Friday, 23 August 2013

Head of School and Captain of the 1st XV in 1981, Adrian is currently based full time in Hong Kong. Adrian has been instrumental, with OB HK Ambassador Sidney Ko (S. 1973-79) in the recent activity amongst our Hong Kong based OBs. There's a Brighton College Reception in Hong Kong in September, and Adrian will be there, though the OB office did manage to catch up with him briefly this summer, when he came along to the Julian Withers Cricket Match on the last day of term.

1. When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you 'grew-up'?

I was at the College 1976-81. It was a great time to be there... the school was growing and I witnessed the 'birth' of Ryle House. I was one of a batch of St Christopher's Prep school boys to arrive in the Aldrich House fourth form - Mark Simmonds (A. 1976-81) , David Thompson (A. 1976-81), Paul Forte (A. 1976-81), John Aiken(A. 1976-81), Marc Cobbs (A. 1976-81). We knew a few of the Brighton College Junior School boys joining the upper school at the same time, mainly from previous encounters on the sports field (Julian Withers (H. 1976-81), Mike Browne (L. 1976-81), Gerard Pearlberg (S. 1975-80), Mike Harwood (A.1976-81) etc). We quickly became a really tight-knit group that more-or-less stayed together throughout and in fact are still good friends to this day. I had no real vision at that time of what I wanted to become when I 'grew up'. I didn't really want school to end to be honest, because I was having such a good time!!

2. What are you now you've grown up?
I am not sure that I qualify for "grown up" yet! I am a banker... a dirty word now in the UK but then I have never worked in the UK, so 'not guilty'! Actually my only goal as I reached the end of three cold and muddy years at Exeter University was to travel the world and find somewhere warm and dry to live in. I had no career aspirations as such. But I realized I should probably 'get a job' as I would soon have nowhere to live and nothing to live on. I remember finally deciding to visit the university's career advisory bureau. I walked through the front door and was immediately confronted by a wall of employers' marketing material. One brochure in particular caught my eye. It had a picture on the front cover of a Chinese Junk floating in the Hong Kong harbour, with two smooth-looking young English men on deck drinking champagne accompanied by two beautiful young ladies in bikinis. Amazingly (for such a conservative organization), this was the brochure for The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (now the HSBC Group)! Well, I thought "that's the one for me!!".

I have now worked for the HSBC Group since I graduated 29 years ago. I've been lucky enough to live and work in Asia, the Middle East, North America and mainland Europe, performing a variety of management roles for an organization that has grown from a staff of 38,000 when I joined to 260,000 or so now, producing an annual revenue in the region of USD60 billion. I am based in Hong Kong again at present and still enjoy the thrill of living in one of the world's most vibrant cities.

Spending my adult life overseas happened by accident really, through opportunity rather than design. I am actually a 'Brightonian' (as well as an 'Old Brightonian'!) with strong family links to the area. Both my parents were born and raised in the town and have lived much of their lives a stones throw from the College in Kemp Town. My sister Liz lives in Lewes and my wife Viji and I have a home nearby too.

3. What is your best memory of school?

I have many good memories. Probably the most vivid was the day I was asked to be Head of School by Bill Blackshaw. It came as a complete and utter shock. I was not even a school prefect at the time (perhaps a record that I still hold to this day?!) as my great friend Mark Simmonds (A. 1976-81) had been appointed ahead of me to lead Aldrich House. I remember coming out of the Headmaster's study after our meeting in rather a daze and bumping into two 6th form girls whom I knew, Marina Brand (F. 1979-81) and Penny Allen (F. 1979-81), and hearing their screams as I told them what had happened! Another top memory was John Pope inviting me to be Captain of Rugby just as I finished my upper fifth form year. That was a shock too! I remember going to pre-season training in the Brecon Beacons that summer and realizing I would have one or two team members that were three years more senior than me (staying on after upper sixth to do their Oxbridge studies). Just a little intimidating! We went on to achieve the College's first unbeaten season, with a tremendous array of talent in the team (Said Hassan (D. 1976-79) and Gerard Pearlberg (S. 1975-80) on the wings - wow they were good! Mark Simmonds (A. 1976-81) supreme at fly half, Martin Donaghy (A. 1978-80) electric in the centres, Les Nash (B.1976-81) and Richard Morey (L. 1975-81) brilliant in the back row. Mike Browne (L. 1976-81) our 'rock' in the front row. I could go on and on!). I remember being carried off the pitch on my team mates' shoulders at the end of the final game (was it Christs' Hospital?), which was on the Home Ground. It felt like the whole school had turned out to watch the match and I remember feeling so proud.

