Peter and his son at Singapore’s Hard Rock Cafe.
UWaterloo English alumni Peter Hoflich’s career has taken him through China, Japan, and Singapore. As Managing Editor of The Asian Banker, and author of Asian Banking CEOs and Banks at Risk, Peter has fully utilized his Waterloo training. Currently Communications Manager for RBC Wealth Management in Asia/Emerging Markets, Peter still finds the time to blog and perform. Thank you to Peter for participating in Words in Place! –JLH
JLH: Like many people in the 1990s, you landed in Asia after graduating, teaching English. What made that choice so appealing?
PH: I set out to Asia to learn Chinese, which I did in Taiwan over three years; I fell into English teaching quite naturally at this time, as I needed to pay my own way and it was practically the only work available to roving Canadians – of course, being an English Literature grad certainly made this a natural progression for me. And that was my job as well when I went to Japan for six years; but after a several years of teaching English there I was unsatisfied with my prospects and revived my dream of being a writer – I focused on journalism, and set my sights on Singapore, where I landed my first writing job in a trade publication that covers banking. That led to hundreds of articles about banking, two books published about financial services with Wiley, and my current job at an actual bank – RBC.
JLH: You’ve carved out a career for yourself abroad. Can you map that out a bit?
PH: I wish I could say that I had a grand plan for all this, but I didn’t do much more than what my German-born parents did when they were my age: set sail for a new land, despite not knowing the local language, and hope for the best. When I went to Taiwan, Japan ,and Singapore I had neither a job waiting for me nor a network of contacts, but I knew that there were opportunities waiting, and that hard work and persistence would pay off in the end; it did.
JLH: How do you think your time at Waterloo prepared you? In retrospect, are there any professors or classes that really stand out?
PH: Living at Waterloo taught me now only how to be independent, but also how to work steadily to fit the pieces together, and then to leverage my resources for a larger, institutional reward. It was the first time I was part of a huge organisation with all of its moving parts, but also all of its amazing facilities at my disposal. Marvelous. I also had some great professors, such as Professor Lister, in whose creative writing class I got my first novel-length manuscript together, and Professor McCormack, who had the best reading lists, and who really knew how to make learning fun. I also really love his fiction, and still enjoy re-reading The Paradise Motel once a year or so!
JLH: Do you think your work-life balance is different there than it would have been here?
PH: Everyone has their own approach to work-life balance based on their own particular conditions. I don’t watch TV, so that frees up a lot of time for playing guitar and songwriting. In some parts of Asia there are a lot of cultural and logistical reasons for long working days, but people still know how to have fun, and they always manage to spend time with their families. No one here has a cottage, so there’s no time lost in long traffic jams on Fridays and Sundays…
JLH: Finally, can you share what you are currently reading for fun?
PH: Nothing very high-brow at the moment. As a music freak, I devour autobiographies of rock musicians. The last one of those that I read was Al Jourgensen’s, and that was a pretty wild ride. I’m also given Game Of Thrones a try, but I can’t say it holds up favorably to Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books.