A view from the roof of the world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 2011, 12:00am


Like the metal he trades, Law Kai-yee has made a habit of scaling new peaks. And fittingly for the son of a tram driver who has climbed the social and corporate ladder to become one of the city's most eminent gold traders, he has now mounted the biggest bump of them all.

In his dapper suit, the 52-year-old deputy general manager of Hantec Pacific and supervisory committee member of The Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange Society, looks no different from any other Central executive, except that he is now a legend in the white-collar community after planting the flag of the exchange on the summit of Mount Everest last month to mark the exchange's centenary.

'There're a lot of similarities to gold trading and mountaineering,' he said. 'Both need hard work, discipline, and passion. There are also differences. When you make a mistake in investment, you lose money. When you make a mistake in mountain climbing, you lose your life.'

Law embarked on a 46-day expedition to Everest on April 8 with two fellow Hongkongers as part of a 10-member Chinese team. All three, together with five others in the team, reached the summit and stayed there for 20 minutes.

'It was amazing. You immediately know you are on the highest point of the world, everything is below you,' recounted Law of that magic moment.

While he was away chasing snowy heights, gold hit as many as 14 new record highs in those 46 days. It reached its latest record on April 29, at US$1,538.80 per ounce, and was hovering around US$1,512 on May 20, the day Law made it to the top.

The youngest of four children, Law started work at the age of 17 in a printing factory. As he found little cheer on the shop floor, he signed up with a forex firm as a trainee in the 1980s. He joined Hantec in 1994 as a forex, stock and gold trader and rose through the company's ranks.

While he has been tracking stock and gold price movements for more than 30 years, he has been trekking on weekends and going away climbing on long holidays for just as long.

Law and his two partners are among only six Hongkongers to mount Everest, which, at 8,848 metres, equals 18 International Commerce Centres stacked atop one another. Since Edmund Hillary in 1953, some 4,000 people have reached the summit, including 160 Chinese.

Law may be an oddity in the humdrum world of money but he sees parallels between his profession and his passion. 'For an expedition, we have to do the homework on the route, the weather and the equipment, the same way we suss out market information to spot trends.'

He said the key to success in both investing and climbing was alertness. 'Both are risky businesses so the risk needs to be sized up carefully.''

Law now has his feet firmly back on the ground while gold keeps climbing. 'It doesn't mean it will go up forever. One has to be prepared for the worst,' he said.

'As in mountains, one has to watch every step in the market to look out for that sudden plunge.'