E Fund Management President Ms. Sau Kwan to SBE students: “Look for sunrising opportunities”

The global outlook was set right from the start at this year’s edition of Maastricht Business Days, which took place on 8-9 March. Addressing a large gathering of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (UM SBE) students and guests at Kasteel Vaeshartelt, Ms. Sau Kwan opened her keynote speech with a 2,500-year-old saying from ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius:

“At thirty I stood firm;
At forty I had no more doubts;
At fifty I knew the will of heaven”

“I really believe that the past history can tell the future,” she explained in an interview after her talk. “What we see happening now has already happened in the past. I think that it is important to learn from the past to avoid making the same mistake twice.”

IMG_0144_fbMs. Kwan, President of the Guangzhou-based E Fund Management Co., is responsible for the overall global strategy and business of the company. Managing total assets amounting to USD 150 billion, E Fund Manangement Co. is the second largest mutual fund management company in Mainland China, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and soon to open overseas branches in New York and London.

“China’s economic development has been on the right track since the late 80s,” Ms. Kwan explained. “I would like to see China continue on the path of growth and become even more open and liberal. Our company is at the forefront of this movement, and I try to help the country in this progressive direction by sharing my personal story with students and young professionals.”

Ms. Kwan, who has over 20 years’ experience in the fund and risk management industry, holds a master’s of finance degree from Boston College, an MBA from Suffolk University and a bachelor’s degree from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She served various senior management positions at State Street in Boston and Asia before joining E Fund Management in 2014.

Bridging the gap
Her experience abroad and her understanding of Western culture are an asset in her current responsibilities, which mainly consist in managing investors’ funds, including pension and government funds: “I consider myself lucky, because I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but had the chance to get my education in the US I have seen both sides of the world and know what is good for the various markets and countries. I can bridge the gap and pick the decisions that are good for the companies. I feel really blessed in that sense.”

The ability to bridge the gap and good communication are important ingredients for the success of her company, Ms. Kwan says. “The first thing we do before we launch or sell any product is to educate not only our investors but also our own staff to make sure that they treat our investors’ money as their own. That’s the first step. Then we educate our investors not only in terms of returns but also in understanding the risks.”

Humour and determination
Ms. Kwan says she enjoys talking with students and young graduates, whether in China, Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world: “Speaking with young people makes me feel young again and full of energy. By sharing my experience, I hope to inspire the younger generation to learn from my example. My message to them is always: ‘Think outside the box; get out of your comfort zone and challenge your limits.’”6861964133_1a102875ac_b-2

Her enthusiasm and optimistic outlook strike as key features of her personality. “My colleagues and my friends say about me that I am funny and have a good sense of humour. I think this is because I can laugh at my own mistakes. As long as you can laugh at your mistakes, address them and improve the situation, then I think you have the right mind-set.”

Another important aspect of her character, she believes, is her “can-do” attitude. “I don’t believe that anything is impossible, as long as you try a new way to address the problem. I am not afraid to think the unthinkable.”

She discovered the power of her mind-set soon after graduating from university: “My first job was not a very smooth experience, and I felt frustrated when my supervisor would point out things that were going wrong. Then I told myself: ‘Either I stay frustrated or I laugh about my mistakes and move on.’ I decided at that time that the most important thing to do after a so-called failure is to adopt the right attitude to face the problem and to strive for excellence.”

When she returned to Hong Kong in 1999 after completing her studies abroad, she successfully took on the challenge to learn to speak, read and write Mandarin Chinese from scratch: “We had been used to a different variety of Chinese in Hong Kong, so Mandarin Chinese felt like an entire new language. But I was determined to learn it and overcame all the difficulties because I knew that it was necessary for my career prospects and my contacts with Mainland China.”

Happy International Women’s Day
By chance, the opening of Maastricht Business Days coincided with International Women’s Day. Ms. Kwan commented that she is often asked how it is to build a career as a woman in the world of finance. Her reply is clear: ‘’When I go to work in the morning, I don’t remind myself that I am a woman. I prefer to set my energy into getting things done.”

Her take-away message to young graduates? Ms. Kwan laughs and wittily combines metaphors from her earlier speech with the slogan of the Maastricht Business Days: “Look at the sunrising horizons, whether in the far-east or here in your hometown. Look for sunrising opportunities. Start here, go anywhere.”

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