'We never make headlines, but we are good at what we do'

Updated: 2017-04-07 08:02

By Evelyn Yu in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Shanghai-born Michael Wu Chumo, senior vice-president and country executive for Greater China at Northern Trust, shares some traits with the growing financial group he has been with for nearly a decade.

Both he and the group are focused, with integrity and keeping a very low profile.

The camera-shy executive, who politely turned down China Daily's request for a video-shooting session, says the Chicago-headquartered bank, which manages many of the world's most prominent pension, insurance, and mutual funds, is not "ambitious".

Having started its business by offering wealth-management services to some of the wealthiest and most famous names in the United States, Wu calls Northern Trust a "very conservative" bank.

"Bankruptcy of a bank concerns most people, especially the rich and famous. At Northern Trust, the legacy of being prudent in balance sheet management is well upheld today."

Northern Trust was one of just two of 20 major US banks that clung on to dishing out dividends at the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.

"Our philosophy is that our balance sheet is for the benefit of our clients, rather than aggressively leveraging the money for higher returns. We want to make sure there's enough liquidity, that if our clients want to invest in a project tomorrow, they can do so," says Wu.

Expanding rapidly via mergers and acquisitions is neither an alternative. Rather, Wu's strategy is organic growth.

"Since being founded in Chicago in 1889, Northern Trust has kept its name as it is, a rare case in US banking history as most banks had changed their names following mergers and acquisitions."

This means Northern Trust remains a single platform across the globe and so, if there's any technology advancement, it could be implemented worldwide very quickly, says Wu.

Reflecting on his career, Wu thinks he has benefited a lot from geographical and business rotation. He was constantly on the move between Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing and had the chance to work in areas ranging from project management to outsourcing and business development.

He values leadership, putting a lot of effort into identifying talent, including succession planning, key talent review and rotation. He wants to give chosen talents ample exposure to different challenges, turning them into tomorrow's leaders.

Looking ahead, Wu is dedicated to nurturing the growth of talents as well as being the unsung hero for his clients' performance, offering outstanding services.

"I was once told by a government client that what he liked about us the most was that we never make headlines. We keep a low profile, but we're good at what we do."


'We never make headlines, but we are good at what we do'

(HK Edition 04/07/2017 page9)