A Flourishing Alumni Network in Hong Kong

Published on March 16, 2015

Wilson Fung, ’00, is at the epicenter of Asia’s hottest markets, the relatively new and fast-growing market for renminbi-denominated bonds issued outside China. Last year he joined the fixed income sales desk at BOC International, which has a dominant market share in the so-called dim sum bond market, after he got a phone call from Alvin Chua, ’87. 

The two alumni first met more than a decade ago when Chua was head of the fixed-income department at the Bank of America in Hong Kong. Fung joked that he reached out to the senior alumnus to “hound him for a job,” while still studying at Chicago. At the time, Chua’s personnel needs were filled. The two kept in touch over the years and Chua thought of Fung when he was appointed to head international bond operations at BOCI’s financial products division.

It is no surprise they stayed in contact; the alumni scene is vigorous in Hong Kong.

The Chicago alumni scene has grown livelier in recent years, but “it is about more than just drinks and passing out cards,” said Rosa Lee, ’08 (AXP-7), who recently completed a two-year stint as head of the Booth Alumni Club of Hong Kong. In addition to networking, the alumni group has been crucial in keeping the intellectual fire of her Chicago days alive, she said. Lee last summer organized a talk and reception by visiting University of Chicago Nobel laureate Lars Peter Hansen on behalf of the Chicago Economics Society.

“There are a lot of people who, like me, are thankful for their Chicago experience and want to give back,” said Lee, a chairman of Grand Investment International Ltd., the listed arm of her family’s Hong Kong-based finance company. “I was given many opportunities because of Booth.”

Reflecting on those opportunities, Lee recalled a recent dinner with Booth representatives and alumni including Gus Sauter, ’80, retired CIO of Vanguard Group: “Gus said that people are given four or five great opportunities in their lifetime. You need to be ready to take advantage of these opportunities when they come. Booth had helped him be ready. I couldn’t agree more.”

The Booth experience is helping Rajan Sachar, ’01 (XP-70), who arrived in Hong Kong two years ago from Chicago to take a major role as global head of corporate audit services and enterprise risk at premier Hong Kong listed manufacturer Johnson Electric.

Sachar’s Chicago networks help him facilitate business across the globe, including diverse business environments such as Serbia, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, and Argentina. 

Not too long ago, on a business trip to Serbia, he was waiting for his bags at an airport when he noticed a fellow traveller with a Chicago business school bag. It turns out he was a Belgrade lawyer currently enrolled in the European program. They met for dinner and this fresh connection offered some very valuable advice for accelerating business in Serbia.

“The knowledge base you can tap into globally minimizes the stumbling around in your career, which means you make fewer mistakes and can advance faster in your career,” Sachar said. “That’s where the network helps you.” 

Christine Yu, AB, ’00, MBA, ’13 (AXP-12) was well acquainted with the advantages of the close-knit Chicago community, having earned an undergraduate degree in political science at the university and served as president of the Hong Kong Alumni Club in 2005-06. 

“I already had the Chicago network,” Yu said. She enrolled in the Executive MBA Program Asia to enhance her finance and business knowledge. “I needed the rigor of Chicago’s interdependent analytics,” she said.

Her Booth experience deepened her knowledge base as well as her networks. Since graduating she has been promoted by her employer HSBC, where she is director, institutional sales. In addition, she was invited by another Chicago alumnus to join an angel investment group.

Meanwhile, she continues to be an active member of the broader alumni community. “Hong Kong is an interesting place for Chicago alumni,” Yu said. “Chicago is huge out here.”—Cathy Holcombe

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