The words ‘expat banker lifestyle in Hong Kong’ likely conjure up images of a 30-something bar-hopping around Lan Kwai Fong on Friday night before crawling back to his tiny Mid-Levels apartment…only to do it all over again on Saturday.
But it’s not always like that – especially when you reach the senior ranks at Goldman Sachs. Andrea Vella, currently Hong Kong’s most newsworthy banker after GS reportedly put him on leave over his alleged role in the firm’s involvement with Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption case, is leading a more glamorous (and healthier) lifestyle on the other side of Hong Kong Island.
The Goldman partner lives “in a large hillside home in Repulse Bay” that boasts “a large front garden and magnificent sea views”, reports the Financial Times. While some expats enjoy a beach-front lifestyle by commuting to Central from less-expensive outer islands (Discovery Bay is particularly popular), if you’re as senior at Goldman as Vella, Repulse Bay is the gold standard.
Only 20 minutes’ drive from GS headquarters, Repulse is one of the most expensive housing areas in Hong Kong, and has long been a popular location for 40-something rainmakers like Vella who want the residential wow-factor within easy reach of work. Alongside its crescent-shaped beach and picturesque surrounding gardens, the bay offers banker-friendly restaurants (try The Verandah) and designer boutiques.
What kind of car is parked outside the Vella residence in Repulse Bay? We don’t know for sure right now, but the FT reports that until recently his wife could be spotted “at the wheel of a Maserati”. While Italian super cars may seem ill-suited to Hong Kong’s congested city streets and hilly hinterlands, they are actually a common choice for senior investment bankers in the city.
Trading in your BMW or Audi (the favourite vehicles of VPs) for a Ferrari is a popular option for newly-promoted MDs looking to make an immediate impression, former Hong Kong banker Eric Sim, now a careers coach, told us earlier this year. But perhaps Vella, an Italian who still speaks in “lightly Italian-accented English”, was just being patriotic in his (or his wife’s) choice of car.
In Asia, bankers’ extravagant lifestyle choices may reflect their ambitions in the workplace and their need to impress colleagues and clients. “Some bankers live a luxury lifestyle to impress clients by putting themselves on a par with them – that could be anything from a golf-club membership to a flashy car,” a Hong Kong banker told us in September.
Vella’s career certainly marks him out as being highly ambitious. A former Goldman colleague told the FT that he was “very smart, very competitive and very driven,” and “liked being the star in the room”.
But despite also once telling the colleague that bankers shouldn’t have hobbies, the older Vella (he is 45) now appears to have a few – and they revolve around exercising, not after-work drinking. The FT lists skiing, hiking, and rock-climbing (giving him an “enviable work-life balance”). While he’d have to leave Hong Kong to ski, Vella is far from the only banker to enjoy hiking in the territory. The pastime has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, primarily driven by expats who want to explore Hong Kong’s sprawling forests and isolated beaches, many of which are otherwise inaccessible.
Hiking, houses and cars may be the last things on Vella's mind right now, however. The US Department of Justice has effectively identified him as “co-conspirator #4” in the 1MDB case.
Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request to comment on Andrea Vella.
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