Coming to Hong Kong from the mainland at the age of 12 years, Grace Cheung did not speak a word of English – or Cantonese. But being a hard worker and a fast learner paid off. Years later, she earned a university degree and a job as a financial adviser. In less than four years of being on the job, she has been promoted to vice-president (sales division) for wealth management at Sun Hung Kai Financial. Cheung also mentors mainland exchange students, and has made time to plan the broad strokes of a charity to help the city’s poor.
What inspired you to enter the finance industry?
I graduated in 2007 from the City University of Hong Kong, majoring in a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing. When I was at school, I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated. In discussions with a university lecturer, I was advised to join the financial field due to my outgoing and cheerful personality. I took his advice and become became a financial planner.
What is your secret to getting promoted quickly?
I ask questions. I jump at any opportunity to learn from experienced staff and my superiors. I understand that widening my social circle is the key to success, so I have tried hard to get to know more people. I attended as many events and seminars as possible by volunteering to help at the events.
As a newbie, many of my clients are more experienced investors than I am, and I have to win their trust. I have to let clients know how much I care about their wealth more than mine and to be very patient in listening to their requests.
I think of myself as a positive person with a can-do spirit. When I first came to Hong Kong, I didn’t know a word of English or Cantonese, but I still made it through the public examinations and graduated from university. Nothing is impossible if you work hard.
How did you come up with the idea of having your own charity?
I have been promoted four times in my four years to date as a financial adviser. But this would not have happened without the support of my colleagues.
Now, I want to help others as I have been helped. I have formed a core group – with seven to eight of my former classmates – to act as the executive committee of my charity. With the connections I have built through the years, I plan to set up my charity in six to eight years.
What are the difficulties you have gone through in your career?
In 2009, business was bad, and I felt uninspired. I went back to the university to seek advice from my former lecturer and was told me to set a long-term goal to stay inspired. I came up with the idea of a charity.
After the financial crisis in 2008, many investors had lost their confidence in finance. But this does not mean the end to a career. I worked hard to explain to clients the details of our financial products. My positive attitude was able to convince them of the soundness of their investments.
What is your advice for youngsters in terms of career planning?
I’ve been mentoring mainland exchange students, helping them to adapt to life here. I want to help them to become aware of themselves, and to equip themselves. They have to have a long-term goal to succeed.
How do you strike a work-life balance?
I see my job as my own business. I work on weekends and take very little time off. When I am not in the office, I am at events meeting potential clients. The pressure is not easy to handle, so I do tai chi and dance the Zumba for relaxation when I am able to.