Hip Shing Hong managing director David Fong set sights on growth opportunities
Third-generation manager looking at ways to use technology
How can property firm Hip Shing Hong be relevant in the city’s growing property industry and in a rapidly changing world ? It is a question that David Fong Man-hung, the third-generation managing director of the unlisted, family controlled business, has always asked himself .
In 2009, Fong took over the managerial role from his father Fong Yun-wah, who established Hip Shing Hong with his own father, Fong Shu-chuen, 68 years ago.
Since taking over the reins, he’s been eyeing opportunities to keep the company growing.
How will the company move forward in line with the changing world?
The world is changing due to technology. As our company is a property firm, we will stay around property business. But how can we add technology to improve services to tenants? That is what we have been looking into. We are studying air conditioning systems, that involves how to enhance environmental protection and improve health quality in the office building. If the system can help fewer staff of our tenants to take sick leave, tenants will enhance productivity.
We cannot just sit there and provide a nice building to tenants.
In the same office, how can we enhance the tenants’ productivity? This is the way we can survive. If we can follow, we will be relevant in the industry.
How does technology change the property industry?
We do not know yet. Do we still need security guards? Or can they be replaced by robots, which will not get tired? It is unbelievable at the moment. But it could be normal in 10 years’ time.
What will your company’s key businesses be in the future? Will it still focus on commercial property investment, serviced apartments and hotels?
Yes. But I do not mind the company extending its reach out of this boundary, given that we get approval from the board of directors. Personally, I do not like repeating myself. I want something new to learn.
What are the criteria to move forward?
Talent is important. We make a lot of effort to recruit good people. We prefer to pay higher salaries to recruit eight good staff, whose productivity is higher, than 10 normal people. While we may give the public an image of an old property developer, we have recruited a lot of young staff aged around 30.
What is your plan for the hotel business?
Hotels are a people-intensive business. This is a problem. Our idea is how we can have fewer people to run the business .
What do you think of the business environment in Hong Kong?
Recently, there have been some noises and that’s made some people lose confidence in the city. However, Hong Kong’s fundamentals are good. We have a sound legal system and a good educational system and infrastructure. We should take advantage of them.
China is now pushing its One Belt, One Road initiative. What is Hong Kong’s role? If we can have a role such as making ourselves an infrastructure financing platform, Hong Kong will become relevant in the sustainable development of China.
What are the new business opportunities in the next 10 years?
Silver hair is a big market. The markets in China and Japan are undeveloped. [In the previous generation,] the elderly usually had a lot of savings but did not spend as they wanted to save money for the next generation. But now they are willing to spend more. The market will grow faster than we expect. We are studying the opportunities.
What is your advice to the younger generation to keep them to be relevant in the sustainable development of China?
If I were them, I would chart the path of my future. I would ask why and how the One Belt, One Road initiative matters to me?
If I got a job interview, I would tell the employer I had travelled to six of those countries related to the One Belt, One Road initiative and I would be happy to work in those countries. I would impress the boss. If you do not like hardship, opportunities will not come to you. It all depends on your attitude.
Property has been a very important industry to the Hong Kong economy. Do you think the role will change over time?
A large number of billionaires in Hong Kong earned their fortunes from property businesses. But it only happens in Hong Kong. The role will change as the economy diversifies.