Start only if you are determined to succeed — Lunch with Carlson Tong, Chairman of Securities and Futures Commission
Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their life and career, where we get a glimpse into their mentality behind their ventures.
It’s not by sheer chance that Carlson Tong was appointed to lead the watchdog of Hong Kong’s securities and futures markets — a sector that generated HK$35 billion in net profit last year.
As Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Financial Commission (SFC), he stands firmly in his virtues of being always being humble and respectful— only giving others work he’d be willing to do himself, insisting on replying emails immediately, and contributing his expertise to community service.
After attaining qualifications to be a Chartered Accountant, Carlson joined KPMG in 1979 and became a local partner in 1989. He then proceeded to become the elected Chairman of KPMG in China and Hong Kong in 2007, and ultimately a member of the firm’s global board in 2009.
Thanks to his natural diligence and rich experience within the finance sector, he led the SFC for over 6 years and handed out over HK$3.5 billion worth of penalties before ending his tenure this October.
Before his departure, though, we were able to meet him for lunch where he talked about his mindful approach to both work and life.
What is your life motto?
“Always respect people. I have been taught when I was small, whenever you work as a team or ask people for help, only request people to do things that you’re either capable of doing yourself or have done so repeatedly on your own before.
Never ask others to do something you yourself cannot.
It is a form of respect. Also, I try to say thank you as much as possible, it is easy to say and shows your respect to others.”
Are there any habits you think will improve our lives?
“There are a few, the first being, giving a prompt reply to emails. Ever since I started working at KPMG, I always work on emails immediately, or at least give a reply. I never let my emails pile up. I never understood why people wait for days before they give a reply, a simple “well received” or “thanks, I’ll get back to you later” is already suffice, it is a display of respect.
A second habit I think would improve your life is to not look at your phone and email so often. My habit of looking at my mailbox so often has drawn the ire of my wife many times, as I am always looking at my phone. That’s why I am going to try and make it a habit to not stare at my phone so often. It is important to be “present” when you are with others, instead of being lost in the contents of your phone.
The third habit is to minimize your ego. There is no need to be boastful, respect and praise is something that others give you.
They are meaningless unless it comes from their heart.”
Any advice you want to give university students nowadays?
“Read more books and pay attention to the news. Read more, understand more and ask more questions. By doing so you can understand history, it is very important that you do so, as it helps you understand and be prepared for the future. I spend an hour or two every day to read the newspaper.
Also, once you decide to do something, give it your all, don’t give up along the way.
If you don’t think you can do so, don’t start off in the first place.
Perseverance is paramount to success. It is true that luck plays a part in success, but you have to be prepared in the first place and you need to be willing to give it your all, without doing so, it doesn’t matter how much luck you have.”
An action you want everyone to take away?
“Have an action plan for your entire life. I always write down my goals, both long-term and short-term. Whenever I get a new task or job, I write them all down.
Do not aim too high, make them achievable,
else you would become disappointed and might even become depressed.”
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