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                                                Success ingredient: table tennis

         A new spin
         For Lee Wai-ming, nothing beats ping pong diplomacy when it
         comes to doing business
        By Cookie Micaller        Photography by Brian Ching

                  ee Wai-ming works as an accountant, but his               A licensed table tennis coach, Lee says he is most
                  life involves another strikingly different world:      proud to have taught a 12-year-old girl from Shanghai
                  table tennis. In fact, his friends nicknamed him      back in 1998 who won in a European tournament in
         Klampar after the Hungarian table tennis superstar Tibor       2006 and was seeded number 13 in the under 21-world
         Klampar because both play with a powerful backhand             ranking of the International Table Tennis Federation as of
         and produce wicked spins off their paddles.                     December 2006.
             “I love table tennis. If I did not study accounting,           Over the years, Lee has gathered a treasure trove of
         maybe I would have been a table tennis coach,” says Lee,       mementoes – a yellow jersey souvenir shirt signed by
         who started as an audit clerk in the late 1980s and now        Jan-Ove Waldner, the “Mozart” of table tennis and a
         runs his own consulting firm. “Even now that I am a             legend in his native Sweden and in China, and a top-of-
         CPA, I haven’t left table tennis. I fly to places where there   the-line racquet given to him by Belarusian table tennis
         are competitions.”                                             star, Vladimir Samsonov, who played in the recent World
             Lee’s entry into table tennis, an Olympic sport            Team Table Tennis Championships in Guangzhou.
         since 1988, began with a dare. A proud primary school              Like the groundbreaking table tennis diplomacy
         classmate and ping pong player once challenged him and         between the United States and China from a bygone era,
         said, “You cannot beat me, ever.” Lee fumed but could          Lee has parlayed his shot-making prowess into business
         not afford any equipment. Luckily, he later stumbled on a       deals. The sport, he says, is common ground in Hong
         set of racquets and a net in a scrapheap on the streets.       Kong and China and brings numerous benefits to his
             “I practised hard and got better and better,” Lee          firm, which offers auditing and consulting services to
         recalls. Later on, he fell in love with the game and earned    Shenzhen and Hong Kong companies.
         a spot in the varsity team of Lingnan University.                  “Now, Hong Kong is part of China and every
             Lee had the opportunity to cross racquets with two         businessman has to do business with China. When I talk
         of the world’s best ping pong players – China’s Wang           about table tennis in China, they just love it.
         Liqin (three times winner of the World Championship                “I play with senior government officials from the
         and a bronze medallist in the 2004 Olympics) and Kong          tax department, finance department, the military and
         Linghui (the 2000 Olympic gold medallist) – in 1994            lawyers. Last June, I was the training coach for the
         when the pair visited Hong Kong to train the city’s table      police force in Shenzhen but I didn’t do it for the money,
         tennis players.                                                just for goodwill.”
             Over the years, Lee won, among other trophies, the             Lee says table tennis is good training for accounting
         Labour Union Cup Hong Kong Open in 1991 and the                work. “During auditing, it makes me become more
         Hong Kong Sports Festival in 1992 and 1993. He was             detailed-oriented in my work. I become more patient. In
         three times first runner-up in the annual age-graded            the auditor’s report, if you overlook one little thing, the
         Hong Kong Open Championship and reached the                    effect is very, very big.
         quarterfinals of the prestigious Shanghai Open in China             “Table tennis made me a strong person, not physically,
         in 1999.                                                       but mentally. I feel more complete,” he says.

[ 24 ] A Plus   +   August 2008
Lee Wai-ming, who runs his own firm,
Power Consulting Ltd., says table
tennis is a good training ground for
accounting work.

                                       August 2008   +   A Plus [ 25 ]
                                       Success ingredient: equestrian

          Beyond racing
          Nicholas Tan hopes Hong Kongers will come
          to appreciate horse riding as more than a race,
          writes Howard Tang
          Photography by Brian Ching

