Hong Kong as a non Chinese speaker


I am interested in technology investing (preferably private / VC or growth) and am currently at a top bank in London. 

I have had this dream of working in HK since I studied there (did a semester at HKU/HKUST) however I don't speak Mandarin nor Cantonese ( I speak English and 2 European languages). 

Is there any path where I could work in tech investing in HK?

Comments (31)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 11, 2022 - 7:23pm

I really don't love SG to be honest :/ Also doing London -> SG is not really worth it IMO. 

I have seen some people move to HK as well but mostly in markets or non-top performing roles. Just wondering how I can be the exception in terms of tech investing

Jan 15, 2022 - 10:00am

HK has the worst quarantine policy at this point, which is something to consider if you're an expat professional seeking to work here. Government is trying to abide by covid zero policy in hopes to reopen border with Mainland, which is failing miserably. So you get the worst of both worlds - cannot travel to Mainland and cannot travel internationally. It really sucks.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jan 12, 2022 - 9:01am

Bro, we all know what you're looking for, there are plenty of places in China town where you can get it just looking for the flashing massage signs.

Seriously though I was in HK a few years ago and a MD at Barclays I got drunk with in Wan Chai told me that you need to be a China-raised native speaker to get any IB roles, even U.K.-raised Chinese kids apparently don't have the same language skills. I would assume it's the same for tech investing.

Jan 12, 2022 - 11:04pm

This guy knows it. There are plenty of asians in London for you to smash, and if you can't land any just go to an asian massage parlour in London. Yellow asians are the same everywhere. 

Gone are the days where a westerner like you could waltz into hk and be treated like a king. You add zero incremental value to native deals and the "different mindset / perspective" is just BS.

And re communication skills w European/US investors, these days a) the preferred exits are to mainland markets where valuation is frothier and less room for govt scrutiny, and b) the chinese are equally fluent in English, especially many are educated abroad. 

Further, you will likely regret the decision as pay in asia tend to be lower and you have to work harder. Not to mention that top tier places have enough supply of native talent, so the only places you have a realistic shot at are 2nd tier places which have shitty deal flow and pay poorly

It sounds superficially sensible when you string together "top bank in London", asia growth region, tech hottest sector, "communication skills", ~east meets west~, but reality is more bifurcated than you think 

My honest advice is to either do a bank secondment in HK to unload to your wishes, or recruit for a tech investing shop eg Apax/Vitruvian with hk/china offices and then do a secondment or permanent move. This way you hedge career risk in case asia does not work out and you still have a way back to London

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 13, 2022 - 4:57am

It's pretty crazy how many of you just think about getting laid lol. I am not particularly I to Asian girls. 

re: secondment, the issue is that 1) my firm Hk office culture is horrible and 2) I do t want to stay in banking for much longer..

Maybe a growth firm with HK office would be best, but let's see how selective I can be on that front ... Also I would rather have done 5-10 yrs HK and back than the other way around 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 12, 2022 - 5:55pm

I mean, none. But it's kind of the same as a London based investor investing in Eastern Europe or Nordic companies. Except maybe I have a different mindset than the Chinese associate which may bring a different perspective to the table. And quite frankly probably better communication skills when it comes to speaking to European or American investors for future rounds and exit strategies. 

Idk, I have worked on HK deals and language wasn't an issue. Although it would have been better to be a native speaker for sure 

Most Helpful
Jan 14, 2022 - 2:33am

Currently based in HK and also don't speak Chinese - think from a visa perspective, it's easier if you can transfer to your firm's HK office and then look for jobs when you get here. Once your company sponsors your initial visa, it's then quite easy to transfer the visa to another employer.

When you don't speak Chinese it's really about finding a company where management is at least partly non-chinese, so takes some extra time looking/networking but I think there are still opportunities for you eg. Silverhorn / Brinc and other smaller shops. Also sometimes the larger teams accept non-chinese speakers but definitely helps if you're already here.

(I was recently hired by a Chinese bank into their ECM team. The bank is specifically looking to hire more westerners to become more international.)

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jan 14, 2022 - 8:11am

I was told while I was out there that Chinese banks don't charge Chinese clients fees for ECM work and so Western banks can't really compete on Mainland ECM, is that true?

Jan 14, 2022 - 8:24am

Think it's partly competitive rates but other part is that I think most Chinese IB are better connected in mainland China (most HK IPOs are mainland companies) and alot of Chinese talent from western banks has moved to Chinese IBs. GS and MS are still strong in ECM but increasingly CITIC, CICC and Haitong are moving up ECM rankings.

Jan 15, 2022 - 10:55am

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  • VP in PE - LBOs
Jan 16, 2022 - 4:55am

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