Interview with Wang Yong
Q: How do you become a stockbroker in China?
Yong: It is simple to become a stock dealer here. Qualifications such as educational background aren't important. If you're quick at typing, you can do the job. Stock dealers in China are different from their western counterparts. In the West, dealers can decide what to do on behalf of their clients. The more profit you make, the more commission you earn. In China, stock dealing is run under a command system. For example, I only make deals when I receive orders from my company. Then I immediately type those orders into a computer. My role is very passive.
Q: Why did you choose this career?
Yong: For work, I had two choices. One was at the Peasants Bank of China but it's not so easy to further yourself in an old, well-established financial organization like the Peasants Bank. My second choice was the stock exchange. It was a novelty when it opened in 1992. I thought being a dealer might be good for my future career. That's why I'm here.
The stock exchange is something new. Everybody starts from scratch so everybody has a chance. If you perform well, you'll get promoted. That's what I call fair.
Q: What did you know about the stock exchange beforehand?
Yong: In my university years, the stock exchange was something mysterious. The Shanghai Stock Exchange was up and running at that time but, although I'd heard about the stock exchange, it was still a mystery. Occasionally, on TV, I saw activity at a foreign stock exchange, New York for example. And during my final year in college, I learned a little bit about stocks and bonds in the classroom.
Q: How did your parents feel about your becoming a stockbroker?
Yong: When I first started, my parents didn't want to tell people about my job. People are still curious about it; they believe stockbrokers must have a lot of inside information so they can make a lot of money. In fact, this is untrue. This is why my parents didn't want to tell others about my job. People would say to my parents, "Your son works for the stock exchange. He must make a lot of money." It's not really true.
People also think I was an early starter in this stock business but, personally, I think I started too late. Those dealers before me probably made a fortune.
Since I work for the stock exchange, people also tend to think I'm a sort of expert. They think I must know everything about stock trading. In fact, it is not necessarily the case. Sometimes, when we go out for lunch, people who hold stocks stop us to ask questions. If we know the answers, we tell them.
Q: What was it like for you at first?
Yong: When I first started, the company was very busy. At the time, electronic communications weren't very good so we had to do business by telephone. After each day's trading, we had to go through and register all the trading records. We would finish work around 9:00 or l0:00 P.M., sometimes even later. During the evening shift, I often felt very tired. I didn't really feel excited about the job. I started in the computer room. Then I became a dealer.
Q: How has it changed?
Yong: Each department now has more seats for dealers, so our work load is more evenly assigned. In 1993, I once dealt with 1,500 orders in one day, the most I ever did at the time. Now, most dealers can easily reach that figure. I am told the largest number at the moment is over 3,000 deals in one day.
Q: Do you make a good living?
Yong: A dealer's income really depends on the company they work for. In my case, since I came from Hangzhou, I have a travel subsidy and housing allowance. That totals 420 yuan [about $50.00] per month. Adding my salary and allowances together, I earn around 1,600 yuan [about $200.00] per month -- slightly better than local dealers. Most dealers get paid more or less the same: between 1,000 and 1,200 yuan [about $123.00 to $147.00] per month.
For a broker, a month's salary of 1,600 yuan is not that great. We have to eat and spend money on various things. It's very easy to spend money in Shanghai. Eating out, nightclubbing, going bowling -- it's all very expensive. You can easily spend several hundred yuan at a karaoke or bowling club in one night. We can't afford to go there regularly. Unless we make some easy money, say, once every two months.
As a dealer, you do sometimes hear some inside information. If you buy shares yourself, it may help you to make money. But most dealers are not really aware of what's going on inside the stock exchange.
Q: How important is money to you?
Yong: Money? Everybody loves money. No one would complain about having more. The more the better, I think, if you have the ability and ambition to make it, of course.
As you can see, at the moment, trading is very quiet so I can't make any money. It's a waste of my time and it's boring really. Not only don't I make any money, I also fritter my life away.
Q: What are your expectations for the future?
