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Head of Financial Products Division, BOCI Securities
Bank of China International, Hong Kong
Rong Lu was not looking for a career in finance as she began her undergraduate studies in China in 1986. But she landed in that field, and has enjoyed a successful career path that has taken her from her homeland in Asia, to Berkeley-Haas, and then to Hong Kong, where her achievements have included launching Bank of China International's fixed-income business.
Lu initially wanted to study biochemistry in Beijing or Shanghai. But an administrative fluke limited students from her province of Fujian from studying biochemistry at the schools she had chosen. So she enrolled at her hometown university in Xiamen, which was starting up a highly competitive program in international finance—then just a novelty in China.
"The faculty said it was very difficult to get admitted into the program," she says. "But that interested me." Later, when she asked her uncle in Taiwan where she could learn more about foreign exchange markets, he pointed her toward Berkeley-Haas.
"It was fascinating to see people [at Berkeley] debating with opposing views because in China at the time, if you had your own opinions, you did not voice them strongly," she says.
After graduation, she landed a Wall Street job at Merrill Lynch, but asked for a transfer to Hong Kong to be closer to her parents, who have since moved to Hong Kong as well. "Few people wanted to move there then," Lu recalls.
Lu began in fixed-income sales in Merrill's Hong Kong office and then quickly became a trader specializing in credit markets and convertible bonds. She left after five years to join Credit Suisse to set up a local currency business in China. To spend more time with her two young children (she now has three), she then moved into a part-time position at a hedge fund started by Credit Suisse. In 2002, Lu accepted Bank of China International's offer to start its fixed-income business. She subsequently took charge of the Financial Products Division, including equity derivatives, and expanded the staff to more than 60 people.
Lu says the Haas School's principle "Confidence Without Attitude" has helped her career at the bank. Instead of hiring diva-like superstars, Lu sought "talented people who can cooperate and fit into this culture, which reflects Chinese values and partly my personality," Lu says from her office in the iconic I.M. Pei-designed Bank of China office tower. "We are a good team that supports one another." —Richard Kurovsky