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The new path to tread: from the Nordics to Hong Kong

Getting out of Sweden, Finland and Norway as fast as you can to London or New York is a path well-trodden for ambitious Nordic financiers.

But bankers may also now wish to look east, to the financial hubs of Hong Kong and Shanghai, where Nordic financiers are increasingly making their presence felt.

The newspaper China Daily has said the China Development Bank and Swedish government are jointly accelerating construction of an outbound investment financing platform to encourage Chinese companies to go international.

The organisation Invest Sweden has had a presence in China since 2002 and, according to Eddie Chen, vice-president and chief representative for Greater China, demand from Chinese companies for financial support to help them enter international markets is increasing.

In a separate development, but one that illustrates the heightened interest of Nordic banks in the region, SEB was granted a local banking licence in Hong Kong at the end of August and has now established an office with 25 staff, with another five hires expected to be added by the end of the year.

Although the whole global financial system is under pressure, working in the Far East brings with it the attraction of a relatively light-touch regulatory climate as well as, of course, the fact economies in the region are doing markedly better than their counterparts in the West.

“Things are tougher in Europe at the moment so it is not just Scandinavian or Nordic bankers who are looking to come out to Asia but bankers from across Europe,” agrees Carl Christensson, head of SEB in Hong Kong.

“Nordic countries are in demand at the moment because of the relative strength of the Nordic economies. If you come from Scandinavia you can provide a slightly different perspective, which is something many of the major players are becoming more interested in. A lot of banks are now picking up on the good performance of the Nordic countries.

“Our core focus is on financial institutions and the securities and servicing of the hedge fund industry out here. But we are also offering a full corporate service, fixed income, FX, trading and corporate finance – so it is a broad offer,” he adds.

While knowledge of Mandarin or Cantonese will obviously help it is not a pre-requisite for carving out a career in this region, Christensson advises.

“I could not speak the language when I first came out here in 2005 – what is important is having the right attitude, that is what counts at the end of the day,” he says.

Whether, of course, we get to the point where Chinese banks are actively touting for candidates in local Nordic markets is a moot point.

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