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Guest Comment: why I’m moving to Hong Kong, not London

I am a continental European by birth, but I’m currently working for a major investment fund in the UAE. Until a couple of years ago, I was with in an investment bank in London, but I got the chance to move into private equity when the market was in a bad shape and moved here.

It was a good choice, but now I’m looking to move on again. I feel like I’ve got two options: London, or Hong Kong.

London is like my second home. I’ve got friends there and family there. I did my MBA in London. I’ve lived there and worked there, and it was the perfect place to develop my skills and make some money. It’s always been one of the few places in Europe where you have a real chance to be successful, despite your nationality and background.

In a way, I’d like to go back to London. The roles there are challenging. It’s very developed in terms of private equity – the transactions and deals are top notch and the legal framework is well developed. By comparison, the UAE is like an emerging economy – the legal framework is less strong; the deals are less challenging. I want to be back in a leading financial centre.

Equally, however, the UK tax regime is a big challenge for people like me. If I go back to London, I’ll probably get a promotion. That will mean more money and more responsibility, but when I do the maths I’ll end up with less than I’m earning now. That’s annoying.

By comparison, Hong Kong is like the UK in terms of mentality. It was a British colony for years, the legal framework is pretty similar, and the tax rate is 15 per cent. I also have a lot of friends there and I’ll get the chance to work in emerging markets like Indonesia.

Then there’s the attitude towards financial services. I go to Hong Kong every month and I’ve never seen anything adverse written about banking. It’s a commercial place: people are there to make money and work hard; no one really cares about anything else.

In the UK and the US, by comparison, politicians are stoking popular resentment against bankers because they want to blame someone for what happened.

Much as I like the UK, it’s clear to me where I should be going next.

Comments (8)

  1. I wouldn’t say that there is not a growing resentment of the big money bankers here in Hong Kong. Read the New York Times article from last week http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28hong.html There seems to be a growing chasm between rich and poor in Hong Kong, and with that a growing resentment toward the financial services sector which as you state is really “there to make money.”

  2. I would love to see you try. Ten pounds says this guy stays in UAE.

  3. “I’ve never seen anything adverse written about banking (in Hong Kong)'”
    Ermm… you’ve obviously missed the hoardes of protestors outside DBS, Citibank and BOC each and every single lunch time then.

  4. I’ve been working in Hong Kong for over ten years. It’s all you say and more. Hong Kong has none of London’s political hangups and is strategically located in the hottest long-term growth region of the planet. Come on in, the water’s fine!

  5. first 3 comments show how defensive people are in hong kong, soon as they see people coming over to compete they put u down.

    your analysis is correct and you are making the right choice. go for it!

  6. My view is that if you’re single, then head on over to HK. If you have a family – consider Singapore – it’s clean, safe, comparable regulatory system, also has low tax rates but a little sterile for those seeking a more hedonistic lifestyle…..either way Asia has far, far more to offer than Blighty!

  7. Hong Kong is a good place for living and working if you get high education and income. The simple regulatory system and low tax rates is very attrative, especially good for starting your own buisness! There are many international schools which you can find a good one for your children. Hong Kong is an amazing city that you & your family will enjoy and never forget once you get a stay!

  8. you are 1 in 100.

    the days when expats were flown ended in 2006.
    westerners making it to HK these days are either internally transferred or have some really specific skill set thats extremely valuable. The question I have is that, if you do posses that skill set, then why HK if you can name your own price anywhere or open up your own firm.

    HK is still good for ABCs or BBCs speaking Mandarin and perhaps Cantonese. Otherwise, for only English speakers like i said in the beginning 1 in 100.

    There are many expats in HK and Singapore that are clearly out of touch with reality because they got their jobs 10 yrs ago. The market is completely different right now.

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