Carl Wegner is a former vice-chair of the AmCham Financial Services Committee. Previously a managing director at Deutsche Bank, he now runs the Greater China division of R3, a blockchain software startup.
When did you first come to China?
The first time I visited was in 1984 as a tourist. I was a major in Chinese language and history in the USA, and had spent a year studying Chinese in Taiwan. After studies finished I had the opportunity to travel around China for a month with my father, who had been a Sinophile for some time, but had never before had a chance to visit. We worked our way from Guangzhou to Shanghai and surrounding cities on trains. Back then as a foreigner you needed to apply for a visa to move from city to city and only then could you buy a train ticket for the next city. Definitely no high speed rails back then.
When did you first work in China and in what role?
The first time I came to work was in 1990/91. I was working for Bank of Boston in Hong Kong and was tasked to set up the bank’s rep offices in Beijing and Shanghai. As soon as I was the Chief Rep for both locations I was required to spend at least 10 days a month in each city, so commuted back and forth between the two cities and Hong Kong. After handing over to local reps, I moved back to Hong Kong and eventually moved to Standard Chartered Bank in 1995 to start the Cash Management business for China and Taiwan.
What advice did you give your successor?
As a newcomer to working in China, I said make sure to listen to your one-downs because they are key to being successful. I mentioned that when I check in six months from now, I hope that he will not only see the challenges of working in China first hand instead of being in a regional role but hopefully he will be able to take the message back about the incredibly dynamic environment here in China.
What was your biggest professional success in China?
At Deutsche Bank, it was helping set up our Qingdao branch, setting up a sub-branch in the newly formed Shanghai Free Trade Zone, and being chosen in the first phase of CIPS clearing banks.
What did you learn from your Chinese colleagues?
When I first hired people in 1991, it was the opening up of Shanghai, and out of the woodwork came all these people who were already bilingual, well-educated and who were dying to enter this international marketplace. It seemed they had been just dormant, waiting for the market to open up – and that was the time it really started.
Twenty-five years later, it’s the same thing – the caliber of the people is amazing. They are multilingual, international and capable. It’s always a challenge to manage such a strong group, but a rewarding one, and I was happy to be able to help some of them who wanted overseas roles move so they could take the China experience to other locations in Asia and Europe.
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