Wall Street's frus­trate Chi­nese bankers head­ing back home

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

For Shi­wei Zhou, it was partly the sense of obli­ga­tion to­ward af­ter-work drinks and talk of ice hockey. Wil­liam Su felt his ca­reer was stuck af­ter four years in the same role. QJ Guo wanted to be near his par­ents as they age. All three are among the many Chi­nese who came to the U.S. to study busi­ness, find work and make salaries be­yond reach at home and are now headed in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

As U.S. firms have cut bonuses and po­si­tions, and China's sec­tor ex­plodes in so­phis­ti­ca­tion and pay, some are mi­grat­ing back. And while this may seem like an odd mo­ment to repa­tri­ate, given the mount­ing fi­nan­cial jit­ters back home, two forces are driv­ing the move: the fact that many feel they're hit­ting a bam­boo ceil­ing in the U.S. and the be­lief that Chi­nese growth, while slow­ing, is shift­ing into ar­eas that will ben­e­fit bankers.

"China has a huge de­mand for good brains as the la­bor-in­ten­sive econ­omy is be­hind us," said Cao Huin­ing, pro­fes­sor of fi­nance at Che­ung Kong Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness. "A lot of peo­ple see bet­ter ca­reer paths in China than in the U.S., where they prob­a­bly could just make a medi­ocre liv­ing."

The move­ment is such a wide­spread phe­nom­e­non that the Chi­nese have a moniker for the re­turnees, Hai Gui, or "sea tur­tles." In Man­darin, the phrase means "re­turn across the sea" and sounds like the an­i­mal's name.

The tur­tles first started swim­ming back in 2008 when Wall Street erupted in cri­sis. They were prized for their un­der­stand­ing of the nu­ances of Chi­nese cul­ture as well as Western prac­tices that helped over­seas ex­pan­sion. And with the govern­ment push­ing for re­forms, some joined China's fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors. But the lat­est round of re­turns is dif­fer­ent. With the govern­ment en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship to drive growth, China's fi­nan­cial mar­kets are now seen as com­pet­i­tive. Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists poured a record $37 bil­lion into China last year. This has led to the cre- ation of some of the world's most-valu­able star­tups, in­clud­ing smart­phone man­u­fac­turer Xiaomi Corp. and peer-to-peer len­der Lu.com, of­fi­cially called Shang­hai Lu­ji­azui In­ter­na­tional Fi­nan­cial As­set Ex­change Co. The In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund re­cently added the yuan to its bas­ket of re­serve cur­ren­cies, join­ing the dol­lar, euro, pound and yen, so Chi­nese lenders are also scram­bling to strengthen their trad­ing desks.

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