Nixon Chan, the deputy general manager and head of corporate and commercial banking at Hang Seng Bank, has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry. He has spent most of his career in Hong Kong, but for three years from 1987 he was posted to HSBC in Canada. Subsequent roles back in Hong Kong included a spell as senior executive for commercial banking from 2004, with responsibility for driving HSBC’s local small- and medium-size-enterprise business. Today, Chan still makes a point of meeting clients to keep up to date with market developments and particularly enjoys working with businesses of different scale and type. He talks to Jan Chan.
Why did you originally go into the banking sector?
My father was a businessman and, when I was young, I always thought I'd follow in his footsteps. However, by the time I graduated, my father had already retired and closed his business due to health reasons. To understand more about entrepreneurship and setting up my own business, I decided to go into banking for a while. But the longer I worked in the sector, the more fascinated I became by all the new challenges and issues thrown up by different divisions. In a way, it's just like playing video games; you feel great when you go up to another level.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say it is democratic and consultative. When we need to launch a new project, I talk to my colleagues, ask for their ideas and we find a solution together. It helps colleagues to have more sense of ownership. If you simply give instructions, it is harder for them to understand that they are important to the project.
Which part of your job has presented the most challenges?
We experienced real difficulties during the Asian financial crisis, Sars and the recent financial tsunami, but the first of those made the most impression on me. In 1998, I was working on the frontline and saw the effect on clients very directly. Some businesses that appeared pretty normal collapsed almost without warning. We had to plan and consider very carefully how to help clients pull through. That meant having a thorough understanding of their core business and building trust so that we could provide the best advice and services. Now that we've been through tough times together, our relationship with those clients is about more than business. We had to work harder and longer during those difficult periods, but it was worthwhile.
When facing business problems, where do you turn for advice and inspiration?
I consult my boss and my colleagues. Two or more brains are better than one when it comes to testing ideas and finding the best solutions.
What does it take to be a successful senior executive?
The fundamental factor is you must enjoy what you are doing. We spend so much of our time at work these days that you can only be happy, and at your most productive, if you have a high level of job satisfaction. Of course, to lead a team, you must have good listening skills, hear what people say and let them know what you think is important. Personally, I value diversity. I have no problem with colleagues rejecting my ideas as long as they can give a good reason. You also have to be sensitive to market development in order to stay ahead of the competition.
What do you hope to achieve in the next two years?
Our corporate and commercial business is responsible for about 22.9 per cent of the bank's profit. My aim is to take that to above 30 per cent in the next two years. I will do my very best. If that is the vision, it is also important to give colleagues a clear strategy and direction while aligning resources and motivating others.
- Over the years, Chan has seen the banking business become more competitive, with leaders having to make fast and accurate decisions
- Still finds it very rewarding to work with clients and find ways to improve service within the sector
- Looking forward to the further development of renminbi (RMB) business in Hong Kong