Describing himself as 100 per cent local, Adam Wong Chik-wai might appear to be a typical accountant, but he is quick to counter that suggestion.
He did earn an accounting degree from the University of Hong Kong and then accept a first job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), focusing on audit assignments for financial services companies, but he always saw the need to gain a wider perspective.
That is why, after completing his main professional qualifications, he decided to take a part-time MBA with Royal Holloway College at HKU Space.
“I was thinking about how to continue learning and to advance my career,” says Wong, who stepped away from finance for a while just before his MBA, working in electronic manufacturing services for Surface Mount Technology. “It gave me a chance to be really involved in a business itself, not just taking an independent view of it like I had before.”
Wong refers to Maslow’s Hammer - if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail – when explaining his reasons for taking the MBA. He believes that education is the key to better understanding and being able to respond to change.
Lost and found
One of the biggest changes he has had to deal with came just as he started his undergraduate degree. “I’m quite positive and easy-going, but the hardest thing in life is when you feel lost,” he says. “When my father passed away, I realised I had studied hard to prove I could do better than he expected. It affected our relationship and, after he died, I realised there were other important things in life and in our relationship.”
That shift in his outlook has continued to this day. “I opened myself up and found many opportunities at university. I saw that the world was bigger than I thought. I had to accept that I couldn’t be the best at everything, but could be good at some things.”
That enthusiasm for study carried him through his university and professional exams, then into things like a diploma in environmental and interior design. The focus there was creativity and innovation, in sharp contrast to the logic and facts needed for the MBA. “I think this balance helps in work and in life,” Wong says. “It gives you more angles from which to view things. And I can enjoy the world more. Learning is really important, it gives momentum and inspiration.”
Another way to learn more is through travel. Therefore, Wong tries to take several overseas trips a year to see what other countries are all about. Sometimes, he travels alone, taking the chance to clear his mind and really observe his surroundings. “It doesn’t have to be adventurous, but something new - I want to experience more,” he says.
Apart from travelling, Wong likes photography.
Relying on instincts
Now back in the finance industry as finance director, reporting and analysis, for Prudential Assurance, Wong says the most essential skill needed for his role is an analytical mind: “I deal with a lot of numbers and business issues, so how I interpret them affects how I decide to help the company. There are no set boundaries or formulas to follow, so I think it is important to keep learning. Understanding the business world forms the backdrop of those decisions and how to be analytical.”
Instincts also play a role. “There might not need to be long discussions and research. The knowledge and experiences you’ve accumulated create the right instincts. Sometimes, thinking too much can mean you include irrelevant information.”
Like most people, Wong has experienced ups and downs but, for him, a good attitude is the key to everything. “Every day is an experience which makes me who I am,” he says. “I don’t claim to be successful, but as long as I have a positive attitude, I can experience a better life and make every day count.”
This belief encourages him to keep testing his abilities and apparent boundaries. “It is never too late to try something new. I always try to be more than just an accountant. I try to prove myself, by doing other things, by being good and being creative.”