“History is unfolding in front of my very eyes”: Hong Kong bankers still support protests, despite disruption

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“History is unfolding in front of my very eyes”: Hong Kong bankers still support protests, despite disruption

The ongoing protests (and the government's reaction to them) in Hong Kong are continuing to take a toll on recruitment in the banking sector – and on the daily lives of bankers. Despite this, most bankers we spoke with still support the protest movement. 

Financial institutions based in Admiralty, the district at the centre of some of the protests around Hong Kong’s legislature, have been most affected by postponed job interviews, say recruiters. Societe Generale, BNY Mellon and Wells Fargo, for example, are located in Three Pacific Place, while the CITIC Tower hosts the Chinese investment bank along with EY, Mizuho and Maybank.

“I’ve had a number of interviews postponed because of the protesters,” says a Hong Kong-based headhunter, speaking on condition of anonymity, and adding that he sympathises with the aims of the protesters.

The protests aren’t just affecting finance professionals who are interviewing for new jobs. Most major banks in the city have recently relaxed their rules on working from home, if employees are worried about their safety or if they face big delays on public transport. These concerns have grown since the attack on protesters by suspected Triads at Yuen Long MTR station on 22 July.

“I’m trying to avoid the protests and I’m sometimes leaving a bit early if need be,” says one finance professional in Hong Kong. Another banker told us he’d experienced “severe disruption” when travelling to Admiralty, although he still supports the protest movement and is not happy with the government and police reaction to it.

A third banker, who has an apartment on Hong Kong island, says he’s “living in the midst of the unrest”. “The tear gas was fired just below my apartment block and graffiti has been scribbled on nearby roads and bridges – history is unfolding in front of my very eyes,” he says, adding that he understands why people are taking to the streets.

Not all bankers have given up the fight. The Financial Times spoke to a 27-year-old banker who attended Sunday’s protest to express his discontent at Beijing “bullying our citizens”.

Meanwhile, a banker we first spoke with back in June, now says he still support the protesters' aims, despite not having attended a march himself. "They’re telling the world that what’s happening here is shocking,” he adds.

A minority of the bankers in Hong Kong we spoke with now have concerns about the protests. As we reported last month, many finance professionals supported the movement when it was narrowly focused on the extradition bill, a hugely unpopular draft law that was widely perceived as being anti-business. Now the protesters have begun a broader push for democratic reform that puts them on a collision course with the Hong Kong government and its allies in Beijing. 

“Both sides seem to be taking things too far and there are many more protests planned,” says the first finance professional. “Violence on both sides and potential police collusion with the triads the other day are worrying,” he adds.

Image credit: angusho, Getty

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