Hong Kong Rugby Player, Raef Morrison, Makes the Move to London to Begin his Career in Sustainable Finance
Raef shares his transition story and what excites him about a career in sustainable finance, particularly as he joins BlackRock’s Elite Athlete Program, within their sustainable investing team.
The road of an athlete is seldom ever a straight one. Nor is an athlete’s background often identical to their fellow competitor. At times, the activity they’ve spent years perfecting is the only common thread that runs between them and the player next to them. Raef Morrison can attest to both these sentiments. Having played rugby throughout his childhood and during his undergraduate tenure at Edinburgh, he soon became a key feature in the Hong Kong 7s and 15 squads. After a few years he adopted a leadership role in the senior team and competed at a number of international competitions both in Asia and across Europe. But the pandemic, as it did with many, presented an unforeseen obstacle to his playing career. Not being able to train and all competitions coming to a standstill prompted Raef to consider alternative career avenues outside of sport. Read more on his journey below.
Sport has always been one of the biggest passions and influences of mine; I have been lucky enough to play multiple sports and be part of diverse teams, playing with individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and ages. These experiences have been integral to shaping where and who I am today.
Similarly, sport has enabled me to meet and form friendships with people who gave me the self-belief to become a professional athlete but what’s more, they shared advice on using my time as a professional athlete effectively; gaining cooperate experience and discovering what else I am passionate about, as, unfortunately, an athlete’s career is finite. However, as a younger sportsperson it can be tough to think and plan so far in the future, especially when you are caught up in the moment doing something you love. The conversations I had with my peers and mentors, at different points in their career, made on thing clear: preparing for life after sport is an exceptionally valuable pursuit.
As a result, alongside professional rugby, I worked part-time at a logistics company called Ligentia on a 2-year management trainee program. Fortunately, they were flexible with my training and tournament schedule and gave me exposure to all departments within the business, which meant I could get a strong sense of what I enjoyed and what I found engaging. This structure was fantastic and highlighted the multitude of transferrable skills I have developed through sport and how they can be applied to the workplace. The traditional themes such as communication, teamwork, and resilience, I found sport taught me how to be coachable, how to analyse performance and results both in real time and with hindsight, but also how to love the process; not everyday you’re going to skip to training, same way you’re going to have arduous days in the office, but the bigger picture allows you to see past the grind and stay focused on the end-goal.
During the pandemic I was, sadly, furloughed. However, I saw this as a great opportunity to dive into a neglected interest of mine: sustainability. I undertook a Business Sustainability Management course with Cambridge University, which re-ignited my curiosity and passion for how I can make a difference in the world. I built on this through courses in Principles of Sustainable Finance and then Financial Markets, realising there is a huge opportunity in the finance industry to help shape a sustainable future. Having grown up in Hong Kong where 70% of Hong Kong is country park, my family, friends, and I have spent most of our time in the hills and sea experiencing first-hand the physical and mental benefits of the natural environment, I want to make sure these benefits are shared with future generations.
I also talked to more senior members of my community, to hear their thoughts on the future business opportunities within the sustainability space and we discussed the greater focus its adapting in companies’ business strategies and the many interesting career paths within. What was interesting however, was not many of them felt complete in tune or well-versed on the topic, as sustainability and particularly green finance is such a new concept. Their advice: find a career where I can make a positive difference and that leaves the world better than you entered it. As a result, I started thinking about job opportunities and companies where I could contribute to the collective good, to combine once again something I am passionate about and something which good could come of it, outside of sport. This led me contacting add-victor and the start of my application to BlackRock’s Elite Athlete Internship Program.
Born, raised and educated in Hong Kong, a multicultural hub, seeking a career never felt constrained by geographic borders, as we are constantly rubbing elbows with global citizens and are inspired to explore and learn all the wonders the world has to offer. with Hong Kong’s approach to sustainability and green finance being noticeably behind where it should be, a number of opportunities exist elsewhere, such as Scandinavia and the U.K, as they are embracing and pioneering change to a more sustainable future. This reinforced the idea that being part of company where ESG and sustainability is at the forefront of their corporate strategy and internal focus was the right move for me. If not to satiate my interest in this space, then to gain the expertise and skills to apply what I’ve learnt to help laggard territories, like Hong Kong, improve their ESG approach and values.