try to read as much as possible, especially when travelling. I set a goal to read at least 20-25 books per year. Most of the books I read are fiction which takes me away from my daily life. I tend not to read books related to our industry or work as much as possible!