Marie-Louise Jungels, the Luxembourg-born founder of Continuum Capital, talks to us about the city’s banking potential, starting her own financial firm and her upcoming book.
Tell us a little bit about your early years…
I was born in Luxembourg, a tiny country in Western Europe. I have one sister and, by and large, my childhood was pretty normal. I grew up in a very rural, cosy environment – one that would be seen as rather provincial nowadays. Growing up, I primarily spoke Luxembourgish and German, my mother’s native tongue. I also studied French and English. It may seem like a lot, but many of my countrymen are quadrilingual, as we’re right at the crossroads of so many major cultures.
And then how did your education pan out?
I completed my primary and secondary schooling in Luxembourg, but I had to go abroad to attend university, the reason being that, back then, Luxembourg had such a small population – about 375,000 people – that it didn’t really have any high-level tertiary education institutions to speak of. Ultimately, I ended up collecting several finance and economics-related diplomas from universities in France, Belgium and the US.
Was finance always your one calling?
Honestly, growing up, I would never have guessed I’d end up as a banker. I was far more interested in the arts, so much so that I seriously thought about becoming an artist at one stage. But my father who advised me that something a little more financially lucrative might be wiser in the long run. After toying with the idea of becoming a scientist or a doctor, I finally settled on economics and finance, because they seemed to offer the broadest opportunities.
What brought you to Hong Kong?
After completing my studies, I was somewhat at crossroads in terms of what to do next. The obvious thing would have been to return to Luxembourg to work. The not-so-obvious choice, though, was to explore the wider world. I had never been to Hong Kong – or even to Asia – before and I wanted to see what could be achieved here. So I enrolled in a PhD programme in Economics at HKU, but ultimately decided to forego getting another degree in favour of gaining some real-life experience, preferably somewhere I could put all my theoretical knowledge into practice.
Having come to that decision, was it hard to find work?
It was a bit of a struggle to land my first job, largely because I was an economist interested in corporate strategy at the time, whereas Hong Kong finance companies were far more focused on immediate results rather than long-term planning. Eventually, I stumbled into private banking and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. What kept me in that sector was that I found a niche for myself – I loved managing client portfolios and met many amazing people while I was in that role. Gradually, I started to become more involved in bond portfolio management.
What led you to launch Continuum Capital, your own business?
It was down to a mix of several different factors. Firstly, I’d been working as a bond portfolio management specialist for many years and, while I enjoyed the challenges of working in a bank, I felt that it was somewhat restricting in terms of what I wanted to achieve for my clients.
In 2012, after the Global Financial Crisis, I was working for Merrill Lynch. Given the traumatic upheaval the company was going through, I thought it might be a good time to branch out on my own. Ultimately, though, it was my clients – many of whom I’d built strong relationships with over the years – who gave me the confidence to start Continuum Capital.
Tell us a little more about your business and about what makes it special…
Basically, it’s an independent asset management firm. We specialise in managing clients’ bond portfolios, working closely with them to meet their individual requirements and specifications. The company’s aim is to help preserve their wealth while building exponential financial gains over time.
In terms of your future plans is there anything that is particularly exciting you at the moment?
Actually, I’m currently writing a book, one that looks to explode the myth that finance has to be complicated – an impression that many in the industry seem keen to maintain. I’m writing it in a way will be accessible to everyone and will enable them to gain a solid working understanding of how the different aspects the industry all inter-relate. Sadly, the world of banking is not very transparent at the moment, something that I hope my book will help change.
Finally, what advice would you give any other female entrepreneurs looking to start her own business?
Well, it takes a lot of courage to start your own company, but – having said that – I would encourage everyone to give it a try. Irrespective of your field, keep a firm grip on your finances. Above all, you must be tenacious. While there will be hurdles and unexpected setback, much the same can be said of everything else in life. Above all, always keep a calm head and ensure you are well-prepared for every eventuality – no matter how positive or how negative.
Interview by: Tenzing Thondup
Photos: Jack Law
Art Direction & Styling: San Wong
Venue: Andante Lifestyle Store
Video: Kingsley Lau