THE most of aggressive of the 'big three' securities houses in China is without doubt China Southern Securities Co (CSSC), based in Shenzhen and headed by chairman Wang Jingshi. CSSC has forged a style that has allowed it to be become the second-largest brokerage house in China in two short years and its sights are firmly set on front-running Shanghai International Securities. The CSSC style is incorporated in the vibrant former number two man at Agriculture Bank of China who vows to surpass Shanghai International within three years - and he may just pull it off. All in all, CSSC growth is astounding. By the end of last year, its assets stood at 4.6 billion yuan (about HK$4.17 billion); then by September this year, Mr Wang conservatively calculates assets were 6.4 billion yuan. Since inception, the capital base has risen from 1.1 billion yuan to more than 2.5 billion yuan. Yet, Mr Wang is most pleased with CSSC profits, noting he has cut costs to the point where secretaries are a rare sight and managers, including the chairman, go without chauffeurs. 'At the bank, I had perks, now I go without,' Mr Wang said. The result: last year, group profit reached 250 million yuan, with the Shenzhen office contributing 150 million yuan, for a profit per person of one million yuan. This year, Mr Wang predicted profit would touch 400 million yuan and head office would contribute 250 million yuan. 'This result was in a turbulent market period where A-share underwriting was banned,' he said. 'Given our performance, I believe we are bigger than the other two 'big three' firms together.' Overall, Mr Wang sounds more like a Wall Street company head than a socialist marketeer. He stresses human resources as the key element, noting that 37 per cent of his 131 managers have doctorates or masters degrees. As for the CSSC slogan, it is creativity, safety and profitability. 'The southern part of China is our growth centre, but we look to all of China, with the world as our objective. We are moving from south to north, from the coast to the interior,' Mr Wang said. This year, Shanghai has been the focus. Having set the stage last year, the company opened operations and will begin marketing in the middle of next year, going head-to-head in Shanghai International's domain. CSSC has been equally aggressive on the global front. China Southern became the first 'big three' broker to set up a subsidiary in Hong Kong. CSSC International (HK) opened its doors this year, with the Shenzhen municipal authorities and exchange lobbying hard. Yet, People's Bank of China (PBOC) approval is pending for a company registered and ready to go in New York. Mr Wang appreciates the support of Shenzhen. 'They want us to be number one. They know we are fully behind the future of Shenzhen.' He believes Shenzhen can more than hold its own in a post-1997 world. 'After 1997, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Shanghai will still exist.' Mr Wang noted that the State Council had emphasised Shanghai as the financial centre of the Far East, leaving Shenzhen a lesser dynamic regional role. 'Shanghai is now ahead, but that is not because it has won a fair market competition. If there is more freedom, and there will be soon, it will not take Shenzhen long to correct the imbalance,' Mr Wang said. 'The securities policy is more stable here, and the market more efficient. All things equal, Shenzhen would be the stronger market.' He said it was natural the 'big three' followed different roles, given the leadership, location and management. He pointed to CSSC's effort in investments fund for emphasis. Among its creations are Pharmaceutical Development and Investment Fund, Non-Ferrous Investment Fund, Mutual Fund of State Bonds, Telecommunications Investment Fund, and Southern Investment Fund. Meanwhile, Shenzhen International Investment Services has become the country's largest advisory. Yet, where Mr Wang's philosophy differs is in the combining of financial capital with industrial firepower. CSSC has subsidiaries to handle real estate investment and direct equity purchase for its account. Infrastructure in particular is an area of interest. 'We see ourselves as a Merrill or Nomura. If we were to stick to securities, we would not be growing at our current speed. This combination is working for us,' Mr Wang said. In its first year, CSSC invested about 1.87 billion yuan in direct and equity investments. Take the highway investment in Hainan province: a 54-kilometre road from Haikou to Wanchan connected to Haikou International Airport and a large section of the coast. This 2.2 billion yuan investment was done through a holding company 25 per cent owned by CSSC and, in winning the highway mandate, CSSC was given the right to develop land around the highway and the right to build a port and airport. One creation of CSSC is Golden South Industrial, registered in Hainan with a capital of 300 million yuan. Golden South handles real estate development as well as industrial investment. This group holding company has many subsidiaries: Beijing-CSSC Industrial Development; Shenzhen Yinxin Investment; Guangzhou Tax Free Zone; Nanjing Industrial; Guangxi Beihai Jinhui Industrial; and Dalian Development Zone Bohai Industrial. 'Our securities company is connected with the development of China's economy. With the continuation of the open door policy, we will continue to advance,' Mr Wang said. 'Now, we are in a period of macroeconomic adjustment, but it will not last long. The world economy is focused on Asia, and Asia is focused on China. Everyone admits the market has a lot of potential, and that bodes well for CSSC's future.' As for Mr Wang, in some ways the boisterous chairman misses his old job. Forced to resign his position at the Agricultural Bank by a government intent on building a Chinese wall, Mr Wang has had to change his culture. 'In banking, the institution took all the risk, and I reported only to the chairman. In securities, investors take the risk and I have 48 bosses to report to, all of whom hold stakes,' Mr Wang said. 'Besides, as a banker I had nearly 1,000 billion yuan to operate with. Everyone came to me for help. Now I have a couple of billion of capital, and it is I that must modestly ask for help.'