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  • 08/05/2016

How Ka Shi Lau builds BCT into a Hong Kong pride through culture and good governance


There’s No Place Like Home, Strong and Proud

By Carmen Reid

Hong Kong talent shines through in 2016, with BCT Group being awarded MPF Provider of the Year. Managing Director & CEO of BCT, Ms. Ka Shi Lau, is delighted, proud and a little surprised too, as she knows that BCT has had to fight off intense competition from much bigger names in the market.

“We’re a home-grown company,” she says, “the key players are always the global firms. As a local company, we have to stand strong and proud. There shouldn’t be any difference between local or international, so our goal is to be a provider of choice, offering the best products and services that help people to prepare for retirement. It’s excellent to be recognized because we’re a relative newcomer.”

Ka Shi Lau (Lau) admits that Hong Kong, for so many years a hub for international names, is a market where it is not always an advantage to be local. She’s had to work hard to build the BCT name. “People think that bigger has to be better. If you’re local, you have to build your brand first as people tend to trust a larger name because of advertising or familiarity with that company. But we’re a Hong Kong firm that understands the local market, and we can make decisions very quickly.”

A smaller, local company often has to work twice as hard to achieve success. Drawing on past experience, Lau adds: “I had a similar situation many years ago at a bank in New York. I had to do a lot more because I was the only woman among the management trainees, so I’m used to that.”

BCT has built up its brand name and its reputation. One achievement Lau is very proud of is the company’s unerring accuracy: “Over the years we have never had a pricing error.” The company is now serving major names such as CLP and HK Electric, and the past five years have seen a growing number of large employers who are willing to use a local provider. In words that will stir many company-builders and entrepreneurs, Lau declares: “It doesn’t matter how long or how complicated the process is, it is the outcome that is important.”

Connecting with Customers

A major factor in BCT’s success is its willingness to reach out and connect with its customers.

“The whole world’s talking about connectivity. How do you stay connected with your neighbor? Your child? Your family? Your friends?” Lau asks, “I’m focused on connecting with our customers because they tend to avoid thinking about their retirement.” BCT has decided to interact in as many ways as possible, including apps that engage members and a new website with interactive retirement calculator tools. “We try many things to raise awareness,” says Lau, “such as fund managers discussing investments.”

BCT also uses celebrity endorsements. “We invite celebrities to give talks,” Lau adds, “because it allows us to focus on something more light-hearted.” BCT also aims to make the process as simple as possible for employers. “We want to relieve their burden,” says Lau, “We provide employers with tools to make MPF administration easy. We also give them a lot of information and assistance through the internet, videos and do a lot of member briefings so they can help their colleagues plan for their retirement.”

Safe and Growing

Lau never forgets that she is looking after other people’s assets. “The security of people’s money is our number-one priority, how you grow the company is secondary,” she declares. BCT uses a system of independent fund managers whose performance is constantly assessed. “Not many managers can say “I’m good in every asset class, sector and country all the time,” so we use multi-fund managers. We harness the strength of different fund managers in particular sectors, and we have a process to select those managers and replace them if necessary, as we have done in the past.” Integrity is fundamental to the company. “We have to be trusted,” Lau says, “because the money held with us is for the benefit of the scheme members.”

A Special Company

What sets BCT apart? Lau is very clear that as well as being local, hardworking and connected to its customers, BCT also takes corporate governance seriously. “We have a process in place that everybody in the organization has to comply with. Me especially,” Lau explains, “I have to set an example that we are compliant and a properly-run company. Who wants to work for a company that they cannot be proud of? Or a company that is not doing things properly?”

Her aim is for BCT to be a great place to work but a high performing one as well. “Employee happiness comes first,” says Lau, “but that’s not easy.” The company offers generous leave for employees and a five-day week. There is also a full program of learning and personal development. “We provide promotions and remuneration reviews. We try to do something nice every year,” Lau explains, “even in a difficult year. For example, all through SARS and the financial crisis, I told my colleagues, “do your job and don’t worry about job security.” During difficult times there are two things that you need to do: one is to think of ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Then, think more about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). We should care for other people and help those less fortunate. “We’re not perfect,” she admits, “but we’re trying. I want my employees to be very proud of BCT.”

