Fun, alcohol and property consultancy. Most people would not put the three together. But David Wong does. These are the essential ingredients of the chief executive officer's success - and what makes FPDSavills different. 'This fun element is a very cultural thing,' Mr Wong says over lunch at his regular table in Joyce Cafe. 'It began with our chairman David Davies, who is a very fun-loving guy. When the boys get together we always have a good time, and you can do whatever you want and nothing will be held against you.' Sipping a glass of white wine, Mr Wong retraces a career path that wends across a liquid landscape. Tales of wooing clients revolve around cognac etiquette and whiskey overdoses, the horrors of Chinese wine and the wonders of a good bottle of red. Then there are the firm's Friday afternoon staff cocktail parties in the boardroom, where champagne is opened after deals are closed. At first it may appear David Wong is just a middle-aged party boy who somehow managed to turn carousing into a career. But look again. Harnessed to a keen intellect, Mr Wong's social nature draws clients straight through the doors of FPDSavills. They like him, and they like doing business with him . . . in spite of the hangovers. Mr Wong's talent for putting people at ease is one of his firm's more intangible assets. But it appears to be one that is recognised. Last month, London-listed parent company Savills appointed him to their main board. If there's a moral to Mr Wong's success story it is this: never underestimate the power of fun. The chief executive believes it is crucial, not only for winning clients, but for retaining staff. 'The culture at FPDSavills is so strong that people actually find it very tough leaving the company to go to a competitor unless it's a really good change,' he says. Not for this firm the stuffy divide separating upper management from the other employees. The chief executive is one of the boys. 'We go out, we have a few pints, we have really good fun,' he says. And Mr Wong pays a high price for his fun. This is a wine-collecting, ski-holidaying, Porsche-driving man. 'You could say guys like me represent the Hong Kong scene,' he says. 'We're educated, I guess to a westernised background, speak both Chinese and English, reasonably secure in our positions in terms of career, good spending power, guys who would buy $100,000 watches, million dollar hi-fi sets . . . things like that.' He smiles over his glass. 'It's all very vain, it's all very commercial, but that's what makes life interesting in Hong Kong.' Comments like those make Mr Wong sound the quintessential bachelor. But he is not. The chief executive shares his Hong Kong home with a 22-year-old daughter. His wife of 24 years drops by every three months or so, but spends most of the year at their house in Los Angeles. 'We actually do not have a lot of things in common,' Mr Wong confesses. 'The fact that she's in California actually helps a bit.' He says his hectic travelling schedule leaves little room for family, and would place an impossible strain on a more conventional arrangement. Mr Wong met his wife in 1972, when the couple worked together at Chase Manhattan Bank. That was where his career began. He held a number of management positions during his 15-year tenure there. After that, he took a job with the United Savings Bank in San Francisco. Mr Wong did not enter the property world until 1991, when he joined First Pacific as vice-president and group treasurer. But he does not believe his lack of experience was a disadvantage. 'Whether I go to work for a bakery or a multinational company, it's still the same basic skill sets,' he says. 'It's people management, financial skills, marketing skills.' Mr Wong was appointed chief executive two years ago. He lays credit for his promotion squarely at the company chairman's feet. 'David Davies was always very forward thinking,' Mr Wong says. 'And because of this 1997 issue, he had always developed a theory that in the long run this business should be headed by a local person. 'Of course, you also need to have that international experience. You cannot have somebody who has always lived in Hong Kong and has only a Hong Kong mindset to deal with someone who comes from New York or Los Angeles. 'I lived in New York for five years when I worked in Chase.' The legacy of those years is a knack for bridging cultural divides. It is a skill Mr Wong draws on all the time. FPDSavills is an Asian-European hybrid, comprised of two businesses that he describes as 'contradictory in culture'. There is property management - with its mundane responsibilities of cleaning, car park management and landscaping - where the firm's more logical, ordered minds find their niche. Then there is the agency side, realm of the aggressive, punchy idea spinners. 'The business is a bit like a creative directorship plus logistics experts and someone has to straddle this,' he says. This month, another culture joined FPDSavills - one that for years was conspicuous by its absence. Until two weeks ago, this was the only major property consultancy in Hong Kong without an American partner. 'We were the last of the Mohicans,' Mr Wong says. 'The United States was the elusive part of the formula.' But he said this was not for lack of interest on the American side. Mr Wong claims FPDSavills was approached by many major firms interested in doing a deal. But the deal they wanted tended to involve subjugation, rather than partnership. And that, he says, was simply unacceptable. 'Most of the big names have come to us and said 'Can we party?' but they said 'When we party, we want to be hosting'. 'In other words they say we probably buy 50 or 60 per cent, and you guys have to change your name. Going into partnership is one thing, but we did not want to see a holistic Americanisation of the business.' Enter Trammell Crow. On May 10, FPDSavills announced it had formed an alliance with the North American commercial real-estate firm. Mr Wong says it is all part of his company's 'global expansion strategy'. Meanwhile, back in Hong Kong, business has been doing well. Mr Wong says FPDSavills has recovered from the heavy blows it suffered during the economic downturn. In February 1998, 47 staff members were laid off. Another 100 positions were shed through attrition. Those jobs have never been replaced because business is not good enough to justify it. The property market's pre-handover heyday had left the company with a bloated workforce. Mr Wong is not fearful that business will drop further as property buyers cut out the middle man and migrate into cyberspace. 'Very few people when they make the very important decision of their lives like the house, apartment, would just rely on the Internet,' he says. 'I certainly wouldn't. 'So it's probably some way off that somebody would . . . [treat their] home as a commodity product just like a loaf of bread or a car. 'You can never have full delivery of our services without a human touch.' And that human touch is Mr Wong's specialty. Lately he has had to take over many of the social duties of his firm's chairman. David Davies was diagnosed with cancer six months ago and is now in Britain undergoing chemotherapy. Meanwhile, his chief executive continues to help clients mix business with pleasure. Over another glass of wine, Mr Wong laments the toll his duties take on his liver. But he says it with a smile. The chief executive is, above all else, a sociable person. 'You'll like him,' several of his colleagues said. 'Everyone does.' David Wong is chief executive officer, Asia-Pacific for FPDSavills. He was born in Hong Kong and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Hong Kong. After graduation, he joined Chase Manhattan Bank where he held a number of management positions. He was United Savings Bank senior vice-president for four years before joining FPDSavills' parent First Pacific Company in 1991. He served as vice-president and group treasurer until 1998.