Winning the chance to attend the 2013 Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong with Project Firefly was a truly memorable experience. One of the highlights was getting to know the other winners, Joel Lee from Singapore and Romain Su from France: two standout gents. Sharing the week’s panel discussions and keynote addresses with them was interesting as whilst we are all interested in finance and banking we all come from non-finance backgrounds: Joel is studying communications in Singapore, Romain works at the French embassy in Warsaw and I’m completing a masters in international politics in Dublin. Thus, each of us had a distinct perspective on the week’s events and it was interesting to see how our respective backgrounds shaped those perspectives.
The other people who made a lasting impression on my week were Project Firefly’s co-founders, Daniel Garraty and Simon Evenett. Hearing Daniel passionately articulate Project Firefly’s future vision on a rooftop bar in Kong Kong city centre was a definite highlight. I’m genuinely proud to have been involved in such a trailblazing initiative. Similarly, quizzing Simon – who is a professor at the university of St. Gallen in Switzerland – about his background at the World Bank and the possibility of pursuing an academic career was really informative and insightful.
The conference itself was eye opening both in terms of scale and insights. I got the opportunity to attend and participate in panel discussions on a broad range of topics, from gender diversity on corporate boards and the future of the Eurozone to China’s urbanization problems and investment opportunities in Asean countries. One of the great things about the Project Firefly experience was that we were treated as full participants of the conference, not just interested students. I got a real thrill at being able to ask Lorenzo Bini Smaghi – former member of the European Central Bank’s executive board – about the possibility of tax harmonization in the EU, an issue that is something of a political hot potato in Ireland. Seeing various luminaries of the financial world, such as Peter Thiel and Larry Fink, give keynote addresses was another fascinating experience. Finally, the opportunity to network with such a collection of high net worth individuals and organizations is unparalleled: something I probably didn’t exploit as much as I should have!
The final highlight for me was getting to visit Hong Kong itself, a dazzlingly dynamic and densely populated city with loads of stuff going on. Eating industrial quantities of the best Chinese food I’ve ever tasted on a daily basis was pretty special, as were the many spectacular views we enjoyed from Hong Kong’s rooftop bars. Visiting Credit Suisse’s regional headquarters in Kowloon on the Chinese mainland and attending a campus-recruiting event there with the chairman of the company, Urs Rohner, was another great experience. All in all, I had a fabulous time at the AIC and would really recommend entering Project Firefly’s competitions in the future.
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