Entertaining clients has long been part of the world of finance. It’s no longer just about wining and dining. In an era of healthier lifestyles and tighter budgets, the boundaries of where to go and what to do have shifted. The legend of the boozy dinner sealed-with-a-deal may live on, but the reality is different.

We asked bankers, fund managers and executives from Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Mumbai and Tokyo to reveal their go-to places for client meetings. If you’re on a business trip in Asia these days, don’t expect a traditional dinner. You might find yourself relaxing over a healthy breakfast, bonding over a cookery class or blind-tasting wine. Here’s what our interviewees said:

Anyone for tennis?

Who? 

Sean Taylor, chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific at Deutsche Asset Management, Hong Kong

Where? 

I like variety. Sometimes I take them to Hong Kong Yacht Club – something different to see more of Hong Kong. If they’re outside clients, I like to take them to the south side, places like Limewood in Repulse Bay. It’s by the beach, you see a different area of Hong Kong, it’s good light food, informal and relaxed. That’s the nice thing about Hong Kong. When we have clients visiting from abroad, we want to give the best overview we can of the region. They love it.

What’s changed?

The difference over the last few years? The entertainment budgets are a lot lower because of MiFID [Markets in Financial Instruments Directive] and because of how the markets have been doing. I also think people want a different type of entertainment. It’s not so formal, they want more casual. In the old days there was a culture that you had to entertain. I think now people just want ideas. They really want to learn.

Extracurricular?

I like playing tennis with clients. [Playing sport] is the best way to get to know them.

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Cooking up a deal


It's hard to take a photo that shows the wonderfully exciting atmosphere of The China Club in Hong Kong . David Tang ,the creative genius behind it ,has brilliantly evoked a feeling of 1930 s Shanghai during the Jazz age with a whiff of British colonialism with a huge splash of quirky contemporary sensibility. It's just the best place. We went and had drinks at the famous very retro sexy cosy Long March Bar and then went outside to see the staggering view created by man .. Towering blocks of outstanding beauty , I M Pei's controversial Bank of China flashing away into the balmy night sky , with a stomach churning counter view hundreds of feet down to the tiny cars and streets below... .On the way downstairs to dinner I had time to really look at Sir David Tang's very famous contemporary Chinese art collection. I was totally crazy about his art which seldom happens in my world ... And am still dreaming of a painting of a young Mongolian woman with a dog. On the way to the main dining room the shabby chic English look is summed up by two huge deep yellow arm chairs in the hall which are appropriately threadbare . This is a HUGE statement and makes you realise David Tang is culturally English . This design decision would not be made by someone who isn't .. And believe me it's no accident .This is the most highly detailed place ever . We had a beautifully laid table with silver chopsticks and a linen napkin with a star embroidered on to it as did the hot towel . Throughout the dining room the big colonial fans and huge Chinese lanterns spun their fantasy over the room. Red glowing candle holders and red flowers , white linen , a Chinese jazz singer and band and finally a performance of making Chinese noodles added to the already excited happy heightened atmosphere of the most international crowd I have seen in a long time . David Tang has gone against the tide of every other club I know which bans cell phones with draconian paranoia .. He has embraced the culture and said , who am I to stop my members from doing their business! I only saw people take photos and it worked !! #chinaclub #hongkong #davidtang

A post shared by Serena Crawford (@serenacrawford) on Sep 13, 2016 at 3:21pm PDT

Who? 

Xen Gladstone, head of sales, trading and execution at CLSA, Hong Kong

Where?

If you’re lucky to have access to some of the private members’ clubs in Hong Kong, they tend to be much more affordable than a lot of the expensive restaurants for a similar quality of food. Hong Kong Club and China Club are still popular venues. Clients often like to try them something new, so when there’s a new restaurant, they’re keen to check it out. But they’re increasingly mindful of what’s spent.

What’s changed? 

The days of excess seem a long time ago. I’m not sure whether it’s a younger demographic of clients coming through or the fact that we’re all ageing together and people are more health conscious. At our forum for the last couple of years, we’ve had a busload or two of people coming out to run Bowen Road or trail run in the morning.

One of the costs we can most easily tackle is to reduce our travel and entertainment budget. So people are being more prudent, and generally aiming at a sensible and acceptable portion of the wine list.

Extracurricular?

We try to do stuff that’s interesting for our clients, so we have a premium product called CLSA University with interesting speakers. There are events on parenting, cooking, diamonds, etc.

Getting together to do some cooking lessons or wine-tasting – it’s not necessarily related to finance but it improves relationships and communication skills and builds trust. And trust is sacrosanct in our business.

 

Local cuisine

Who?

Corrine Png, CEO at Crucial Perspective, Singapore

Where?

Clients and corporates prefer to eat at restaurants which have an upscale, sophisticated yet understated and quiet setting so they can concentrate on the content of the discussions and not be distracted by loud music. As we usually meet over lunch and everyone has a busy schedule, meeting at or near the financial district is also important so we can rush back to work.

