Opening a pan-European broker for a Swedish Bank in Asia
A Scandinavian stockbroker had operated a small office in Tokyo for a couple of years in the 1980’s. When the managing director left the company, management decided to make a much bigger investment into the Asia-Pacific region. I was selected to be the managing director for Asia to build the business.
The broker had developed entrepreneurially having been spun-out of a venerable English investment house. It had changed its strategy from being a researched-based Scandinavian equity specialist in London to research and dealing in pan-European shares. I realised soon after I was appointed that, while we would get 100% of the Swedish business, there was little sustainable demand for Swedish equity.
We therefore developed a full pan-European equity offering for clients following the Asian clock from New Zealand, then Australia, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. This business was developed from scratch except for the small Tokyo office, which had some existing staff and contacts.
This was before the internet so I instituted a nightly fax so as to have the latest European news ready for New Zealand who was 5 hours ahead. This was a very significant move for our business development. As the day went on, I was able to ‘cross-pollinate’ the day’s news around all clients in different time zones. I was an analyst in the morning, a salesman in the afternoon and a dealer in the evening. The broker and its business aspects were established from scratch and distributed a wide range of original investment research around Asia.
I also gained coverage by writing a weekly column for the South China Morning Post and for the Straits Times, often dictated on a tape recorder and sent overnight to my secretary to type. Later we were able to send the typed document down-line to the newspaper – essentially developing a rudimentary email system some years before internet email.
This period also pre-dated the mobile telephone, although later in the project I did acquire one of the first Nokia ‘bricks’ for my mobile communication. I can remember dealing on that device in a bargain of French shares, booked in London, settled in Paris, from the back room of a Chinese shirt-maker in Causeway Bay, with an Australian working for a New Zealand client. Truly the early onset of globalisation. Life was simpler then.
The stockbroker developed strongly and profitably in Asia, taking on through myself some of the largest orders given to the firm – by Asian Sovereign Wealth Funds. Eventually, the office developed into an asset management operation owned fully by the parent bank who subsequently moved the operation to their Asian headquarters in Singapore (where I also had an office).