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Head of Global Markets Investment Products
Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong
When Christopher Lee, BS 90 (Mech. Eng.), MBA 95, then a newly minted Berkeley MBA, started work at Merrill Lynch in 1995, the world of investment banking was barely recognizable: Hardly anyone outside the business had heard of derivatives and the opportunities for Asian Americans on Wall Street were few and far between. “I was the only yellow face on the trading desk,” Lee recalls in a matter-of-fact tone.
Now, of course, derivatives are well-known, if poorly understood, financial instruments, Asian Americans hold C-level positions throughout the economy, and Lee himself has headed key units of two major investment banks-—UBS and now Deutsche Bank, which he joined in mid-2010. In his current role, he serves as a Hong Kong-based managing director and head of global markets investment products.
Lee, who speaks fluent Cantonese, has made the most of a multicultural upbringing. He lived in Albany, Calif., while attending Cal and stayed close to his relatives in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He says he’s more comfortable in Hong Kong, where he has lived for eight years and is raising a family, than he was in New York.
His passion for continuous learning and curiosity about other cultures are key assets for an executive who runs a complex business across seven diverse Asian nations, including India, China, and Singapore. “In the U.S. we’ve got a common language and one set of rules,” he says. But Asia, of course, is far from homogenous, and Lee says that Western firms must have local roots on the ground to make a business succeed.
Lee took risks and made successful bets on new products based on derivatives while at UBS, and expects to follow a similar strategy at Deutsche, where he foresees that derivatives will be sold to mainstream institutional investors. Lee heads the group that is developing and selling those new products, along with a technical team developing a platform to deliver them. While acknowledging that derivatives are controversial, he says “the good stories are often forgotten.” Major companies like Microsoft use derivatives as a hedge against currency fluctuations and the risk of investing in new companies, he notes.
Despite making Asia his home, Lee hasn’t forgotten his East Bay roots. He’s a member of the Dean’s Advisory Circle at Haas and a trustee of the Oakland Museum of California.