'There's no glass ceiling, go out and work like you're a man'

Updated: 2017-02-17 07:34

By Sophie He in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Estella Ng Yi-kum, deputy chairperson of Tse Sui Luen Jewellery (International) Ltd, rose through the ranks - from an audit accountant earlier in her career to one of the top posts in the local jewelry group.

Initially, she had a stint in the city's securities scene, having served as senior vice-president in the Listing Division of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx), as well as various other senior positions.

Ng recalls that when she joined HKEx, just a mere 200 companies had been floated in Hong Kong. By the time she quit the bourse operator 10 years later, the tally had climbed to more than 1,000.

"In the decade I was with HKEx, the philosophy I learned was that change was constant as I had seen companies being listed, only to go to the wall in a few years and then disappeared."

Even in very good times, she observes, enterprises may fail and go bankrupt. But, in bad times, with good management and strategy, companies are still able to make huge profits.

Ng switched to Hang Lung Properties Ltd in 2003, becoming an assistant director of finance, and was there from 2003 to 2007. She had the honor of being the first female executive director in the company who's not a member of Chairman Ronnie Chan's family.

In January 2008, she teamed up with Country Garden Holdings Company Ltd, serving as chief financial officer until April 2014.

"I was in the property business for 11 years, and learned that whenever there're risks, there're always opportunities," says Ng, adding that in a property downturn, properties are illiquid. "So, when the market isn't good, you can't sell just one bedroom or a dining room. Financial management and risk management are very important in the property industry."

After she joined TSL in 2015, she found it was a very different but very dynamic industry as the retail sector offers a lot of challenges and fun.

"I can always apply my previous knowledge here, the risk management and corporate governance, and always look ahead, think ahead."

Ng points out that, in the property business, the management team needs to think at least three to five years ahead while in the retail sector, it's is the same although the market conditions are beyond one's control and people can build up a good foundation.

"For example, the company has to plan ahead, whether it wants to be more focused on the Chinese mainland or in Hong Kong in the next three years."

She says what she likes most about TSL is that it has had a long history and the owners are very devoted to jewelry.

"We're not just selling products, with the design and everything. We really appreciate the jewelry."

As a business leader, Ng stresses it's very important to stay positive - whether it's a good day or not, you've to get up in the morning, it's another day and a new start.

"A positive attitude would influence your colleagues and anybody around you and, with such an attitude, you can think of something that's more constructive."

She stresses that a leader has to know his or her own weaknesses - nobody's perfect, but only when you know your strengths and weaknesses, you'll know how to rectify them.

And, a leader should also be equipped with the required knowledge, skills or language.

For young women aiming to have a career, Ng suggests they shouldn't restrict themselves in whatever they do just because they are female.

"Go out and work like you're a man, and don't think there's a ceiling for you because of your gender. And, women need to strike a balance between the family and career, as the family is our shelter. Whether it's in good or bad times, we can always go home."

Never give up, she advises. For a woman, if you don't feel good, you can have your cry, and the next morning, always wake up and start to fight another day.


 'There's no glass ceiling, go out and work like you're a man'

The biggest threat to the SAR's small retail and catering businesses comes not from the taxmen, but the landlords who own the offices and shops from which these enterprises operate. Provided To China Daily

(HK Edition 02/17/2017 page9)