Jet lag had me up at 5AM on our first morning in HK so after getting out my first blog post I hit the streets for a workout. I decided on a stair workout after discovering Ladder Street the day prior; the street is a 30-flight stair case that extends up four city blocks.
After breakfast at the hotel, we set out for our first meeting of the day at Hutchison Whampoa with Frank Sixt. He is a McGill grad that now serves as the Executive Director for the multi-national conglomerate. He spoke about his career path, gave an overview of Hutchison Whampoa’s operations, challenges facing the company, and opportunities for growth. Hutchison Whampoa is a Fortune 500 company– chaired by the richest man in Asia–that operates businesses across 5 main categories–telecom, infrastructure, retail, energy, and ports. After a fascinating talk with Frank we got to visit one of their many businesses–Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT) at the Hong Kong Port; HIT is the largest port operator in the Hong Kong and the world, controlling 16/24 berths in the HK Port. We got a driving tour of the cargo terminal that was followed by a question and answer period with a HIT employee. The scale of the operations in Hong Kong’s port was jarring–last year alone the port moved 13 million shipping containers and employed 200,000 people. Perhaps the most shocking factoid was that there are 5 operators in the port and there is no common IT system between them for logistical coordination and communication.
We enjoyed a delicious Dim Sum lunch at HIT before heading to the Shangri-La for our last meeting of the day. The Shangri-La is a renowned 5-star hotel chain based in Hong Kong with 89 luxury hotels across the world. The chain is a family-owned business and we were lucky enough to hear from Chye Kuok–fa senior family member and McGill alumni. Kuok spoke at length about the emphasis on Shangri-La’s customer and employee obsession and the importance of customer experience in the 5-star hotel industry. A challenge facing the Shangri-La now is maintaining the “familial” feel of the chain as they grow and approach 100 hotels. The Director of the hotel we visited specifically added a personal story of a career highlight–when the former king of Saudi Arabia booked out the entire hotel for his stay in HK. We then took a one hour guided tour of the beautiful hotel which included two Michelin star restaurants, the Presidential Suite, the world’s largest painting, amazing views of Hong Kong, and more.
We spent our free evening grabbing a bite and drinking in the streets (totally acceptable) of LFK–the bustling nightlife strip of Hong Kong Central.
Our first meeting of Day 2 was with McGill alumni Bruno Roy–Director of Asia-Pacific for McKinsey. Bruno was a fabulous speaker that spoke primarily about working and living in Asia in general. He spent his first 5 years In Beijing and made the move to HK last summer. Roy said the reason he loves working in Asia is because there’s so much left to be done. North America is such a mature market and work in consulting is focused on incremental improvement.
Our second meeting of the morning was a panel discussion with five McGill alumni. The interesting and informative panel was focused again on what it’s like to live and work in Hong Kong.The key points I took away from the session were:
- Low taxes are great–16.5% is the highest tax rate you could face in HK
- HK is extremely expensive and owning real estate is completely out of reach for most–rent ranges from $2,500-$4,000/month for central locations in HK
- Work/life balance is non-existent so you have to love what you do–12 hour work days are not unusual and leaving the office at 5:30 usually prompts the question “are you only working a half-day today?”
- One panelist told us his company’s recent new policy that allows employees 1.5 hours/month of personal time
- The opportunities in HK are endless but very competitive
After a quick lunch it was time to make our way to the airport to head to our next stop, Jakarta! All in all I can say that our stay in HK was only a teaser and I will definitely be returning for more. Further, our amazing speakers definitely piqued my interest in living and working in Hong Kong so perhaps I will be back for much longer next time!