Meet Kea Member Darren Foo

Darren FooWhere are you from and what is your background?

Born in Singapore, my parents moved our family to New Zealand when I was 10 years old. Having grown up in Karori, I am proud to call myself a Wellingtonian (and support the Hurricanes and Phoenix), despite having not lived in Wellington for almost seven years.

 

Why did you leave New Zealand?

Back in 2010, Sarah, my fiancée then (now wife), and I wanted to do an OE but we did not really have a country in mind. We had both already invested some time working in our respective fields (tax for Sarah, corporate law for myself), so we wanted to find similar roles but on a more global stage to help develop our careers.

At that time, London, which is regarded as the traditional working OE destination for many young Kiwis, was not hiring due to the effects of the GFC, so we focused our search to Asia. Given my fluency in Mandarin, this worked out well and we moved to Shanghai, where I initially worked for the multinational law firm, Linklaters, and in 2012, I was later hired as a legal consultant for Diageo, the world’s largest alcoholic beverages company.

 

Why did you settle for Shanghai?

There is a real energy to the city and Asia in general.  It is a great mix of the past and the future, which I often liken to when you are standing on the Bund. On the Puxi side, you have these magnificent historic buildings that once housed banks and trading firms from all across the world. On the Pudong side, you now have these towering skyscrapers scattered over the landscape, which house banks, financial institutions and is the commercial hub for many firms and companies from all across the world. That really symbolizes Shanghai for me, it was very memorable living and working in Shanghai.

We travelled across China and Asia during our time in Shanghai, and made a lot of new friends, many of whom we connected with through the Kea Network. Our experience in Asia was so good that when we moved back to New Zealand early last year, we spent less than a year there because we realised we wanted to be in Asia at this stage of our lives. We enjoy the fast pace of the work environment, but that also comes with many conveniences of offer – for example, it is very easy to go out for a great meal at 10pm at night, and help around the house is affordable. We can also travel regularly around Asia. This is why we are now back here, and due to work opportunities, Sarah is based in Singapore and I am now in Hong Kong.

 

Tell us about your role

Based in Hong Kong, I am currently Corporate Counsel for SunGard, a US company and one of the world’s leading software and technology services companies. We provide a range of software and processing solutions for financial institutions, banks, insurance and other sectors. It is a general in-house legal APAC role, and my daily work involves advising on different legal/commercial issues cropping up in the business, negotiating licence deals, partnerships and other legal matters, across the APAC region.

2014 has certainly been a busy year, as we are both in regional roles so we are travelling to different countries for work. Coupled with the fact that we travel between Singapore and Hong Kong to see each other every fortnight, it has been very eventful!  Great to earn some airpoints!

 

Do you leverage your “Kiwiness” in your business?

I believe I will always have one foot in Asia and one foot in New Zealand. I love the fact that despite our small size in comparison to other countries, New Zealand is a global player, and we have a great reputation due to what our country and our people have achieved.  New Zealand is part of my upbringing and part of who I am now, so I would not say I leverage on my “Kiwiness” in what I do, but rather, it really is just a part of how I think and operate. I understand and respect the Chinese culture (to show proper respect to your elders, responsibility to the community), but I also hold very strong Kiwi values (practical, laid back, and bring a “can-do” attitude and creativity in what I do).

 

On a personal level, what motivates you?

I want to make a difference in this world. In my time in China and Hong Kong, I have met many Kiwis through Kea and other circles, and no matter how much we enjoy being overseas, we all say the same thing – New Zealand is home. Many of us will return to Aotearoa in the future. In my view, there is much incentive for us to progress New Zealand-Asia relations to help grow our economy and our wealth, so I aspire to help further connect New Zealand to Asia but we also do need to make sure we do not lose what we hold true as Kiwis. In sharing my experiences, I bring a little bit of home here to Hong Kong, and I will most certainly do the same as and when I get home to New Zealand.