Tell us about your career path and what particular experience has been most valuable to you along the way?
Before joining HK Electric, I worked as a dealer trading money markets, spot FX and interest rate futures. After a few exciting years, however, I could not imagine myself still shouting "Mine" "Yours" at brokers when I was forty years old. I saw an advertisement for a corporate treasury opening and thought it was a wonderful opportunity as I could utilize my experience and yet worked on something new.
When I first joined HK Electric (Hongkong Electric Holdings, later renamed as Power Assets Holdings), it derived over 99 per cent of its revenue from its regulated utility business in Hong Kong meaning my focus was largely local. In 1999, however, it started investing in utilities overseas, focusing on distribution networks which are regulated and provide stable and steady cash flows. With each acquisition my role expanded geographically. We now have an international presence covering the UK, Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand, the Netherlands, Portugal and Canada.
In 2008 I took up my present position and suddenly became "schizophrenic" as I now oversee the retirement schemes as well. My liability side has always wanted lower interest rates and suddenly I now have an asset side wanting the opposite.
Upon the spinoff of HK Electric from Power Assets, I also assist in the investor relations function meeting with equity investors. It's a wonderful opportunity as I get to see both sides of the coin.
Treasury is more important than ever at HK Electric given our focus on cash flows
My prior work experience as a dealer is most valuable as it provided me not only with product knowledge but more importantly, how to work under intense pressure and to make decisions at the spilt of a second. This came in very handy when we faced so many crises over the years, especially the Asian financial crisis when the USD/HKD peg was under severe attack and HKD interest rate shot up with 1 month HIBOR fixed at 50 per cent!.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face?
As a business trust we pay out free cash flows and therefore need to minimize our interest expenses as much as possible. We need to strike the right balance between floating and fixed rate borrowing in the present rising interest rate environment to provide our shareholders with a steady and stable return.
How is the performance of your treasury group measured?
We have KPI's which are aligned with organizational objectives and management directives.
What takes up most of your time?
Treasury is more important than ever at HK Electric given our focus on cash flows. Much of my time is spent on working with our finance department to ensure that we deliver what is needed to achieve our organizational goals.
How has technology changed treasury?
Technology has changed treasury in the same way it has changed other aspects of work – more efficiency and higher productivity with fewer constraints. However, unlike certain industries which have been disrupted by new technologies, the fundamental functions of treasury remain unchanged. Executing a trade by electronic means achieves the same objective as doing it over the phone but faster and more efficient. Would AI replace a treasury team one day? May be. May be not. I probably would have retired by then (chuckle).
What is your favourite hobby or sports team?
My favourite hobby is listening to music. I once was so successful in my company's "Name that tune" competition that the Managing Director asked what I spent my working time on.
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