Chance Xie, Founder, Journeys by Chance
Hong Kong-based hedge fund investor Chance Xie decided to follow her passion and launch Journeys by Chance, a high-end active lifestyle creator based in Hong Kong. HFC's Stefan Nilsson decided to talk to his former JP Morgan colleague about her alternative journey from hedge funds to bespoke travel.
You've gone from consulting to alternative investments to running a bespoke, high-end travel business. Tell us about your journey.
I was working in Boston and Montreal as a consultant engaging in Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy settlements. Then I decided to move to Hong Kong to be closer to home. I worked on the investment side for both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan but spent most of my time at JP Morgan building up their Asia hedge fund offerings. Travel is my passion and I always knew I'd do something with it. But I got into this business much earlier than I would have thought.
How did your passion for world travel start?
I travelled a lot with my parents when I was a kid. They are both professionals and went to attend conferences all the time, so I tagged along. When I went to university in London, that's when I really started travelling for leisure. My first trip was to Morocco, it was a mind-blowing experience and Morocco remains one of my favorite countries. I went to Morocco with only a picture brochure from the consulate where I got my visa. I didn't book hotels, did no research. Now, thinking back it was crazy of me to just go there like that, but I had a wonderful time!
Why did you decide to launch a travel business?
I believe that with our time on earth, you need to see the world. As a perfectionist, I plan each of my personal holidays to become a journey of a life time. But I realise lots of my friends cannot do that. They either don't know how to dive into a new destination or they don't have the capacity to organise perfect logistics. So one day, I was asked “what is the legacy you want to leave in the world?” Immediately, the only answer I could think of is I want to help others to have a journey of a life time! I want to let them travel in a way that dazzles their eyes, enchant their mind and they will not come back the same, i.e. truly memorable, powerful and life-enriching holidays. So, I launched Journeys by Chance.
You call your business a “high-end, active lifestyle creator”. What sets your business apart from other similar travel-related businesses?
We are an aspirational brand that defines the way of travel and living. Travel represents a lifestyle. It must be exciting but also it must be comfortable, it is a vacation after all! So, we tailor-make a perfect combination of independence and handhold for each of our travellers. We only offer destinations where we have personally experienced and built strong relationships, so we can give first-hand insights and unique access to experiences hard to arrange. Think private visit to Vatican City, cooking lesson with a celebrity chef, visit artists at their home studio, etc. This business is about people to people connection and great logistics. Not everyone can offer that.
Who's your typical customer and what kind of travel experiences are they typically after?
Our typical customers are successful and busy professionals and entrepreneurs. They are all very curious about the world and cutting-edge travel experiences. With their limited time, they demand the best and the most authentic experiences, from accommodation to activities.
What is the most challenging travel itinerary you have been asked to make happen?
We were given very short notice to plan a trip for a big family of 15 people to Europe. On a daily basis, the group were broken into two or three small groups and each have different activities, because grandparents want to do different things from the grandkids for example. And some of them are early risers and some want to sleep until they naturally wake up. So when we scheduled sightseeing helicopter flights, we chartered three helicopters and three flight time slots during the day, so they had the freedom to choose when to fly. This is the most complicated logistics we had to arrange so far, but we love challenges and we love to make everyone happy.
What's your favourite mode of transportation when you are travelling the world?
I really like train journeys. It just feel more romantic and you can chat with lots of random people.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
It is so difficult to pick one, because each journey I took is a journey of a life time! If I have to pick one, I'd say Cuba. It is so different from the rest of the world.
Is there anywhere in the world that you want to visit but haven't yet?
I still have not been to most parts of Africa. We are planning a research trip to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Rwanda. We are looking forward to provide our travelers something different for Africa soon!
When it comes to exploring the world and the good life in general, do you have any hero you look up to?
The travel business has really evolved on many fronts over the past decade. Low-cost airlines have brought international travel to the masses while at the high-end of the market we have seen increased demand for bespoke travel services and unique travel experiences. How do you think the travel business will evolve from here?
I think the travel space will be more polarised. You will have the general public enjoying travel at cheaper rates thanks to the internet and then you will have the other end of customers focusing on unique experiences and services. It's like in the world you will have Zara and Hermes, they are both good and people should try both.
You have experience from both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Have you learnt anything in high finance that you have brought into your travel business?
Actually, running my travel business is exactly like running a hedge fund of funds. My clients used to give their money to me to invest, now they give me their most precious asset, time, to invest. For all the destinations we offer, we have a due diligence process as rigorous as putting a fund through an investment committee. Each destination has thousands of operators, but we only select a couple, the best to work with. We understand their company background, how they run their trips, their travel philosophy, their finances. We talk to their founders and owners and we do reference checks, and annual on sites. I use the same process at JP Morgan due diligence for our travel company, Journeys by Chance.