Quality opinions count for personable credit analyst

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2007, 12:00am


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Ryan Tsang Yee-king is director of S&P's corporate and infrastructure ratings and financial institution ratings in Greater China

UNBEATABLE INTERPERSONAL skills, a determination to ferret out the facts, and a head for figures are all prerequisites for the role of credit analyst, along with a willingness to travel and work closely with high-ranking clients.

I am based in Hong Kong, where I lead two teams of analysts who evaluate the credit standings of corporate and financial institutions in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Every day, I take orders from our head of the Hong Kong office, but apart from that, my responsibility is to ensure that the team produces quality opinions for investors.

As the team leader, most of my time is allocated to managing the team, sitting on rating committees, doing quality checks and providing input into analysts' work. That's pretty much my internal function.

Outside the organisation, I need to deal with relationships with different stakeholders including the media, intermediaries, issuers and investors.

There's been a lot of high yield credit in the past 15 months or so, so we need to be good at doing surveillance on all this credit.

I also manage clients' expectations - that's one thing I find challenging. In some markets that are not familiar with credit ratings, I need to spend lots of time explaining what exactly credit rating is, as it's quite different from their perception.

I do have to travel a fair bit, and all over the place. In Hong Kong, we cover Greater China, so most of the time I am somewhere in the mainland, Taiwan or Mongolia.

Apart from managing meetings with clients, I do other relationship-building meetings with investors and introduce what we do to the rest of world. We go out on road trips to London, New York and other major financial centres to tell investors about the opportunities out here.

To assign a credit rating on a company, I start off with background research on the country, industry and company. We request the company to provide information on its business strategy and operations, in addition to its financial statements and other financial information. Based on this, we hold an initial credit rating meeting to gain further understanding of the company and its management.

Armed with this understanding and information, the analyst will prepare an analysis based on our methodologies and rating criteria. The analyst will make a recommendation, which will be discussed and voted on by a rating committee, which usually includes analysts from different offices to make sure our ratings are consistent across offices.

What is most satisfying about my job is working with my supervisor and a pat on the back from him. Apart from recognition from my seniors and the management, the most valuable recognition comes from the customers. When I get a call from investors saying that my opinion or comments are right on the spot and they'd like to know more and talk more, that is very satisfying.

Recognition is important because we need to be independent and objective, and sometimes have to make hard decisions that the issuer might not like.

So it's good to get confirmation from an investor in the market that my opinion is going in the right direction.

If you would like to work in this industry, you should be open-minded. Don't get too caught up with series and books and stuff like that, as the business environment is fast-changing, and we have to think and work at the same time.