Inside The Mind Of Tricor Hong Kong CEO Joe Wan
Joe Wan sits in his fifth-floor office, where floor-to-ceiling windows look out to Victoria Harbour and, on a clear day, a distant Hong Kong skyline. The Kwun Tong waterfront boardwalk, where he was earlier being photographed between elderly leisure walkers and sweaty joggers, is almost visible too—a serene and impressive view befitting the CEO of business expansion and integrated services firm Tricor. While his company’s Group management is situated ten storeys away, he chose an office on the same floor as the rest of his team.
“When I first took over, you needed to open four doors to get to my old office,” says Wan, who became CEO in January 2019. But during a major renovation, which will end with the installation of a coffee, drinks and snacks bar, he decided to democratise the company, opting for an approach more similar to a startup than a business made from an amalgamation of three big accounting firms: Ernst & Young, PWC and Deloitte. He wanted to create an environment with “no hierarchies, no rules”, where his employees are free to “think big and move fast.”
Founded in 2000, Tricor has grown, in the last two decades, to become Asia’s leading corporate solutions specialist and provider of integrated business, corporate, investor, human resources and payroll, corporate trust and debt services. Headquartered in Hong Kong, it now operates out of 21 countries and territories, and serves 50,000 clients, including around 2,000 companies publicly listed in Asia and over 40 per cent of Fortune Global 500 companies. Under the current management’s leadership, the Tricor group has doubled in size since the premier acquisition and the last change of shareholders.
Tricor has seamlessly adapted to the digital age, launching a system called Spot that allows shareholders to vote anywhere at any time with proper security. Two months ago, the company invested in a portal to help board meetings run more efficiently, particularly when they are conducted remotely. But it’s the company’s management style that makes the CEO most proud. “It’s really the best team out there,” he says. “We have had people join us from the industry and even veterans from regulators like the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It feels like, at Tricor, we’re creating a team and an environment that people want to come to work for. It makes me really proud.” Retention, after all, is the first sign of a good boss.
Out of the 700 people that work in Wan’s Hong Kong offices, roughly half are under 35 years old—a group the CEO is dedicated to nurturing and mentoring closely. These are people, he explains, who not only “want to have money but they work for a purpose as well. It’s not so much what they do everyday that makes them come to work but the mission of the company they’re working for that motivates them.” Wan takes a human approach rather than a bureaucratic one in the office, seeing his employees not as resources that his institution hires to make a profit, but rather individuals that join the organisation so they can work together to achieve what cannot be done alone.
The CEO knows that the company needs to be agile to be successful, and is passionate about supporting the young people at his company. He hosts sessions with the associates at his firm, without any of the company’s middle management, to try to get to know them better, encouraging them to ask tough questions about leadership and the business. The same is true of the 50 interns he hires every year, whom he invites to spend a day with him. “Wherever I go, whatever meetings I have, they go—board meetings, management meetings—it’s a way to connect with the younger generation.”
But it’s not something that ends at Tricor. Wan is the director of the Shine Tak Foundation, which with the Hong Kong Association for the Advancements of Science and Technology invites over 120 local high school students to travel to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia with the hope of cultivating an interest and enhance knowledge of spacecraft and technological innovation. In the future, Tricor hopes to establish its own educational fund with some of its business partners in the industry to finance local university students in trade-related education.
“Asia is where the energy is,” Wan says. He hopes the young can see that, and be encouraged to stay in Hong Kong. It’s also why the city suits him down to the ground. Wan is something of a hobby-fiend, getting obsessed with a niche activity only to pivot to something else once he’s finished.
He holds a bus driver’s license, has a master’s in international public affairs from the University of Hong Kong, is a passionate golfer and currently collects calligraphy brushes, inspired by his grandparents, an amateur Chinese painter and calligraphy artist. A painting by his grandmother, inscribed with a poem by his grandfather, hangs beside his desk. Wan will write a book, one day, he says. It will be titled Killing a Mosquito with a Nuclear Bomb and will be a cross between a memoir and an entrepreneurship guide.
As the world continues to grow and our burden on the earth increases, Tricor strives to implement a paradigm for a circular economy, a model that focuses on the management of material flows, business innovation and cross-sector collaboration. When Wan first joined, staff members produced an average of 97 pages of A4 paper per person each day, so he collaborated with Mil Mill, the first pulp mill and education centre in Hong Kong to convert papers into pulp. He hopes to do more in the future.
His vision is that by equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills, providing individual mentoring support and by working together as a network, Tricor can maximise its employees’ collective impact and drive sustainable economic development. During his tenure, Wan hopes to make the lives of the people he works with better in some small way. “It could be a business decision. It could be career advice. But I would be proud of myself if I was able to make a difference in a person’s life.”
Discover more about Tricor Group at tricorglobal.com and find CEO Joe Wan on Facebook