It’s becoming more difficult to get parachuted into a senior leadership role in Hong Kong if you lack Asian experience. Global banks in the city prefer to promote locals or expats who’ve already worked in Asia for several years, say headhunters.
Iain Drayton, who was appointed as co-head of investment banking for Asia ex-Japan at Goldman Sachs earlier this week, is a case in point. “He’s essentially a career expat – someone who has a passion for Asia and who relocated to Asia early on and hasn’t looked back. Banks love these kind of people as it’s become harder to move here without any regional networks or cultural or language skills,” says a Hong Kong-based headhunter.
Drayton, who will work alongside Todd Leland in his new role at Goldman, started his career in 1995 in the investment banking division of SBC Warburg in London. He transferred to Tokyo about three years later and reached associate director rank. He was with Nikko Citigroup in the Japanese capital from 2000 to 2006, most recently as a director, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In 2006, he joined Goldman Sachs as a Tokyo-based managing director and the head of financial sponsors group (FSG) for Japan. Drayton relocated to Hong Kong in 2010 as APAC head of the financial and strategic investors group (FSIG), a role he retains, and he made partner in 2014. Drayton is also currently the co-COO of the firm’s Asian investment bank, and leads its investment banking services team in the region.
Drayton’s interest in Asia dates back three decades. After leaving his UK school in 1990, a time when few Westerners had an interest in acquiring Chinese language skills, Drayton spent a year in China and earned a diploma in Mandarin and economics from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. He then did a MA in Japanese studies at Cambridge University, graduating in 1995, and was the president of the college’s Anglo-Japanese Society and a member of its Anglo-Chinese Society.
In a 2016 article on the Cambridge website Drayton said the experience of studying a foreign language “enables you to look at things from a different perspective”. “This gives you flexibility and the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I think that is a very useful skill indeed,” he added.
Candidates being interviewed by Drayton at Goldman Sachs should convey three core messages to him: “A basic (but genuine) interest in the position that they are applying for, the ability to think independently, and the determination to work very, very hard,” he said in the same article. “I have had to do many different things throughout my banking career, but one thing has never changed: work can be long, tiring and lonely. But for anyone who wants to be successful, be it academically or in sport, you need guts and stamina.”
Drayton, who is mixed race, has funded a social media campaign to encourage more Black and ethnic minority students to apply to Cambridge University.
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