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The sinking of expat dreams

By Taipan
20 May 2021

Hong Kong's heat levels have hit 30 degrees Celsius recently — meaning it's time for junk boat season.

For those outside Hong Kong, junk boats are much fancier than the name implies. They are essentially large yachts that Hong Kong residents of all ages take out for a day of heavy drinking and swimming in one of the city's many bays. It's a summer tradition, and one of the bastions of expat life.

For people in finance, there is often access to an extra bonus  company junk boats. And if you’re senior enough, you can even reserve one for the day for free and invite your friends and clients to sea-bound parties.

Or at least that’s how it used to be. Budget pressures have been forcing many banks to cut back on junk boats for employees, with some even cutting the benefit entirely.

I realised how dire the situation was this week when I started receiving phone calls from friends asking me to organise a junk party. But alas, my firm’s boats have also been culled, and I was left ringing a capital markets lawyer friend to ask for a spot on his boat.

Now banks may be cutting corners, but luckily law firms in the city still appear to have fleets at the ready for "client entertainment”. For how much longer, though, is open to question, because my lawyer friend bemoaned his firm's own budget slashes. Sadly, he informed me that jet skiing this year would be out of the question as someone had wrecked his firm’s one speedboat, leaving only the yachts available.

When a Hong Kong-based partner wrote to his London headquarters asking for money to purchase a new speedboat, his request was returned with a reply in large red letters: "YOU HAD A SPEEDBOAT?!" I guess some perks are simply better left in the dark.

By Taipan
20 May 2021