Hong Kong lawyer equips himself with qualifications in quest to become CEO of listed company
James Pong is a qualified building surveyor, a chartered town planner, an authorised person, a chartered secretary, a certified tax adviser and a barrister
While most people might pursue and achieve one or even two professional qualifications in their lifetime, James Pong Kam-keung is a professional working across the disciplines of environment, town planning, law, engineering, surveying, construction and corporate governance.
And behind all his qualifications is a desire to become the chief executive of a listed company one day. So far, he is on the right track.
Pong, 56, is an executive director of Hong Kong-listed Sundart Holdings, a fit-out contractor in Hong Kong and Macau specialising in residential properties and hotel projects.
Profit at the company increased by 10.3 per cent to HK$410.1 million for the year ending in December 2016. Between their debut in December 2015, at HK$1.38, and 11am on Tuesday, shares in Sundart have soared by 226 per cent to HK$4.5.
The company has worked on interior fit-outs for residential project One Kai Tak, at the former site of Hong Kong’s airport, and the MGM hotel project in Macau.
Before starting work in business, Pong was the head of the central prosecution unit at the Hong Kong government’s Environmental Protection Department for a decade. He is a qualified building surveyor as well as a chartered town planner, an authorised person, a chartered secretary, a certified tax adviser and a barrister.
“I am well equipped now and plan to expand my business career in the industry in the next few years,” said Pong, who is on a mission to raise the bar for corporate governance at listed companies in the city.
The goal in the near term is to improve the standards in the contracting sector. “In Hong Kong, people do not consider contractors as a profession. With our professional knowledge, we have tried to make a change,” he said.
When the company bid for a fit-out contract for a hotel in Macau a few years ago, it submitted a tender document with hundreds of pages detailing all aspects and technical specifications, he said.
“The hotel operator was shocked by the effort we had made,” said Pong, adding that his company eventually won the project even though their bid was not the lowest.
Sundart is now one of the major contractors for casino hotels in Macau.
Pong is also the chairman of the Planning and Development Division at the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, which overseas planning and land policies in the city.
In view of the rising home prices in Hong Kong and the city’s limited land supply, Pong favours Singapore’s housing system, which divides the sector into two segments – government subsidised homes and private housing.
About 85 per cent of Singaporeans live in government subsidised flats that they own. The government agency responsible for this housing scheme is the Housing Development Board.
The Hong Kong Housing Authority could play such a role by building subsidised homes for the general public, said Pong, and the government should give a free hand to the private housing sector.
Hong Kong has kept its ranking as the world’s least affordable urban centre to buy a home in for the seventh year running, with the city’s apartments costing 18.1 times the gross annual median income in the third quarter of 2016, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey’s study of 406 cities around the world.