Cheung Tin-sang: Broker with the personal touch

Cheung Tin-sang is friends with clients after half a century in the business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 2:55am

In the era of the mega firm, you may wonder why there are still 430 small brokerages active in the city. The answer may well be the innate human need for relationships.

Cheung Tin-sang, who turned 75 last weekend, is a typical example of how traditional brokers survive in the city.

Cheung has no idea how to use e-mail or do internet trading but still buys and sells stocks for clients every day, a job he has enjoyed doing for half a century and has vowed to continue in the future.

"All my clients and many brokers are my long-term friends. My work allows me to meet with my friends every day. Why should I retire?" he said.

While many think trading through the internet is the way of the future and old brokers will be forced out by technology, one should remember that many wealthy senior citizens still like contact with brokers with whom they have been their friends for decades.

This is why Cheung does not think internet trading will hurt his business. He is more worried the exchange's shorter lunches - now only one hour instead of two - are more of a problem as he cannot stay and chat with his clients for a longer time.

His personal skill explains how has been a successful broker since the 1960s until now. In 1969, when he joined Sun Hung Kai Securities, he earned a monthly income of HK$2,000 - which looks like peanuts now but he was the highest-paid broker at that time.

He worked for several decades at Sun Hung Kai, witnessing the growth in the stock markets, the many financial crises and the expansion of Hong Kong into a international financial centre. He left Sun Hung Kai in 1997 and now works at DBS Vickers.

Last Saturday, he has held a party at his home town in Shunde, attracting 280 guests, including many clients and brokers to celebrate his 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary.

Among the heavyweight guests were Paul Chow Man-yiu, former chief of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, and Brian Fung, chairman of the Hong Kong Securities Association.

Chow, who was a colleague with Cheung at Sun Hung Kai, said it was not easy for 280 Hong Kong financial busy bees to travel several hours to Shunde to attend the events. "It was friendships that brought so many people all the way here," Chow said.

Friendship and the personal touch, may explain why there are still so many small brokers in Hong Kong.