Advice and Perspectives from Ken Hitchner, Chairman and CEO of Asia Pacific Ex-Japan
Ken Hitchner is chairman and chief executive officer of Asia Pacific Ex-Japan for Goldman Sachs, having previously served as president of the region since 2013. He shares his thoughts on the growth in the region, the importance of having a strong team and his keys for staying motivated.
You recently celebrated 25 years at the firm. Can you share some reflections and talk about what keeps you going?
I have worked with so many talented professionals over these past few decades and run a few businesses along the way. I found that what kept me motivated was to keep seeking out opportunities that challenged me. My decision in 1995 to join the startup healthcare banking effort gave me the opportunity to learn all I could about a complex industry – and in 2013, my move to Asia gave me the chance to learn about the whole firm, beyond the banking franchise, across a new region. I raised my hand for these opportunities to keep learning and growing, and I would encourage everyone to proactively look for ways to keep it fresh as you develop your career.
Given your experience in running various groups and businesses, what advice do you have on building strong teams?
Having the right people can be even more important than having the right strategy, so it’s important to be patient and develop the team around you. In Asia, as the firm enters more places as economies evolve, we also need to cultivate local talent and leadership. In my experience building teams, it is critical to be seen as honest, fair and transparent with your people if you hope to build a cohesive unit that will work together. My approach is to communicate with candor, integrity and honesty. People follow those they trust.
What has been the most interesting aspect of working in the region, and what do you see driving growth in the future?
The Asia Pacific region is one of the most dynamic and diverse regions in the world, capturing a large proportion of global economic growth — in fact, over the past few years, two countries, China and India, have averaged annual growth of more than seven percent. As the second-largest economy in the world, China has taken its place on the global stage and is too big and omnipresent to be ignored. It is also home to some of the world’s most innovative, new-economy companies.
With other countries opening up and the development of capital markets in the region, these factors should help to sustain growth for the foreseeable future.
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
Now that it has been 27 years since I last climbed out of a cockpit, I find people surprised to learn that I once was a carrier-based Navy fighter pilot. Oh, and I love country music.