4. What was the best piece of advice you were given

Two pieces of advice stay with me actually. The first is "always do the best you can" and the second: "never make enemies!".

5. What do you do /did you do as a career

I spent 23 years on HSBC's "International Manager" program. This meant I agreed to go anywhere, anytime and do anything for HSBC... no discussion! It produced a demanding and exciting career path. I started as a foreign exchange dealer in our largest treasury operation worldwide which was in Hong Kong. I was then posted to do an international trade finance management role at our Middle Eastern subsidiary The British Bank of the Middle East in the Sultanate of Oman. Then I was posted to Vancouver, Canada where we had just bought the Bank of British Columbia, to provide international corporate banking services to our Asian clients who were migrating to Canada ahead of Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997. Then I returned to Hong Kong to do global banking, followed by a stint in regional strategic planning for Asia Pacific. After that I was posted to Taiwan as Chief Risk Officer, then back to Hong Kong to do a global role in our insurance business, after which I was posted to Luxembourg to integrate a securities services business that we had bought from the Bank of Bermuda.

After more than two decades globe-trotting for HSBC, I decided to 'settle down' in Hong Kong in 2007. I continued to work in our securities services business until about two years ago when I transferred to the global internal audit function. I now audit the Group's entities in Asia Pacific and my stakeholders are the Group and Regional Boards, the audit and risk committees and of course the Regulators. My job is to provide them with assurance that Risks across HSBC's entities are being managed effectively. I took the role on following a very difficult period for HSBC when our American entities became involved in money laundering and US sanctions-busting activities, for which we were fined USD9 billion by the US Department of Justice. We are now subject to a five year deferred prosecution agreement (worldwide) and are working with the US authorities to improve our risk management and compliance standards globally. That is where I come in!

6. What does your job involve?
See above!

7. What are the most challenging parts of your job?
I think one of the biggest challenges is getting the 'work - life' balance right. In my experience this is very difficult during the earlier part of your career when you are very focused indeed on work. It then gets a bit easier as you mature and understand just how important your family and friends really are. I have also seen that employers are now more flexible than in the past (in terms of how and when their staff work), which has helped balance things out somewhat. Managing my time is still a challenge though.

8. What have you done that you are most proud of
I have three fantastic sons, Alex 23, Scott 20 and Robbie 15 of whom I am immensely proud. They are all tall, handsome and devastatingly charming!! They are definitely my finest achievement in life. Alex was born in Vancouver, Canada; Scott was born in the British Colony of Hong Kong and Robbie was born in Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China! They are all living in California now and are true ambassadors of a globally connected modern world!

9. What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Retirement!! However as I have just turned 50 I still have a bit more work left in me. I think a beach house on the southern shores of Sri Lanka might help?! My wife Viji is actually Sri Lankan and still has strong ties with her home, even though she has lived much of her life as an expatriate (like me). We are lucky enough to have a little patch of beach front land with a view to developing it one of these days. We visit the country fairly regularly and recently spent a wonderful few days in the Maldives, which lie off Sri Lanka's coast. It's not a bad part of the world to relax in!

10. What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Assuming I would already have the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible and that I can't take anything electrical (?!), I would take a hammock, a good pair of sunglasses and a book on "how to survive on a desert island"!

11. How would you like to be remembered?

Gosh, a difficult one... I hope I will be remembered - certainly by OBs and College masters that I knew - as truly enthusiastic, positive minded, fun to be with and someone who genuinely enjoyed building friendships with those around me.

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