Growth Ahead

There is no doubt that BCT is focused on dynamic growth. “We expect performance,” says Lau, “Performance results in more resources over the longer term. That’s why we need a robust technology platform. We have a flexible, scalable system that can be expanded to service a larger number of people.” BCT Group is comprised of two companies: BCT Financial Limited and Bank Consortium Trust Company Limited, and for this agile and innovative business, expansion is on the agenda: “There is space to grow,” says Lau, “We continue to look at new opportunities because our current capacity and scope can be expanded. But we want to grow very steadily while controlling risk.”

Staying the Course

When Lau is asked for her views on the market over the next year, she is pragmatic. “In the MPF market, there will be volatility because we’re restricted to developed-market equities and bonds. Over the longer term, we remain positive in equities, and although more expensive, we remain confident in the US market. We’re also upbeat on the Japanese market. Less so for the Asia, not because of uncertainty but because of the strong US dollar and weaker local currencies. We don’t know what Trump is going to do that will affect Asian currencies and the market. For bonds, we’re relatively negative.” Finally, with a smile, she adds: “The world is not going to get any more certain. The market is not going to get any less volatile. Still, we shall remain invested. And people should care about their MPF – retirement savings!”. BM

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以港為家

Carmen Reid 撰文

2016年本地人才脫穎而出。當中,BCT銀聯集團獲頒發「年度供應商(強積金)大獎」。其董事總經理及行政總裁劉嘉時女士對此倍感欣悅,並且有點喜出望外,因為BCT需在激烈競爭中擊敗一眾大型金融機構,方能奪此殊榮。

她解釋:「我們是一間在香港土生土長的企業,而巿場的主要參與者一直是國際企業。作為一間本地公司,我們必須保持自強。本地與跨國企業亦應平起平坐,因此,我們旨在成為客戶首選的強積金供應商,為港人提供最好的產品和服務,助他們準備退休生活。BCT在市場上還算是新丁,能獲得專業肯定對我們實為一大鼓舞。」劉嘉時承認香港作為國際金融中心,本地企業多年來並沒有得到太大優勢。她必須努力建立BCT的品牌。她指出:「一般人認為企業越大,產品服務自然越好,也因廣告或對企業的熟識程度覺得大公司較為可信,所以本地企業必須先建立自己的品牌。但作為一家熟悉本地市場的香港公司,我們能更迅速靈活決策,發揮優勢。」

一般規模較小的本地公司往往需要付出雙倍努力才能成功。劉嘉時作為一個過來人,也同意這點:「多年前我在紐約一間銀行遇到類似情況。當時我是管理見習生之中唯一的女性,因此我必需加倍努力,久而久之我也習慣了這樣的競爭。」BCT成功建立品牌聲譽,其中最令劉嘉時自豪的就是公司的運作一直準確無誤:「我們多年來從未犯過任何計價上的錯誤。」公司現服務多間香港大型企業,例如中電和港燈。過去五年來,越來越多大僱主願意使用本地供應商。劉嘉時提醒並勉勵創業人士和企業家:「過程長短、或複雜與否無關重要,最重要的還是結果。」

緊繫客戶

BCT之所以成功,主因是它相信主動接觸並緊密聯繫客戶的重要性。劉嘉時指出:「全世界都在討論怎麼與別人接觸聯繫。你怎樣與你的鄰居、孩子、家人和朋友保持聯繫呢?客戶往往迴避退休規劃,正因如此,我更專注與客戶保持聯繫。」而BCT盡己所能以多種方式與客戶溝通,包括推出應用程式與強積金計劃成員互動,並設立提供互動退休計算機的新網站。劉嘉時解釋:「我們嘗試用多種方法提升客戶對計劃退休的意識, 例如邀請基金經理舉行投資講座。」另外BCT也邀請名人代言,劉嘉時補充:「邀請名人演講,讓我們可以用一個輕鬆方法與觀眾溝通。」

