Cassandra Choi found a role where she could build her own client base out of Hong Kong, while growing her career as part of a global investment bank.
As graduation approached, Cassandra Choi felt torn between staying in New York, a city she had grown to love as an undergraduate, or returning to Hong Kong and embracing the entrepreneurial streak she traces to her father, who built an import-export business from scratch.
Being a successful trader meant incorporating my own entrepreneurial skills and individual style into a role that has always followed a specific model.
“My plan was to go into investment banking, and New York felt like the place to be for that,” Choi says. “At the same time, I missed my family and friends in Hong Kong and I also wanted to do what my father did when he was my age—start his own business and building it into something very personal and meaningful.”
At Morgan Stanley, she found the ideal solution: an Analyst position with the equities trading desk based in Hong Kong. “The beauty of the role was that I had the freedom to build my own client base as a trader, yet be part of an international investment bank,” Choi says.
Eight years later and now a Vice President in Sales & Trading, Choi reflects on her decision and what it’s meant for her career and personal growth. “As a woman in what is predominantly a male business, I’ve really made the role my own by establishing personal methods of effectiveness and resiliency, while enjoying the entrepreneurial aspect which makes my position so personally fulfilling,” she says.
Choi’s exposure to entrepreneurship started early. She grew up watching her father hard at work. She would visit him at his office and observe how he ran his team, while establishing and nurturing client relationships. “What made the biggest impression on me was how my father knew that client relationships were the foundation of his business, and, when working with his customers, he could always turn obstacles into opportunities,” she says.
It hasn’t all been smooth. It took Choi time to adapt to the pressures of trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which required gaining a firm grasp of the mechanics of equity sales and trading. But the hardest part was cultivating her own sense of quiet determination amid the frenetic atmosphere. She also learned to be more resilient when a trade failed to go through or performed poorly.
Choi has made a point of sharing her experience with junior traders, particularly women just entering the sales and trading division. She makes time to mentor interns and analysts and also speaks at recruitment events, where she talks about the importance of personalizing the trader’s role.
“For me, being a successful trader meant incorporating my own entrepreneurial skills and individual style into a role that has always followed a specific model,” says Choi. “It’s my hope that for as many different trades the firm makes every day, there can then be as many different styles of traders who can make them happen.”