Hong Kong is long seen as the de facto financial centre in the Greater China region. Yet as China continues opening up its capital market, Shanghai is quickly catching up as a potential contender. So which city is best? Chinese financial professionals living and working in each one shared their insights.
Where to rent?
Fresh graduates working in the financial district of Lujiazui tend to rent around Century Park in Pudong. This has the advantage of being just a few subway stops from Lujiazui, according to a research analyst at a major securities firm, who graduated two years ago. She says the rent is around 4000 – 6000 yuan (about 644 – 966 US$) a month for a one-bed room flat in an old apartment building there. That’s still a big burden even to someone in the financial sector, so many rent together and share the cost.
When they’re working in the central business district in Puxi, some young bankers prefer to live around Huaihai Road. This is close to both the office and to Xintiandi, a modern commercial district for shopping, food/drink and entertainment. One young female banker who lived around Xintiandi says she shopped a lot.
Many Chinese bankers buy their own flat just three or four years in the workplace.
“The younger generation hasn’t changed a lot in terms of its preference for renting in the good areas,” says one ex-banker in HK. He says young bankers these days still prefer Sheung Wan and Sai Wan if they rent, because it’s close to Central, where the financial district is. Properties such as Queen’s Terrace and Merton in those areas are particularly suitable to singles or young couples because of their small size.
Another area which young bankers favour is around Kowloon, where an iconic office building International Commerce Centre (ICC) was completed in 2010. This skyscraper now houses global banks such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche bank and Credit Suisse. As a result, properties around subway station ‘Olympic’, which is only one stop from Kowloon and slightly cheaper, are very popular with young bankers. Rent is around 18000 – 20000 HK$ (about 2323 – 2581 US$) a month for a one-bed apartment.
Where to eat?
The young bankers we talked to didn’t mention any particular restaurants that they like to frequent. Most of the time they eat out around their offices as they work overtime after dinner.
HK is a more packed city, especially around office areas, so it has developed some particular restaurants that young bankers visit a lot, such as Hunan Cafe which focuses on Hunan cuisine, and San Xi Lou, which does a lot of Canton food.
Another very popular Chinese restaurant is called Simply Life. This is a fast food restaurant with choices of both Chinese and Western food, where people queue up and get their lunch relatively quickly and conveniently. Consequently, it has almost become the number one choice for young bankers working in Central who don’t have too much time for lunch.
Where to have a drink?
It’s said there are two main areas for drinks in Shanghai. One is around Hengshan Road, which is close to the embassy area and claims to be Shanghai’s oldest and largest street for pubs, cafes and bars; the other is Xintiandi, which was only launched in 2001 but has quickly taken off due to its modern design and array of high-end boutique shops. For young bankers, either is a good place to have a drink. But be warned that you may end up paying more than in Hong Kong!
The best drinking spot in Hong Kong is still Lan Kwai Fong, a buzzy area unrivalled by anywhere else. The downside, however, is that it can be noisy, with loud music and people sometimes shouting into each other’s ears. If you want a quieter place where you can have a proper conversation over the drinks, then Sevva in the Prince Building and Zuma in Landmark are two places popular with young bankers. Both are around the Central area, and convenient for office workers.