From mining and packaging to car manufacturers, Zhihong Zhang's graduate year has seen him assess risk across many different sectors.
Zhihong (Hong) Zhang is an Associate in the Credit Risk team in Macquarie's Risk Management Group based in London. His team assesses and approves all material credit risk Macquarie undertakes.
While a student in university, he attended a presentation by Macquarie and was intrigued by the way the organisation positioned itself as a boutique firm but yet had the capabilities of a large financial institution.
“Macquarie had a different vibe to the other employers," Hong says. “In hindsight it was its entrepreneurialism that stood out."
Making a positive contribution
After completing his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics, Hong received offers from several grad programmes but chose Macquarie because of his experience during the recruitment process.
“It was competitive, but also very pleasant," Hong explains. “I met senior staff and was impressed by their knowledge and how they discussed the expectations of my future role. I saw that I would have the opportunity to contribute positively to the team and that Macquarie had a genuine interest in me."
Since joining Credit Risk in August 2018, Hong's role has seen him reviewing the creditworthiness of many companies that Macquarie trades with across different industries.
On an average day he researches and produces reports measuring Macquarie's potential exposure to its counterparties if commodity prices shift, as well as conducting excess monitoring to check that traders haven't traded over their limits.
Exposure to many different sectors
Hong also compiles credit papers looking at companies from different sectors, including automotive, mining, packaging, shipping, and finance.
He considers one of his achievements to be a peer review of the major European car manufacturers. Macquarie works with these automakers in two main ways. The Commodities and Global Markets teams help them hedge their exposures to base metals and gas. Meanwhile, the Asset Finance team leases equipment to them, such as vehicles and servers.
“Learning more about the industry and the current trends and challenges it is facing gave me a newfound appreciation for automakers," Hong says. “The industry is changing so rapidly, and it was interesting to see how real events impact the way we trade with them."
“Often when we see a car we don't think much about the supply chain that’s behind the end product, which starts in the mines and ends when it meets us. So much happens behind the scenes before a piece of metal reaches the end consumer."
Encouraged to be entrepreneurial
One aspect of Macquarie's attitude on this review that impressed Hong was that he was encouraged by his manager to help change the way it was structured.
“Previously we reviewed the counterparties separately, but we changed it by compiling them all together in a single review, looking at them from an industry point of view," Hong explains. “This helps us to compare the companies against their peers, allowing for a more accurate judgment as to which automakers had better controls in place to manage the current issues and challenged in the industry."
“Continuous improvement is a big theme at Macquarie. This is an example of how we are encouraged to do things differently and better."
“I've been thrown in the deep end at times, but I've always felt that support was there if I needed it," Hong says. “The non-hierarchical structure here really helps. You're encouraged to raise your hand to ask questions or to volunteer for new opportunities."
Graduates volunteering for change
Hong says another aspect of Macquarie he has enjoyed has been the ‘extracurricular’ life: from social events to sports competitions and, most importantly, the fundraising work.
“I'm currently a co-chair of the Graduate Volunteer Network (GVN) in the London office," says Hong. “So far we've raised around £10,000 for our partner charity, FoodCycle."
“It's a great way to meet other grads and it has also given me exposure to many different stakeholders in Macquarie whom I wouldn't have met otherwise."
The GVN is supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation, and Hong says that all employees are encouraged to go out and give back to the community.
“I was humbled by the generosity of Macquarie employees," Hong says. “We organised a team to do the Three Peaks Challenge and had more applications than we could accept. It really reflects the values and culture at Macquarie."