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Friday, March 17, 2017, 09:21

Borrowing the wisdom of a tech master

By Lin Wenjie

Financial group executive Tom Chan Pak-lam tells Lin Wenjie besides the passion needed to drive an enterprise forward, he has to run a company like a soccer team without relying on particular star players.

Borrowing the wisdom of a tech master
Financial group executive Tom Chan Pak-lam reveals that the stocks loan business is seeing the fastest growth amid huge demand from Chinese mainland clients who need financing to get more facilities for their companies, or to invest in other listed companies.  (Parker Zheng / China Daily)

As Steve Jacobs of tech titan Apple Inc once said, people with passion can change the world for the better.

That may well rub in with veteran Hong Kong financial executive Tom Chan Pak-lam, who ascribes his steadfastness in clinging on as a professional in the legal and financial circles for more than two decades to the passion for the job.

He’s one who truly believes in the power of being passionate — something that he says has helped seal strong bonds with his colleagues over the years. 

But, despite a whirl of experience from having held various top executive posts with six listed companies, he has never thought of himself as a successful non-amateur. He still strives to get his dreams realized to the fullest, and one of them is to see his group going public.

“As far as my career over the last 20 years is concerned, the most important thing I’ve learnt is to have that passion for the job regardless of what position one holds. I’ve had to perform to the best of my ability and move up step by step along the way,” says Chan, chief executive officer of Success Finance Group (SFG) — the financial arm of Success Universe Group, a Hong Kong-based investment holding enterprise engaged in a range of businesses embracing such diverse fields as securities, futures and foreign exchange trading, and one-stop services, including property loans, insurance and money lending.

“Since I joined SFG as chief executive officer in 2013, I’ve been charged with the responsibility of ensuring that each single sector is profitable, and that’s what we’ve achieved in the past years.

“Now, we’re assessing the possibility of going public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, hopefully, within two years, so that we can tap into the capital market to get more funding to expand our business,” he tells China Daily.

He isn’t perturbed by talk that the local securities regulator may be on the brink of plugging the loopholes on the trading floor by moving to tighten the city’s listing rules.

Chan, who’s also vice-chairman and legal adviser of the Institute of Securities Dealers Ltd in Hong Kong, says SFG is not that apprehensive about possible changes in local listing requirements, stressing they’ll certainly adhere to whatever regulations that are ultimately meted out. “But, they’ll have to be balanced.”

Keeping high standards

“On one hand, we do support the regulator’s goal of upholding the high standards expected of listed companies in Hong Kong. On the other, we hope to see a more balanced control because if the threshold for entering the market is set too high, the chances of local small and medium-sized companies raising capital in the market will be very much reduced,” he says.

With a flood of financial services companies already listed in the SAR, how to make Success Universe Group stand out among the crowd is a big challenge for Chan. He believes his company’s competitive advantage lies in the speed of the approval process in its money lending business.

“The financing business is the most profitable sector. We can shorten the time needed in approval process to just a few days, while other companies usually take at least one week or even longer to do so.”

“We cut down all the repetitive work. The procedure only involves three people — me as CEO, a legal director and an adviser in the financial industry. The three of us form a credit community from both the legal and corporate aspects. We can search and assess the basic information concerning the likely risks in a deal. We’ll then make a decision and refer it to the board. As long as we make a recommendation to the board, the deal is likely to get the nod,” Chan explains.

According to Chan, the stocks loan business is seeing the fastest growth amid huge demand from Chinese mainland clients who need financing to get more facilities for their companies, or to invest in other listed companies.

“The mainland market is getting more and more important. In fact, most of our clients asking for stocks loans are either shareholders of listed companies based on the mainland or are mainland Chinese themselves. They want to get financing in Hong Kong to expand their operations on the mainland or invest in other investment vehicles in Hong Kong.”

So, seizing the enormous opportunities in the mainland market will form the crux of our next expansion strategy

Tom Chan Pak-lam, chief executive officer of Success Finance Group

“So, seizing the enormous opportunities in the mainland market will form the crux of our next expansion strategy,” says Chan.

The group is considering setting up offices in first-tier cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing, as well as some rapidly growing second-tier cities such as Hangzhou, Chengdu and Wuhan.

Team spirit vital

Speaking of management philosophy, Chan points to team spirit, comparing his team to a group of soccer players.

“In a soccer team, some players are in front and others are defending at the back. Maybe, those in front will outperform the others but, for me as team leader, I would rather prefer they play as a team together to win the match, rather than relying on one or two particular stars.”

Within the company, Chan sees every staff member as a separate element, so it’s necessary to offer each of them the prospects of a career.

“Employees are concerned about remuneration, a harmonious environment and whether they can see the prospects ahead. As a team leader, you need to understand what your colleagues really want and, first of all, you have to show them the respect and the prospects they deserve.”

‘Life’s like a training program, it’s a real challenge’

Despite being tireless in pursuing profitable businesses, Success Finance Group (SFG) also sees corporate social responsibility as its core value. Besides various charitable activities, it has invested in nurturing our next generation. 

It has been the fourth year since SFG launched an internship program for mainland students by subsidizing 30 to 40 undergraduates majoring in business administration or finance to join a training program in Hong Kong.

“The main idea of this program is to enhance cross-boundary interaction by allowing mainland students to have a better understanding of Hong Kong and its legal and financial systems so they can figure out how a Hong Kong finance group is different from those of the mainland. At the same time, our team and tutors will know better how mainland students think,” says Chief Executive Officer Tom Chan Pak-lam.

Compared with Hong Kong students, he found that their mainland peers have more passion in starting their own businesses.

“Mainland students are more career-minded, not in the sense of just trying to find a job, but in embracing the vast opportunities in entrepreneurship. That’s why I’m so impressed to find that the incubation center is so popular on the mainland,” says Chan, emphasizing that SFG also plans to start an incubator program to help young people realize their career dreams.

Young entrepreneurs, he believes, should broaden their horizons when exploring the path to future careers.

“When I first joined a listed company as a commercial lawyer 20 years ago, my boss told me ‘we expect to see you as a lawyer with commercial sense, not just a commercial lawyer’. It means you should always have common sense, and not just sticking to theoretical or academic matters or dipping your head into your mobile world. You need to open your hearts and minds to the outside world.”

With Hong Kong’s youth suicide rate rising dramatically in recent years, Chan hopes students will have the will and rise to the occasion.

“We’ve to face the ups and downs, but always bear in mind these are all part of life. If you fail, it doesn’t mean you’ll lose forever and it’s not the end of the world. On the other hand, if you succeed, don’t let your ego distract you and always stay in the middle path.”

Within 17 days last month, five students in Hong Kong had taken their own lives. Some of them blamed the huge pressure from long days at school, overworked teaching staff and tedious homework.

“Life’s like a training program. No matter what comes up, it’s a challenge, so take it easy, relax and enjoy the game,” advises Chan.

Contact the writer at cherrylin@chinadailyhk.com

 
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