After graduating with a master of business administration degree (MBA) from the University of Macau (UM) in 2012, Garrick Wong Kar Hou spent many years in the business world and felt the need to improve himself in order to keep up with the rapidly changing business environment. So in 2020, he returned to the university to pursue a doctor of business administration (DBA) degree.

Leading by Example

Wong is currently the vice president of the Macau Youth Entrepreneur Association and a board member of Macau Chinese Bank. A veteran businessman who values team cohesion, he gets along very well with his employees. On the day of our interview, he was dressed in a smart suit, ready to greet us at the main entrance of the bank early in the morning.

Wong is a hands-off manager and believes in putting more responsibility in the hands of the employees and motivating them to improve themselves. He believes that in order to be an effective manager, one must lead by example. ‘Management is all about people, and people are the most difficult to manage, so management is both a science and an art that is easy to learn but difficult to master,’ he says.

Adding Value by Pursuing a DBA

Wong returned to Macao from Canada in 2005 and stumbled upon a career in business. Having studied electrical engineering in Canada, he had little knowledge about business operations and decided to pursue an MBA at UM in early 2008. He says, ‘The MBA programmer taught me professional and practical business knowledge, especially knowledge about business management; it also helped me develop my own team management model.’

Banks are the ‘mother of all businesses’, serving the financial needs of different industries and dealing with clients from all walks of life. Wong stresses that each industry requires a different set of knowledge. The banking industry is no exception. Bank managers need to keep abreast of the innovations and changes in business models in order to stay competitive.

‘There is so much to learn about business management. You can’t keep up with the times unless you constantly adapt to external changes by creating an interconnected system of knowledge in different fields,’ says Wong. An avid learner , Wong is convinced that the rapidly changing business environment in Macao in recent years makes it more important than ever to constantly upgrade his knowledge in order to lead his team towards creating maximum value for society. So in 2020, he returned to UM to pursue a DBA to enhance his leadership skills through the study of marketing, international financial management, and global business. ‘Most of my classmates were top decision makers of companies in the Greater Bay Area, with rich managerial experience,’ he says. ‘We exchanged cutting-edge information and insights, which also helped me to explore business opportunities in the Guangdong- Macao In-Depth Cooperation Zone in Hengqin.’

Dealing with Crises

When a crisis arises, the wisdom of the manager is crucial in making prudent and experienced judgments to lead the company out of the woods. Wong says it is important to remedy the situation immediately, otherwise not only will profits be lost, but reputation will also be damaged. Wong’s managerial experience is not limited to banking; he has also worked as a manager in a food trading company and had some unforgettable experiences, such as the time when a manufacturer made a mistake in the delivery of goods, which led to a strong complaint from a foreign client. He says: ‘Mainland manufacturers usually have separate production lines for domestic and export products because the packaging language and shelf life are different: Chinese for domestic sales, which indicates the date of production, and English for export, which indicates the best before date. Some of our foreign customers who received the products for domestic sales and saw the d ate on the label mistakenly thought that the food had already expired, so they sent us an email to complain.’

It was already midnight and Wong was just about to go to bed when he received the complaint email from the foreign client. ‘I had to respond at short notice to reassure the client,’ he says. ‘After many phone calls and sample comparisons, I explained to the client that it was just a cultural and language difference, not a food safety issue, and arranged for a reshipment. In the end, the misunderstanding was resolved and the company’s reputation in the industry was protected.’

Interdisciplinary Knowledge Helps Career Development

Wong is grateful to his alma mater for the training he received and values his relationship with his professors and classmates. He is now a member of the Trustees Committee of the University of Macau Development Foundation and hopes to give back to his alma mater. For students who wish to pursue a career in business, he encourages them not to be discouraged by the economic downturn, but to keep adding value to themselves in this digital age, especially by acquiring interdisciplinary knowledge. ‘I came from an engineering background, which is not directly related to finance, but my ability to understand numbers and think logically has also helped me in my career in banking,’ he says.

In view of the recent changes in public consumption and the investment market, Wong believes that it is necessary to develop modern finance in Macao. The cooperation zone in Hengqin creates an enormous opportunity for the development of a modern financial service industry in Macao, and Wong encourages the students to look beyond Macao for career opportunities. He says, ‘I believe that more qualified mainland institutions will develop financial services in Macao in the future, and the banking industry should take advantage of this opportunity to expand. This means the career prospects in this industry are very promising.’

Source: ISSUE 111 February My UM