ZLS: Marlon Young, “Write Your Destiny”


“Success will be 40% on you, 20% on the company, 20% on the manager and 20% just plain luck.  People will help you, but you write your own destiny.”

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The morning of October 12th, 2011 brought latest in the Zicklin Leadership Series (ZLS).  With an introduction from Frank Fletcher, Professor Donald Vredenburgh posed questions to the first guest of the fall, Marlon Young CEO, Americas, HSBC Private Bank.  The following post highlights what your correspondents took from the event.


Mr. Young began his career with HSBC in 2006 as head of the company’s U.S. private banking operation and was appointed to his present role in September of the same year. He joined HSBC after 27 years at Citigroup where he was Head of Private Client Lending at its Smith Barney division. His international private banking experience encompasses assignments in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore & Thailand. Mr. Young also has extensive corporate banking experience covering the commercial real estate, automotive and energy industries.

Have you found it necessary to alter your leadership behavior?

Leadership is about inherent values and it’s not necessary to alter your behavior.  One needs courageous integrity (i.e. being honest

Marlon Young HSBC

and doing the right thing for customers and share holders.)

Passion, vision and ability to challenge the norm are qualities that go with leadership.

Tell us about the most challenging\rewarding part of your position.

2006 was the most challenging year after leaving Citigroup.  The day I joined 18 executives left en-masse at HSBC.   I addressed the crisis by traveling to many offices, held town-hall meetings and assured clients through the transition.  In 6 months my team stabilized the situation and kept 90% of clients.  I ended up bringing in 80 new people.

Any job market advice?

It’s tough out there.  Keep your resume to one page — two pages tops.   Stand out, differentiate, in one or two ways.   Within 15 minutes one can tell if you can fit with the company culture — mostly through  body language (e.g. stance, eye contact.)  I am also keen to the kind of questions you ask and your interests.  I don’t like mid or senior level hires that have moved around a lot. “If you have worked in 5 companies in 10 years, there’s something wrong with you not those companies.”  In looking for potential leadership, I focus on what you have done above and beyond your role.

Do you recommend any career tracts in the industry?

I love my industry even through all its cycles.   The are many roles if you fit into the culture at HSBC besides just finance (eg. marketing, public affairs, and communication.)   “Success will be 40% on you, 20% on the company, 20% on the manager and 20% just plain luck.  People will help you, but you write your own destiny.”

What can someone in a lower-level position do to be seen as a potential leader?

Potential leaders standout by the simple math that there are not many.  Simply do a little extra and you will stand out.  It doesn’t have to be work-related (e.g. volunteering, committees and social activities.)  Go above and beyond.  When you are young, don’t worry about clocking time. Do more.  HSBC uses a 9-Box selection program.  It maps every employee to see if they are emerging leaders.  Those in the bottom 10% 0r 15% may be weeded out.

US-Asia institute.  Tell us about your involvement and the relationship to your career.

I came to the US as an exchange student to South Dakota.  There was a lot to adjust to, but don’t forget your roots when you need to adapt. The mission of the US-Asia Institute is to build diplomatic and cultural dialogue specifically to East Asia.  Most of the contact has been with Congress and facilitating trips to Asia usually around 10 congressional staffers. They center around a topic: trade, reform, the environment.  The Institute has sent over 1200 staffers to Asia over 30 years with the goal of educating those who are shaping legislation about Asia.  I go with a group every other year or so. It’s a great way to bridge my roots with what’s important to me now and offers an opportunity to stay connected to Asia.

Dodd-Frank. How to you perceive it will affect the finance industry?

The financial sector is partly to blame for the financial crisis.  Rules are important to govern how companies conduct business.  Many changes are coming due to Dodd-Frank.  However, there should be a lot of care in turning the 2500-page act into regulations.  There should not be too much rigidity.  There will always to rogue individuals. However, regulators should be cautious and not choke the industry.

Any advice to Baruch College as educators?

There needs to an openness to the curriculum that will account for shift in global business towards emerging economies.  Cases are very important with a little tilt towards lecture on technical subjects

Thanks to you Mr. Young in taking the time to be a part of the Zicklin Leadership series and much appreciation to the staff at the Zicklin School of Business who made the event happen and of course to our benefactor Mr. Zicklin.


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