Life to Linna Hou is about knowing your limits and constantly challenging yourself to go beyond those limits. “The shortcut to success is to surprise people with what you can do, time and time again,” says Hou, an associate with Standard Chartered Bank’s Corporate Banking Department in its Beijing Office.
“People tend to confine themselves within where they are. It doesn’t matter what position you hold today; if you think of yourself as a Managing Director, then you aim to be a Managing Director,” says Hou.
Traveling has no age restriction
“I’ve travelled to more than 30 countries in the world and lived in 4 different cities over the past 20 years，” said Hou, “I love the feeling of having something to share with people from all kinds of backgrounds”.
Born and raised in a traditional Beijing family, Hou never shied away from any new adventures or experiences and always maintained a positive outlook on life.
In grade five, she was amongst a few elected to represent her school participating in a 12-month language enhancement/exchange program through a counterpart school in Los Angeles, USA. What greatly differentiated this trip for Hou was not of geographic reasons, but the absolute lack of parental reliance and supervision throughout the entire journey. This, in turn, laid the very foundation for her strong adaptability and independence, which enticed her solo emigration to Vancouver, Canada at the young age of 16, where she spent her high school years.
A few years later, she uprooted herself from the familiar West Coast surroundings only to challenge herself once more by accepting the offer from University of Toronto’s prestigious Commerce program over 4000km away. Leaving behind “broad social circles” and a “comfortable life” was not easy and by far the most important decision she has made.
“I have always aimed for the best and not settling for anything less, and hence when the Provincial exams came, I reached for University of Toronto as my home for the next four years,” Hou said.
Upon her graduation, the financial industry was just in the tailspin of the worst crisis since The Great Depression. Finding a suitable financial job was difficult and more so for fresh graduates. Hou saw this as an opportunity to see more of the world she loves, and she took a gap year going from North America to the Caribbean, to Europe and to South Asia.
She also founded her own company – Zeetah International Inc., a provincially incorporated company focused on Mandarin training services to business executives. At the age of 22, she was providing training services to CFO of LG Electronics Asia Pacific, Professors at various universities, senior management of Loblaws (a major Canadian grocery chain), and a core team of Questron Technology Inc. 2 years later, Hou decided to expand the corporation by adding the second department, namely international management services, which facilitated Asian corporations participating in Canadian trade shows in Toronto.
The thought behind the name of Zeetah is a wordplay using ZEEbra and cheeTAH. The meaning “represents all the different skin colors in the world.”
“What my company does is to bring people of all ‘colors’ together and help them do business, seamlessly”, Hou said.
Mingling in Canada
“I found that people who immigrated to the States usually turn out to be “very American” (the melting pot theory), while in Canada you tend to keep more to your own traditions,” Hou said.
Quite often, for reasons of racial discomfort or language barrier, Asian international students would mingle within their own ethnical circles, but Hou always advocated diversity and bringing people of various backgrounds together.
Through her university years, she held various positions across numerous school clubs, such as Social Director at the Undergraduate Commerce Society, Vice President for the Canadian Asian Students Society, and Head Orientation Coordinator for the well-known “Frosh Week”.
That last one deserves a special elaboration. It was not so much of a grand title as a Vice President but this position offered her an unprecedented opportunity to hone her organization skills by managing a 5-day, 1,200 people event to welcome new students to the university. Over the course, through her leadership, the event raised over CAD $60,000 in corporate sponsorship and CAD$15,000 in net profit. Even worth more mentioning is that the same event had run under deficit for the past 5 years.
One year after graduation, Hou landed a job as an Analyst at TD Bank Financial Group working on Bay Street, which houses the most powerful financial institutions and a collage of the brightest financial minds of Canada.
In 2014, Hou joined the ranks of Scotiabank, known to be Canada’s most international bank with stretching influences in Europe, Asia and South America. An eager young analyst, Hou garnered the favors of her managers with dedication, efficiency, teamwork and creativity. Finishing her 12-month training program in just 8, she became familiar with the Commercial Distribution, Global Risk Management, Private Equity and Mid-Market M&A business lines. Shortly after, she was promoted to a Senior Analyst in the Core Commercial team, managing a lending portfolio with borrowing needs between CAD$20-200 millions.
There is no place like home
“China is a rising economy in the global financial sector and this huge market has aroused the world’s attention,” Hou said. “It’s happening right now；everyone wants to be a part of it, and so do I.”
The notion of returning home had long been on Hou’s mind and now with the opportunity being greater than ever, she made the move in early 2015. And she definitely did not return home empty-handed. Her academic and working experiences abroad landed her a series of interviews with foreign banks in China. One of them was Standard Chartered Bank, one of the largest banks in UK with a leading international presence spreading over 70 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. After months of gruelling interviews, she has now become an Associate at Standard Chartered, looking after a lending portfolio of Fortune 500 multinational corporations with borrowing needs in China.
As if her job was not already demanding enough, working many overtime hours a week, Hou enrolled herself in the Dual Degree Finance MBA program jointly developed by Tsinghua University of China and Cornell University in the US. This path certainly will prove to be difficult and challenging but Hou believes it will greatly help her long term career development and propel her toward the short-term career goal in “leading a team in Corporate Banking for a foreign institution in China.”