Chinese, Japanese and European cuisine tend to be the more popular choices. These include China Club on top of Capital Tower, Jade at The Fullerton Hotel, Jaan at Swissotel, Keyaki at Pan Pacific Hotel and the Tower Club at Republic Plaza.

Some overseas-based clients and corporates who visit Singapore are also curious about our local cuisine and I would host them at the National Kitchen at the National Gallery and True Blue beside the Peranakan Museum, which serve fantastic Peranakan food. For overseas clients who are more adventurous, I have even brought them to the famous Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh at Rangoon Road.

What’s changed?

The range of wine-and-dine places in Singapore has expanded significantly and we are spoiled for choice in terms of the type of cuisine and ambience. However, entertainment budgets have also shrunk due to challenges in the financial industry as margins are squeezed and due to tighter regulations.

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Getting older

Who?

Mark Matthews, managing director and head of Asia Research at Bank Julius Baer & Co, Singapore

Where?

The Singapore Cricket Club is lovely because the food’s not expensive and you have a nice view over the Padang. People enjoy going there because it does feel like a step back in time. It’s a good place to take people from out of town. They’ve got lots of local dishes like laksa, Indian food, good roti. The favourite food is mutton dry and ikan bilis (dried anchovies).

What’s changed?

There has been more consciousness of costs. There used to be a lot of drinking, not just dinners. Asia finance, until recently, was youthful. Because it was young, there was a lot more excess but now, as the industry matures, people in it are maturing too, so they don’t want to go out partying until 5am. Twenty years ago, most people in the business would have been young Westerners. Now it’s become local.

 

Office party

Who?

Vasu Menon, vice-president for Wealth Management Research at OCBC Bank, Singapore

Where?

The buffet at Ritz-Carlton in Singapore, that’s pretty good. That’s where a lot of conferences and business meetings are held. The other is Regent Hotel’s Italian restaurant Basilico. That’s also popular.

What’s changed?

You don’t get as many people inviting you as a few years ago because everyone’s watching costs. It used to be lunches and dinners. Now you’re starting to see more breakfast meetings because they’re cheaper. You’re also seeing business partners who used to host us in restaurants now starting to host client events in their offices. They’re inviting us there and bringing food in. So people are clearly getting more cost-conscious.

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Most important meal


シャンパーニュのテイスティング中。

A post shared by 山本諭 (@dakara3104) on Mar 6, 2017 at 11:37pm PST

Who? 

Jesper Koll, head of Japan at WisdomTree, Tokyo

Where?

For breakfast, Crisscross, particularly in spring and in autumn when you can sit outside. For dinner, Takazawa in Akasaka. It is one of the best restaurants in the world, which only seats seven people so it’s extremely difficult to get in. For drinks, Radio in Aoyama. It’s like time travel, like going back to a speakeasy.

What’s changed?

In Japan, the place to be was always the Orchid Room in Hotel Okura. That was the who’s who of finance in Japan. It was a wonderful place, to be seen and to be part of the scene. You knew exactly who was in town and whom they were meeting with. That is now closed.

Breakfast in Japan was always difficult. But over the last couple of years, private breakfast places have sprung up, so that’s where I like to take people. I like breakfast meetings because they always have a defined end. Because everybody has a 9 o’clock meeting they don’t drag on. Americans are efficient so they love breakfast meetings. The European clients like a more leisurely breakfast.

Grab a coffee


A post shared by •小肥sue• (@better_s) on Nov 30, 2016 at 6:59am PST

Who?

Nader Naeimi, head of Dynamic Markets at AMP Capital Investors, Sydney

Where?

In Australia we like multinational food – good steaks, Thai, Chinese, etc. Mr Wong’s my favourite. They do really nice dumplings. Japanese restaurants are preferable for quick client lunch meetings.

What’s changed?

Spending habits are different from what they used to be. There are some restaurants that we don’t even try. It’s not like it was in the past when budgets were quite loose – there’s a lot more governance. If we have multiple clients, we tend to use in-house catering. It’s easier to manage.

Nowadays a lot more meetings are done not even over lunch, we do them over a coffee. But for the ones we do for lunch, we tend to go for places that offer an environment where we can actually talk – not too loud, not too busy.

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Wine master

Who?

Andrew Holland, CEO at Avendus Capital Alternate Strategies, Mumbai

Where?

India over the years has witnessed an increased awareness and consumption of wine. Fortunately for me, my wife is India’s first and only Master Of Wine and among only 400 in the world. This has given me the opportunity to entertain at home more often and in interesting ways.

What’s changed?

We still use five-star hotel restaurants to entertain clients but with a slight twist. My wife curates different wines to go along with the food to make the experience truly enjoyable. If the guests are people we know well, we may also do some blind tasting along with the food and try and guess where the wines are from and which one is the most expensive.

Outside of the five-star hotels, we also entertain at the Breach Candy Club or Willingdon Club for a more relaxed evening.

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