Vietnam General Manager Crispin Bui recounts his immigrant story, journey to WorldQuant and how he motivates his team.
Crispin Bui is the general manager of WorldQuant Vietnam. After spending his childhood in Ho Chi Minh City, he and his family immigrated to Australia — where he went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in information technology at the University of Canberra. Crispin worked in management consulting and technology services for several years before moving back to Vietnam. In December 2016, he joined WorldQuant to oversee the strategic expansion of the firm’s Vietnam footprint — managing operations in the Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi offices.
What was it like moving to Australia?
Crispin Bui: I left Vietnam when I finished fifth grade. I went straight to the middle of sixth grade in Brisbane, as the school terms were different. Back in 1989, Brisbane didn’t have a large Vietnamese community. Out of the entire district primary school, there were only four Vietnamese students at the time. I didn’t speak a word of English, so I had to go to a special English-as-a-second-language class. It was a tough time trying to fit in. I moved schools a few times and eventually settled in Canberra, as my father found his first job there.
What was your experience like in Canberra?
In Canberra, I was able to reinvent myself. I had better command of the English language and the local culture. I joined a sports team and had more of a social calendar. In the ‘90s, there was a shortage of engineers and computer scientists; my parents encouraged me to study engineering so that it would be easy to find a job. With my background in a stringent Vietnamese primary school, I was able to get high grades in mathematics, physics and chemistry. I chose to study engineering at the University of Canberra, as it was known to be a popular recruiting location for graduates with government agencies. A stable job was the only dream back then.
What was your career path like after college?
While I was in my third year at the University of Canberra, I worked full-time as a software engineer at the Treasury Department, then later the Australian Taxation Office. Upon graduating and applying for my master’s degree in IT, I moved to a global consulting and IT services firm as a junior architect to test the waters in the private sector. For many years, I worked in consulting and eventually became the chief applications architect at a major global outsourcing client before moving back to Vietnam.
Why did you decide to return to Vietnam?
The stable Australian life had always left me wanting more. In 2006, I decided to move, and the choices were the U.S. and Vietnam; I have a lot of family in both locations. Eventually I settled on spending a year in my hometown, Ho Chi Minh City. One year got extended to two, then three after I met my wife. Fifteen years later, I still don’t see a reason to leave this beautiful city where I grew up.
Why did you join WorldQuant?
I had not heard of WorldQuant before being approached for a job as the General Manager (GM) of the Vietnam office. WorldQuant Vice Chairman and CRO Emeritus Richard Hu interviewed me and spent nearly two hours convincing me that I should consider joining WorldQuant to help with the firm’s strategic growth in Vietnam. His career path prior to WorldQuant was somewhat similar to mine, so he knew how to connect the dots for me. I spoke with all of the other senior managers as well; I was convinced that if I joined WorldQuant, I would have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds on the planet. It turns out I was right, and I’ve never looked back since.
Why did WorldQuant decide to open an office in Ho Chi Minh City?
The Hanoi office was opened back in 2011 and was already a great success — a testament to Vietnamese talent in mathematics, quantitative methodologies and technology engineering. We have very bright researchers and engineers. When I joined in late 2016, it made sense to extend our footprint to Ho Chi Minh City. We’re able to attract global talent who want to settle down eventually in one of the two main cities.
How would you compare the Vietnam offices with the other offices at WorldQuant?
I think that they’re all very similar. We focus on building an environment and culture that fosters innovation and creativity, while enabling high productivity. All the GMs are super smart and innovative, and we learn from each other on how to build great research cultures and cultivate talent. The GMs are able to replicate what’s working well in other offices and apply these elements to their own.
What’s your favorite part of being a GM?
I enjoy being able to support and see the growth of the people I work with on a daily basis. I love the mentoring aspect of a GM’s role — and being able to fulfill my responsibilities of helping people achieve success within the firm.
What qualities do you look for when recruiting new talent?
I seek out smart, humble, self-motivated problem solvers. These individuals are constantly curious, always eager to learn new skills and ready to acquire new knowledge. I strive to ensure a safe, secure and comfortable workplace environment and culture.
How do you motivate your employees?
It’s important to invest in your leaders and focus on upskilling across the team; this pays off in the long haul. I acknowledge efforts by the team and praise their progress. We practice empathy with each other, while shifting our focus to setting the right objectives and execution of the strategy.