Brokers branching out in testing times Dwindling stock market turnover has eroded the commission income of our broker friends so much that they are now taking up other jobs to keep the cash flowing. Hardly surprising then that Anthony Espina, head of small brokerage firm Goldride Securities, has taken the job as Greater China agent of Tethys Petroleum, a gas and oil company active in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. The job comes with an undisclosed fixed annual fee income for Mr Espina, former chairman of the Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association. Mr Espina, of course, denies he took the job for money to make up for the falling commission income. But with average daily turnover in Hong Kong being 16 per cent down from last year, Lai See isn't buying that line. 'What I'm doing now is diversifying the business lines of my brokerage firm. Brokers can do more than just execute trade in the stock market,' he said. 'I want to expand my firm into a British-style boutique merchant bank that can offer a full range of broking, fund management and investment advisory services.' Just execute trade in the stock market? Not so long ago, that would have kept your hands full. And your pocket. Art of leaving at the right time Mr Espina is not the only one to have sought an alternative career. Alice Hui Suk-fong, former UBS utility analyst who left the financial industry last April to become a full-time artist, will host an exhibition for a month from January 10 at Central Atrium in Tsim Sha Tsui. 'A Macro Rose Oil Painting & Sparkling Crystal Drawing Exhibition', organised by Sino Group, will showcase Ms Hui's oil paintings and crystal drawings, which she hopes 'will bring joy and hope to the audience'. She will also donate six crystal glass paintings for charity. Before turning to art, Ms Hui was head of regional utilities research and executive director at UBS, writing research reports. Frequently quoted by the media, she won many awards for her research. However, her shift to painting was not as abrupt as it seems. She actually graduated from the University of Toronto with a double degree in arts and finance. In those three years, she completed a specialist programme in commerce and economics as well as a major programme in fine arts studio. After graduation, she opted to join the colourless world of finance but got tired with it and decided to give arts a try last April - when the stock market was witnessing a bull run. There ends her similarity with Mr Espina. 'When I was an analyst, I focused on writing research reports, which would be outdated some time after their release. Being a creative artist, however, I can produce oil paintings and crystal glass drawings that will last forever,' she said. Good thinking. And good timing, too. With the stock market tanking, the art market definitely seems way more promising. Banking on in-house Santa Hang Seng Bank sprang a pleasant surprise for over 100 chronically ill children and their families at the bank's penthouse on Saturday. Instead of getting a Santa Claus, the lender had its chief operating officer Dorothy Sit to dress as female Santa to present gifts to the children. The bank has been socially active in other areas as well. Its 60 volunteers and their families are to take part in a weeding activity in Sai Kung Country Park. The bank helped plant a part of the 10,000 seedlings in the country park last year. The participants will help with weeding and spraying fertiliser on the plants that day. Hang Seng Bank uses green as its corporate colour, and tries to live up to its status as a green bank. Its 262,000 square foot office at MegaBox in Kowloon Bay recently received ISO 14001 certification for its comprehensive environmental management system. In the year of red, that's a nice contrast. Marrying in troubled times Keeping the financial crisis in mind, insurance broker AON has stepped up to the plate. It has launched a special insurance cover up to HK$150,000 for cancellation of a wedding party if the supplier or the restaurant goes belly up. All we now need to ensure all those fairytale wedding parties stay on track is an insurance cover to protect brides and grooms against lay-offs.