The Hong Kong advantage

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) head of Asian business banking, Jonathan Yeung, has worked in Hong Kong, the US and Australia – and he can’t recommend gaining international experience highly enough. “It’s hugely important,” said Yeung of the boost that working overseas can give professionals in the financial services sector.
 “We continue to work in the global environment, and connectivity is a key factor in all economies and industries,” he added. “Having that international perspective, I would say, is almost critical.” Given today’s globally connected business environment, Yeung pointed out that most finance professionals will find themselves dealing with more than one country as part of their duties. As a result, those professionals who expose themselves to different cultures, and can understand and appreciate their nuances, will only prove to be beneficial to their career prospects. “I think it is a great advantage, and will be¬come a critical differentiation point for young individuals and professionals,” said Yeung.

A global career path

Yeung can speak from personal experience on this issue, having worked in three continents during the course of his 20-year financial services career. Originally from Hong Kong, Yeung moved to the US to complete his high school and university education. After graduating from Cornell University in New York he entered the banking world, scoring his first job with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
He worked in the bank’s New York and Boston offices for around a decade, and in 2007 was recruited by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) to help with its push into Asia. Following the move, he worked in the bank’s Melbourne, Singapore and Taiwan offices – as well as a stint in his native Hong Kong. “The experience, in terms of working in Hong Kong for an Australian bank, has really given me perspective,” he said, adding that it distilled in his mind the importance of un¬derstanding cultural differences. Having been recruited by CBA late last year, Yeung is now continuing his cultural adventures in Australia. “I relocated from Hong Kong to Sydney, where I’m really feeling the cultural differences of working in Australia as opposed to Asia and really gaining that appreciation for being able to adapt to different cultures in the workplace,” he explained. A big part of his new role sees him bridging the gap between Australia and Asia – building both business opportunities and mutual cultural understanding. “I think my personal, as well as my pro-fessional background – having worked in the west and my cultural heritage in the east – has really prepared me well for this role,” he said. “Working in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan has also given me that Asian flavour.”


Keep an open mind

Commenting on the attitude and skills needed to work across different cultures, Yeung said that the key is to keep an open mind. “Really consider just being a sponge, and absorbing and taking in all the cultural aspects,” he said. “And really embrace the local community and what the local culture has to offer.” Knowing the local language is obviously an advantage when working in an overseas market, but Yeung pointed out that English is frequently used in Hong Kong in industries such as financial services and accounting. “If one were to look into those industries, speaking English will get you over the line,” he said, noting that it’s a common second language in the former British colony. He also urged young professionals who don’t already have exposure to Asian cultures to take the plunge and seek out opportunities in finance hubs like Hong Kong.
“There are roughly 8,000 companies that registered their Asia headquarters in Hong Kong, so the opportunities are immense,” he said. “Hong Kong is a good blend of the east and the west, so you’re not going to be shocked by a culture that is completely unknown to you. There’s a good blend of both cultures, and that’s what makes Hong Kong so exciting, because if you want the eastern culture you can find it, but there’s also a western element to it.” While he doesn’t discourage Australians from getting to know their fellow expatriates when working overseas, he also urged new arrivals to immerse themselves in the local community. It takes courage to reach out beyond your comfort zone in this way but, for Yeung, doing so has opened up a world of career opportunities. “I did it the other way around and went from an eastern culture to the western culture,” he said. “But having that experience has really enabled me to have the courage to consider working anywhere in the world.”
Categories
Asian Markets,
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Author:
AB+F Online, astarke@financialpublications.com.au
Article Posted:
May 02, 2016

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