Career Advice Working Women

Breaking boundaries

Being flexible and open minded are key to dealing with the unpredictable financial market. Accepting the new and unexpected is nothing new to Stella Lee Wai-fun, president of the foreign exchange division at Success Futures and Foreign Exchange. Lee worked as a fashion designer before entering the finance industry. 

"As a designer, you are asked to break boundaries, so I have had little problem accepting new things," she says. "Some veterans, who have been very successful in the past, have lost money because they have set too many limits." 

Today, Lee is regularly invited to radio shows and writes columns for various media, dispensing investment advice and market analyses. Before this, however, she was just another layman.

"I was a fashion designer with my own boutique, but thought that investment was something that everyone needed to learn so

I began to study some short courses," she says. "I was forced to close down my boutique because the landlord wanted a huge rent rise, and I became a financial consultant," says Lee, who entered the industry in 1993. 

With no experience, Lee had to learn from scratch. "It was tough. Many of the clients were more experienced in investment than me. Business was poor, but I told myself I was there to learn, not to make money," she says. 

Now, Lee is an expert in the field with many coming to her for tips. "I have a micro blog where I am willing to share all I know, regardless of whether people are my clients," she says.

Lee says she and her clients have learned and grown together, and have formed a bond. "It feels like I am their friend, not their adviser. Sometimes, I have made decisions that have been wrong, but instead of blaming me, they have consoled me," says Lee.

Throughout the years, Lee has seen the role of a financial consultant switch from an analyser to an adviser. "In the past, we would receive market news from the research department, digest it and explain to clients how these things would impact the market," she says. "Now, clients are well-informed and know what their options are, be it stocks, funds or foreign exchange."

Lee thinks that today's investors are more mature, making her job easier. "Clients have learned not to put all their eggs in one basket, and to think more long term about their investments."

Lee sees huge opportunities. "Mainlanders think Hong Kong companies are trustworthy and professional. I began working on the mainland in 2000 and found that Hong Kong people have a lot to offer in terms of educating investors on the right attitude and ways to invest," she says.

Lee believes that the secret to success is being passionate about what you do. "You cannot be successful at something if you are not passionate about it," she says.

Lee will soon publish a book about her years in finance. "Being a writer is one of my ambitions. I hope my experiences will benefit more investors," she says.