Sandra Leung, COO, Market Development Division, Hong Kong Stock Exchange
By Kenny Lau
Like many other young talents, Sandra Leung grew up in a nurturing environment where she was taught to strive for excellence, and she seized every learning opportunity to enrich her understanding of the world through hands-on participation. “I was always reminded that I need to equip myself in the best way possible. My mother once told me that I don’t need to be doing everything in life, but I must learn the right way of doing everything.”
Born and raised in Hong Kong and educated locally in one of the best public secondary schools before spending three years for high school in Andover, Massachusetts and another four years at the University of Pennsylvania, Leung is a stellar performer starting from a young age, always attempting to reach above the ceiling by stepping out of her comfort zone, including internships every summer and a semester abroad in Beijing.
Because of the exposure, she was taken onto a career path other than what was anticipated. “I actually wanted to go into the hospitality industry and was looking for a college known for hotel management, but I also applied to Wharton as my father had recommended, thinking that I’d get rejected. Life clearly had a different plan for me, and I got into Wharton. Through the curriculum and internship opportunities, I soon realized that business was also very interesting, challenging and multi-faceted.”
Leung then spent the next nine years with Goldman Sachs here in Hong Kong, moving up the ranks to become an executive director in investment banking and COO of a subgroup. “The unpredictable and long working hours early in my career were the most challenging. I was very lucky to have had a group of incredible mentors who showed me the way to work-life balance. I also learned to be less shy in sharing my thoughts with my supervisors who were amazingly understanding of my needs.”
“As I progressed in my career, I needed to learn the art of managing relationships with clients and teammates. For someone relatively young in a senior position, this was particularly challenging. But I think back to what my mother once taught me: as long as I am equipped to do the job, knowledgeable on the subject, fair in every decision I make and effective in communication, it should be fine.”
Leung joined the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) as COO of Market Development last year in a move “to be on a steeper learning curve and to be on a platform that is constantly growing.” HKEX, she believes, is the perfect platform and the most direct way to move forward the economic and social aspects of the community of Hong Kong – an area in which she is inclined to create substantial value.
Outside of work, Leung is an adventurist and a dedicated volunteer. She once took a 4-month sabbatical to enroll in the Basic Cuisine and Basic Patisserie courses at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney (and graduated). She is actively involved in social and diversity-related initiatives, including serving as a co-vice chair of the HKEX Women’s Exchange. Leung also feels particularly strongly about supporting young ones and attending to issues facing the elderly.
“I have been extremely fortunate with my education and career path, with access to the best schools, best advice, best training, best internship opportunities and best jobs; I simply want our young people to have the same opportunities,” says Leung, who is also CFO of Time Auction, an NGO which connects students to mentors while encouraging volunteerism.
In a close-knit family, Leung has always had an unparalleled relationship with her parents and grandparents – their wisdoms and stories were not only inspirational but also invaluable in shaping the future leader that is their daughter and granddaughter. As such, Leung is determined to give back and make a difference, however large or small, by addressing the unmet needs of Hong Kong’s elderly. “There are so many elderly in Hong Kong who live alone – bored, helpless and some immobile – with very little love and care; they definitely deserve better.”
“Not to be SAPPY, but what I find useful when trying to achieve something – whatever it may be – is to have a Support network of mentors, friends and family; always bring your A-Game, constantly learning to better equip yourself; be Persistent, we are often stronger than we think; surround yourself with Positive energy; and know Yourself – your strengths, limitations, priorities – and act accordingly. Remember that you always have a choice.”