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(BBA in Integrated BBA 1994)

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Wong Yick Kam, Michael

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28 May 2018

Remember to Put in 105%

Michael Wong (BBA in Finance 1977; MBA 1984) grew up in a humble working-class family. Upon graduation he joined Sun Hung Kai Properties, where he rose from an executive trainee to Executive Director during his 30-year career. Michael has found meaning in serving the community after retirement. He has led Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association’s Mei Ho House Revitalisation Project, recreating a Hong Kong legend to give visitors a glimpse of the period known for the tenacity of its people. He is dedicated to fostering talent and resolving the housing problem through his service to public organisations such as the Open University of Hong Kong and Urban Renewal Authority. His success and resilience are a testimony to the Lion Rock spirit.

Michael Wong (2nd from front left) has been mentoring BBA and MBA students for many years. He was a teacher as well as a friend to the students

How Far Would You Go for Further Education?

Michael was hired by Sun Hung Kai Properties as soon as he graduated with his BBA. Three years later, he felt that his business knowledge and technical skills were inadequate. To fill this gap, he applied for the three-year CUHK part-time MBA program and quit his job. “I had classes two nights a week from 6:30pm to 9:30pm in Tsim Sha Tsui, but the Sun Hung Kai office was on Hong Kong Island. Even if I finished work on time, I’d still be late to class, so I took a job at a trading company in Tsim Sha Tsui for convenience.”

Despite the shortened distance between work and school, juggling his professional and academic lives was still very draining to Michael. “I had no time to eat before class, so I often ate my hamburger while attending my lecture. My day job was already exhausting enough. There were times when I dozed off in class in the evening. It was quite an experience now that I think about it.”

The three-year MBA study was arduous, but it tremendously benefited Michael’s career. He remembers Prof. John Espy fondly. “He was the first to introduce teaching through case studies to CUHK Business School. He used classic case studies to stimulate discussions among students and encouraged us to analyse the situation by stepping into the shoes of the decision makers. It was very inspiring and made me a better problem-solver at work.”

Michael Wong (standing) explains the “samurai bond” (a yen-denominated bond issued in Japan by foreign companies) issued by Sun Hung Kai Properties to Japanese investors

Philosophy: Do More Than Enough

After finishing his MBA, Michael was again recruited by his former employer Sun Hung Kai Properties. Little did he know he would work there for the rest of his professional life and become one of their most esteemed veteran employees. He was in many different roles through his 30 years there. In 1996, he was promoted to Executive Director, overseeing strategic development and investment.

Switching jobs rarely crossed Michael’s mind during three decades of working in the same company. He considered himself very lucky to be given the opportunity to shine. He was in charge of corporate development, strategic planning, investment, infrastructure and real estate market research, and related disciplines. These areas are related to the society-at-large and required him to pay close attention to the evolving macro market and stay abreast of new information. It was all very exciting for him.

As a working-class kid-turned-real estate leader, Michael summarised his philosophy into one line: With heart and diligence, do more than enough. “‘Heart’ refers to concentration and involvement. ‘Diligence’ refers to being hands-on. But you may only score 100% with this. I set my goal at 105%. Hence ‘doing more than enough.’ That means, other than doing what your boss assigns, you should also perfect other value-added tasks to surpass your boss’ expectations.”

Michael Wong (right) represents Sun Hung Kai Properties to receive a certificate of appreciation for its support to The Community Chest Dress Casual Day

Revitalising Mei Ho House in Remembrance of the Lion Rock Spirit

Michael opted for early retirement in 2009 for two reasons: to have more time for himself and to volunteer and contribute to society. Michael joined the Hong Kong Youth Hostels Association many years ago to promote youth development. He later became Chairman of the Executive Committee. One of his most notable accomplishments was leading the revitalisation project of Mei Ho House in Shek Kip Mei public housing estate.

Mei Ho House was built in 1954 to accommodate those who had lost their homes in the Shek Kip Mei fire. It is the only remaining first-generation public housing still intact. It was part of the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. Growing up in a cubicle home in Sham Shui Po, Michael was very familiar with the area surrounding Mei Ho House. He submitted a tender for the scheme with the vision to turn Mei Ho House into a youth hostel for local and overseas visitors. The project also includes the Heritage of Mei Ho House museum, which features the collective memories of the working class in the 1950s and 1960s. The proposal was eventually selected from more than 10 entries.

Michael Wong (standing) gives a speech at the opening of the Heritage of Mei Ho House museum

Michael finds remodelling an old building much harder than rebuilding. The challenge lies in preserving the look and meeting modern structural and fire safety requirements, in addition to installing facilities such as elevators and wheelchair-accessible paths. In the end, he managed to not only complete the project smoothly but also stay within the tight budget. He again “did more than enough.” He published a book that tells the stories of successful residents such as John Woo Yu-sen, Dennis Fan Kin-keung and Warren Chan Chee-hoi. With the support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, he promoted resilience — the Lion Rock Spirit — to primary and secondary school students through various activities such as talks, workshops, and essay competitions.

Giving Back to Hong Kong

The quality of life of Hongkongers has improved over the years, but they are still facing many challenges. In view of the fierce competition with neighbouring regions, Michael thinks Hong Kong must invest in talent to keep up. Therefore, he values education highly and constantly gives back to his alma mater. For years he has served as a member of New Asia College’s Board of Trustees and a mentor of BBA and MBA students. As the current Council Chairman of the Open University, Michael hopes to nourish talent in all areas to meet the needs of society.

Michael (far left) is passionate about giving back to his alma mater. He presents “Mr. Michael Wong Scholarships” to outstanding students.

Michael is also a Non-Executive Director of the Urban Renewal Authority. He aspires to make use of his extensive experience in real estate to formulate strategies to rebuild old districts and find a solution to the youth housing problem.

Times may change, but the Lion Rock stands. Every generation of Hongkongers can always live up to their Lion Rock spirit as long as they are not fazed by hardships and do everything with heart and diligence.

Video — Messages from Our Alumni

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