Bank of East Asia

Financial community bids farewell to trailblazing HK banker

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 4:09pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 3:51pm

Hong Kong financiers are mourning the death of pioneering capital markets banker Patrick Thomas, a driving force in the Hong Kong dollar bond market, and founder of boutique investment bank, Oakreed Financial Services.

Thomas, who was born in Faversham in Kent on June 26, 1947, died on September 15 in Haute-Nendaz in Switzerland, and a memorial service is being held in Switzerland on Friday, September 21.

Thomas, who read modern languages, before switching to law at Cambridge where he was awarded his hockey blue in 1967, worked at a variety of firms, including BP and Elf Aquitaine, before deciding to switch to banking – partly because he liked the idea of the favourable mortgage terms, and wanted to buy an apartment.

He joined the London-based subsidiary of Manufacturers Hanover, which is now part of JPMorganChase, and in 1983 was posted to Hong Kong as managing director of Manufacturers Hanover Asia, an active player in the syndicated loan and bond markets.

David Li Kwok-po, chairman and chief executive of the Bank of East Asia, which was to back Thomas when he set up his own firm, Oakreed Financial Services, described him “an innovator and a dear friend... and one of the true pioneers of the modern Hong Kong financial markets”.

“I always enjoyed his company. But what I most respected about him was his thoughtfulness. He was one of the most caring people that I have known, always putting others before himself. It just flowed naturally from him,” Li told the South China Morning Post by e-mail.

Li said Thomas was equally at ease discussing history or philosophy and loved hiking and would often use the opportunity to discuss some deep issue with his hiking companions. “He would never argue – he simply enjoyed seeing where a discussion would go,” Li said.

Karl Hurst of HT Capital Management, recalled Thomas’s deal-making ability at Manufacturers’ Hanover, which is now part of JPMorgan Chase.

“He was one of the pathfinders for the Hong Kong dollar debt market in the early 1980s,” said Hurst.

“Patrick used humour, good grace and professionalism and most of the signings of Hong Kong dollar capital market transactions at that time were held in Manny Hanny’s office which was testimony to his prowess in pursuing and winning transactions,” Hurst said.

Philip Cracknell, global head syndications and deputy head of capital markets with Standard Chartered Bank, said Thomas led “some of the first and most innovative financings” in Hong Kong capital markets before leaving to set up boutique investment bank Oakreed Financial Services.

Thomas thought of the name while reading the story of the oak and the reed in Aesop’s Fables to his children.

Oakreed, whose shareholders included Bank of East Asia and the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, focused on the “still quite nascent Hong Kong dollar debt capital markets,” said Cracknell, who was also Thomas’s brother in law, and visited him in Switzerland the week before his death.

Rivals and colleagues of Thomas praised him for his charm, humour, business acumen and ability to see the best in others.

Veteran Asian financial publisher and journalist Michael Lawes said Thomas was known for building a great team at Manny Hanny, and was a favourite among financial journalists in Hong Kong “for his knowledge and his charm.

“His record spoke for itself,” said Lawes, “there was no need for a huge ego.”

Andrew Fung Hau-chung, an executive director of Hang Seng Bank where he is also head of head of treasury and investment, said Thomas was a friend and “a very well respected gentleman”.

Thomas’s early career included stints in Germany and France, and he was fluent in German and French, and had a good working knowledge of Spanish and Italian, according to Cracknell.

“Later when he moved to Hong Kong he tried Mandarin but never really managed the complexities of Putonghua,” Cracknell said.

However, although he did not master Chinese languages, he quickly made his presence felt in the local community.

Philip Li Wing-kuen, managing director of China Chengxin (Asia Pacific) Credit Rating Co, who worked with Thomas and the Hong Kong Capital Markets Assocation to improve the Hong Kong dollar bond market, said Thomas fitted in well, moving effortlessly between Hong Kong and western cultures.

“He was very friendly. Hong Kong people could mix very easily with him. He liked the oriental culture. He knew how to play mah jong,” Li said, adding that Thomas was able to generate business with top local and foreign companies and institutions."

Thomas eventually sold Oakreed to BNP, where it was renamed BNP Oakreed.

Didier Balme, chief executive of BNP Paribas Hong Kong at the time, recalled it as “a period of great success and great friendship, which I still remember with deep emotion”.

Thomas enjoyed an idyllic retirement in Europe after leaving BNP Oakreed, and loved spending time with family and friends. He was a beloved husband of Patricia and loving father to Marine, Samantha and Mark.

Cracknell said Thomas was an accomplished poet and wrote and self-published a book of verse in 2003, “Rhyme and Reason and Vicey Verse”, with the proceeds going to charity.

“Patrick never went past a beggar, a homeless person or even a street performer without giving something,” Cracknell said.