[ 26 ] A Plus   +   August 2008
           orse racing is one of Hong Kong people’s           Hong Kong will host dressage, jumping and
           favourite past-times, along with mahjong       eventing on 9 to 11 August in Shatin and Beas
           and eating – so much so that it has almost     River in the New Territories. Dressage is often
become an obsession. But what about the sport of          dubbed equestrian ballet as the horse must perform
horse riding? Apparently, not too many people here        set movements or freestyle to music. Jumping
can tell the difference.                                   requires the horse to clear a series of obstacles
    And that, Nicholas Tan says, is the biggest battle    and eventing combines dressage, cross-country
he and others involved in the Hong Kong Equestrian        and jumping.
Federation’s Olympic committees had to fight in                The promotion sub-committee, comprising two
turning the city into China’s equine capital.             full-time and six part-time members, went all out to
    “We had to educate the Hong Kong public about         interest Hong Kongers in the events and the Olympic
the difference between horse racing and horse riding,”     Games – taking road shows to schools, opening to
the Deloitte audit partner tells A Plus.                  the public a riding school in the New Territories, and
    Tan first learned how to ride horses as a young boy    staging a weekend carnival at Happy Valley.
on a Danish farm while on family vacation and is now          Judging by the numbers, the carnival, which
a leisure rider. Because of his interest in horses and    attracted at least 5,000 people, including journalists,
accounting skills, he got involved in 2005 with the       celebrities and district councillors, had the biggest
sub-committee in charge of promoting the Olympic          impact, Tan says.
2008 equestrian events in Hong Kong.                          Another high note in the marketing blitz was
    Although he deals with numbers daily, Tan says        bringing the horses and riders to schools. “Sending
handling a marketing budget for the Hong Kong             riding experts on road shows to the schools was also
equestrian events was different and more taxing,           useful because it gave the kids a chance to meet with
especially the time-consuming tender processes,           real horse riders and not horse racers. It also showed
where bidders had to be assessed individually on          them a different side of horses,” he says.
price and technical competence.                               With his hectic schedule as an audit partner at a
                                                                                                                                        Projector photo: Tom Shaw/Getty Images

    “We were given a budget and we had to make sure       Big Four firm, how has Tan found the time to be so
everything would fit within it,” he says. Fortunately,     involved with such a gargantuan project?
with the government’s help, the sub-committee was             Tan says his involvement in the Olympics allowed
able to plan the budget, which he declined to disclose,   him to do something different and “as accountants,
in great detail and met its target.                       we are experts at juggling our schedules.”

                                                                                                      August 2008   +   A Plus [ 27 ]
                                  Success ingredient: dragon boat

                                                         CPAs are attracted to the traditional Chinese
                                                         sport because of its emphasis on teamwork.
                                                         (From left) Eric Wong, director, Human Resources
                                                         Management Association; Zelinda Ng, Asia
                                                         Pacific CFO, Equity Trust Group; and Sam
                                                         Yuen, internal audit manager, Giant Wireless
                                                         Technology Ltd.

[ 28 ] A Plus   +   August 2008
United we stand
Three accountants tell Howard Tang why they are so
committed to dragon boating
Photography by Brian Ching

         t first glance, accountancy and dragon boating        at Human Resources Management Association and
         may seem worlds apart. So what drives a team of      convenor of the dragon boat interest group. The
         busy accountants to be so passionate about the       team now has close to 50 members and regularly
sport that they are willing to endure grueling training for   participates in the men’s boat and mixed boat races in
it every week?                                                Hong Kong.
     Sam Yuen, internal audit manager at Giant                    Dragon boat racing is gaining prominence in the
Wireless Technology Ltd. and member of the Institute’s        international sports scene after being designated as an
dragon boat team, says he is attracted to the traditional     official sporting event in the 2010 Asian Games
Chinese sport because of its emphasis on teamwork,            in Guangzhou.
much like accountants work in the office.                           Here in Hong Kong, its growing popularity as
     Racers may be fit and very strong but if they are not     a team sport may be attributed to an annual season
in sync with the team, they may do more harm than             of races lasting four to five months, usually from
good, says Yuen, who started paddling in 2002 while           February to June.
living in Sydney and joined the Institute’s team a year           The Hong Kong Tourism Board has also heavily
later. “There is no other sport that I can think of where     promoted dragon boating because Hong Kong is one
individualism doesn’t exist at all.”                          of a few Southern Chinese cities that are near the coast
     Zelinda Ng, another team member and Asia                 and have kept the tradition alive.
Pacific CFO at Equity Trust Group, agrees with Yuen.               “Dragon boating is a hidden treasure of Hong
“There is no ‘me’ in dragon boat. Team spirit is              Kong,” says Yuen.
very important.”                                                  For the Institute’s dragon boat team, training is
     Ng took up the sport after the 2003 SARS                 tough, lasting two hours every Sunday. This season, the
epidemic in Hong Kong, which prompted many Hong               team held additional practices on Wednesday nights.
Kongers to rethink how to lead a healthier lifestyle.             But members’ persistence and hard-work paid off,
     “I wanted to do something outdoors so I figured           given the collection of silverware the team bagged
spending time in the ocean would be a great option,”          this season: second place in the Stanley Dragon Boat
Ng says. She was not disappointed and has now                 Association Warm-up Races mixed category and third
become addicted to the serenity and joy of being out          place in the men’s category, and fourth place in the
on the water.                                                 International Dragon Boat Competition mixed plate
     The Institute’s dragon boat team has grown every         category (second division).
year since 2001, according to Eric Wong, a director               “We hope to do even better next season,” Ng says.

                                                                                                         August 2008   +   A Plus [ 29 ]

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