BCT還旨在為僱主盡量簡化強積金管理程序。劉嘉時說:「我們為僱主提供不同工具,希望減輕其行政負擔,協助他們靈活方便處理強積金事宜。我們還透過互聯網和短片提供資訊及支援,也舉行成員簡介會,讓他們可以幫助同事規劃退休生活。」

妥善管理資金、力求穩定增長

劉嘉時從不敢忘記自己管理的是別人的資產。她說:「我們的首要任務永遠是保障客戶的資金,業務增長反而是次要。」BCT採用獨立基金經理,並定期監察其表現。「沒有多少基金經理可以說自己任何時刻都能在每個資產類別、行業以及區域均取得優勝表現,因此我們採用多個基金經理。匯聚具備不同投資專才的基金經理亦令我們可以靈活挑選,並在必要時撤換基金經理。」專業操守是公司的最大基石,劉嘉時認為:「要成功必須先贏得客戶信任。公司掌握客戶資產,就有責任為客戶的長遠利益作打算。」

獨特之處

BCT有何獨特之處? 劉嘉時非常清楚公司之所以成功,除了植根本地、勤奮進取以及與客戶保持緊密聯繫外,還有對企業管治的重視。劉嘉時解釋:「公司所有人都必須合規,而我必須以身作則,合法合規地營運公司。試問有誰想為一間不值得自豪或做事不恰當的企業工作?」她的目標是建立一個兼具高效率及良好工作環境的企業。劉嘉時強調:「讓同事工作開心是企業的首要目標,但實踐卻毫不容易。」BCT的員工可享有充足假期、五天工作制,另外公司亦為員工提供完善的進修及個人發展計劃。

劉嘉時續說:「我們時刻檢討同事的晉升機會和薪酬,每年都嘗試為他們多做一點。即使身在逆境如沙士和金融危機之時,我都鼓勵同事專注工作,不要擔心穩定性。在逆境困難中,有兩件事是必須做的:一是想辦法提高效率和生產力,其次就是考慮承擔更多企業社會責任。我們應該關心其他人和幫助有需要人士。」她認為:「人無完美,但我們勇於嘗試。我希望同事作為BCT的一份子感到非常自豪。」

發展前景

毫無疑問,BCT專注於業績的蓬勃增長。劉嘉時強調:「我們重視業績,長遠來說,良好業績可帶來更多資源,因此我們需要穩健的技術平台。而我們正好有靈活、可延伸的系統,有助我們拓展客源,為更多人服務。」

BCT銀聯集團由銀聯金融有限公司和銀聯信託有限公司兩間公司組成。身處這個分秒必爭而且日新月異的行業,業務擴展是永恆的目標,劉嘉時說:「增長的空間還有很多,我們不斷尋求新機遇,因為目前業務的範圍還有發展空間。但我們希望在穩步增長的同時能夠控制風險。」

堅持到底

提及對市場來年的投資展望,劉嘉時則務實回應:「在強積金市場,投資仍存在一定的波動性,因為我們現制度下的投資限於已發展國家的證劵和債券。長遠來說,我們仍然看好股票市場;儘管估值較高,但也對美國市場保持信心。

另外,日本市場前景也樂觀,但亞洲其他地區宜先觀望,原因並非市場上的不確定性,而是美元強勢導致當地貨幣走弱。我們暫未知道特朗普上任後會推出什麼影響到亞洲外匯巿場和投資市場的政策。至於債券市場,我們則較為負面。」最後劉嘉時笑稱:「展望全球前景並不明朗,市場將更為動蕩。然而我們應該繼續投資,大家亦應關心自己的強積金,為退休未雨綢繆!」 BM

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