Yong: I don't know what to say. I hope I'll be successful. I don't really have an ambitious long-term plan. For the future, I think, Shanghai is full of opportunities. If you know how to make the most of an opportunity, there are plenty around for making money and advancing your career.
Personally I don't see much potential in being a stockbroker in China. It's a waste of time - especially for men. The Shanghai Stock Exchange has recently announced that only people with a college education can become dealers in the future. I don't think that's necessary. Unlike in the West, being a dealer in China is very easy. Here, as a dealer, you simply listen to orders from your company and type them out. Frankly, it is a waste of my youth. If you have a pair of quick hands, you can do it. Girls would be especially good at it.
I may decide to do something else. Nowadays, a lot of people have a second profession. I may also decide to do something new. I will only go for jobs that can make money. Otherwise, what's the point?
At the moment, I think I am still too inexperienced to run my own business. Also, I don't have any money. All I can do is get more experience. Then, hopefully, I can do something else.
Q: What do you think are the prospects for Shanghai's future?
Yong: I think Shanghai has been doing well for the last few years. If you're away from Shanghai for half a year you may not recognize some parts when you return. All the major foreign banks are pouring into Shanghai. I am confident Shanghai will become China's financial center soon.
Q: What would you do if money wasn't a concern?
Yong: Travel, I think. Although I'm an adult, I have to confess I've visited only a very few places in China. A lot of people talk about how they plan to travel abroad but I want to travel around China first.
If I can make enough money, I may consider buying a house or a car. Now everybody dreams about having a car. People think life would be much more convenient with a car. But, for most Chinese , its still impossible to have a car. It's also impossible for me.
I don't pay much attention to what I wear. I don't like spending money on superficial things like designer clothes. It's pointless. There is no need to flaunt your wealth in what you wear. Of course, you shouldn't dress scruffily, but I see no point in being well-dressed.
If you have a lot of money, you live in style. If not, you just have to cope and live an ordinary life. I think there's nothing wrong with having a lot of money. It is very easy to spend money in Shanghai but that depends on whether you have it or not. There's no point envying richer people. If you always compare yourself with rich people, I think life will be very frustrating.
Q: Do you consider yourself rich or poor?
Yong: I regard myself as poor. I think I'm too poor to enjoy a decent life. With so little money, I can only manage to live an ordinary life. I can't afford to buy a house. Nowadays, if you want to get married, you must first have your own apartment. But people like me can't afford to buy houses.
Q: What are your views on the very wealthy in Shanghai?
Yong: We call the big stock traders in our trading room 'Da-Hu'. Some of them have funds of millions of RMB [Chinese yuan renmimbi] for trading and some are even billionaires. Even the small traders have one million RMB. Sometimes, the 'Da-Hu' come to the trading floor in their private cars. For some, trading stocks is not just for making money -- it's more for the thrill. But most of them are here to make money -- and the more the better. After all, you can make money from stocks much quicker than from ordinary investment.
I don't have a lot of contact with the big stock traders. These people have a lot of money, and I envy them. I sometimes say to myself, "Oh, those rich people. They must have a wonderful life." Then I ask myself, "Why can't I have a lot of money like they do?"
Q: How does the stock exchange and capitalism fit in with socialism?
Yong: In the past, people thought socialism was about equality. Then equality became 'Da-guo-fan' [egalitarianism]. People used to have no incentive to work hard.
Deng Xiaoping said we should let some people get rich first. Today, if you have the guts and ability, you're rewarded by being able to make more money than others. But, if you're less able, you earn less. Sounds fair enough to me.
In the past, there was no stock exchange in China. Many didn't know anything about it. Lots of people had nothing to occupy themselves with after retirement. They might have done some small business. But millions of people are now opting for dealing in stocks to make money. Now it is the stock business that pulls people together.
I think stockbrokers in China and their Western counterparts have something in common: they all want to make money.
Q: Is the world getting smaller?
Yong: We are more aware of what's going on around the world. China now has things that only existed in the West before. I am sure the future will have more in store for us. We have a lot more contact with the outside world than ever before. This is reform.
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