The COVID Diaries: DCM originator 8

The following interview is with a Hong Kong-based debt capital markets originator. It was conducted on 15 May 2020.

What have working arrangements been in Hong Kong over the last few weeks and what is the plan going forward?

All the banks in Hong Kong are now back on the desk though we have had an extended lockdown. When we have Zoom chats with colleagues in London or New York there is a bit of jealousy but I stress that, with the protests in Hong Kong last year, we have been in and out of lockdown since September 2019. For COVID-19 we were in full lockdown from late January.

We are now at the other end, though, and there have been very few new cases here recently. We were back in the office for the first time this week. We are functioning as usual and there is a sense of relief having been under lockdown in some form or another for so long.

What is your sense of public opinion on the crisis? Is there optimism or still a lot of caution in Hong Kong?

There is still a lot of caution. There is a mentality of wanting to eradicate the virus here and I think the sense is that if that takes another month or two of being very cautious it is worth it. There is a lot of pride associated with eradicating the virus and not wanting to follow the US or Europe.

We are seeing a lot more bars and restaurants reopen, though, and they are becoming busier. Everyone is still wearing masks and is very respectful but there is relief that Hong Kong seems to be ahead of the curve, even compared with Singapore and Japan. We don’t want to have a situation like Singapore, where there was a relapse and everyone has to go back into lockdown.

“I think there was also some novelty around being in lockdown at first. In the last week or two there seems to have been some fatigue as cases go closer to zero. There is a desire for things to open.”

From your observations at a distance, what is your perspective on the handling of the crisis in Australia and elsewhere?

From a work perspective, the banks were aware of what was happening in places like Hong Kong and how working from home was done here, so lessons were learnt and the teams could be prepared.

As a result, I think people have just pulled up their socks and are getting on with it. As bankers we are busy and employed but also aware of friends and family that have been severely affected by the crisis. I do not think anyone is complaining.

The outcome has been very good in Australia, compared with the horror stories you hear in the rest of the world. When the virus first hit outside of China it was late summer in Australia and people were still able to get out and about a lot more than elsewhere. I think there was also some novelty around being in lockdown at first, particularly as everyone began using technology to communicate a lot more and engage with a new form of socialising.

In the last week or two there seems to have been some fatigue as cases go closer to zero. There is a desire for things to open. By and large, though, given there is a light at the end of the tunnel, people seem to have confidence. This is in stark contrast to colleagues in New York and London where they have been in lockdown for a long time and there does not seem to be a pathway back to normal.

Even just the housing situation in Australia is probably better for lockdown. In London and New York, a lot of people are stuck with their families in very small spaces, so the living conditions are not very good. Of course it varies from person to person but in general families have a bit more space in Australia. Australia is very much the lucky country once again.

How do you think things will be different when we get back to normal? What changes can you see to work practices, social changes and the economy?

There seems to be a split between those keen to keep working from home and those wanting to come back to the office. I like to be around people a lot more to connect and find out what is happening, but equally there are a lot of people who are reflecting on working from home, have enjoyed it and actually find themselves to be more productive.

We are only six weeks into this so whether they would feel the same way in 12 months’ remains to be seen. But I think there is a sense that a lot of people would rather spend more of their time working at home.

We have been asking people what they have been reading relating to the crisis but we think everyone has seen enough by this stage. What are your entertainment recommendations for lockdown?

My wife and I have got into The Newsroom on Apple TV. We have exhausted Netflix and Disney so now we are onto Apple TV – and this is a good show.

KangaNews is your source for the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Australasian debt capital markets. For complete coverage, click here.