THIS week we get thoughts and ideas from Visa country manager for Malaysia Ng Kong Boon
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up from humble beginnings in a small town in Ipoh. At the tender age of 10, I helped my mother set up her fruit stall outside our home and sold fruits to people in the neighbourhood. That was when I started learning the ropes on how to run a small business. I interacted with people from all walks of life, and started developing my social skills. I was taught the importance of humility and diligence and have always believed firmly in these values. All my experiences since young have rooted my core values and shaped me to become the person I am today.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current position?
I am a Computer Science graduate and specialized in IT. Upon graduation, I started out at a company where they embraced technology and internet banking. Back then in the mid-90s, it was the internet boom. Having studied IT, I understand operations at the back end and that helps me in my current role when I deal with clients today. I am able to use my skills and expertise from my past job experiences to deal effectively with clients. I also worked in MEPS and that was a good platform for me to build my network, given that the people that I worked with previously are the same people I work with now.
I then accepted an opportunity to work at an international bank and gained global exposure and insights, which helps me better understand the perspectives of a global client. As a Country Manager, it is imperative to be able to understand how our clients think and it is crucial we understand their needs and challenges they face so we can help resolve them.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenures at Visa?
I recall a few highlights in my career at Visa. Firstly, I am the longest serving employee in Visa Malaysia since we first established our local office. I worked my way up from being a Project Manager to Head of Sales for Malaysia, and finally the Country Manager for Malaysia with strong support, coaching and mentorship from my manager. Visa used to come second against our competitor in the industry but today, we are the market leader.
In addition, I was also involved in several first-in-market initiatives in Malaysia such as the EMV migration exercise and introduction of Visa payWave contactless cards. We also launched 3DSecure, also known as Verified by Visa in Malaysia and it was adopted by the industry to make it the standard for eCommerce transactions.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
Being a Country Manager for Visa definitely keeps me busy. However, I also treasure time with my family so I try to spend as much time with them, especially during the evenings and on weekends. We make it a point to travel as a family together regularly. My family, especially my wife, have been a pillar of strength and support for me throughout these years and I believe it is important to strike a good balance between work and personal time in order to be truly successful in life.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal lives?
I have been very fortunate to meet many good managers, who also became my mentors and they supported me tremendously at Visa. Some of these managers are based at the regional offices but that has not affected the rapport and support they have given me in the local office. I believe in learning from the best, and have learnt a lot in the last 10 years from the brightest and smartest people at Visa.
My bosses have given me invaluable advice on how to progress the career ladder. They are also my sponsors, advocating their support for me so that I could climb from being a project Manager to become the Country Manager for Malaysia today.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
My goal in the next five years is to push for the cashless agenda in Malaysia, which is aligned with Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) direction to build a cashless society in Malaysia under the Economic Transformation Programme. We have been introducing innovative and digital solutions to our bank clients in Malaysia and they have also launched first-in-market solutions for consumers such as mobile payments using Visa Token Service.
By working closely with the bank issuers and merchant partners, we aim to reduce the usage of cash in the market and achieve the goals set out by BNM. I am positive that we are making good progress, especially since consumers are getting more receptive and embrace electronic payments. Recently, we announced that Visa payWave monthly transactions have exceeded more than two million, which is a milestone for us. This shows that consumers are increasingly shifting towards using more innovative solutions to displace cash in their wallets.
Best piece of advice you ever got on your career?
The best piece of advice that I have received is be passionate in what you do and be responsible for the risks that you take. I have been fortunate to work in a company that not only promotes diversity and inclusion, meritocracy but also takes chances on its people. Hence, I have been able to climb the career ladder at Visa successfully. The last advice I would like to share is do not confine your career to what you study, but think about what you really want to do to achieve your goals. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
I engage in regular meetings with the industry, including having periodic meetings with BNM as well as industry associations such as Association of Banks Malaysia (ABM) and National Card Group (NCG) to keep updated on current issues and discuss about the upcoming challenges and issues that the industry will be facing. We also have meetings with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to explore potential opportunities to promote Malaysia to becoming more digital.
What was your biggest failure and how did you learn from it?
I think the biggest failure in my career was when I joined a few people to set up the first payment gateway in Malaysia using wallet technology in the late 1990s. That was ahead of the ideal time to launch such a platform due to a few reasons. The infrastructure was not ready to enable wallet technology, there were no mobile phones for people to conduct transactions and no high-speed broadband internet was available. Instead of using app stores to download the application, the programme had to be downloaded from a CD-ROM back in those days. However, we proceeded with the project because we thought it was the right thing to do then. What I learnt from this experience is that we should build what consumers want, not what we think is right for them.
What man made innovation confounds you? Why?
It has to be the iPhone. Since the introduction of iPhones, it has transformed how consumers view and use mobile phones as a device. Apple was the first company to make such a vision possible. They built what consumers want, and not just another mobile device. In fact, mobile phones have now become an integral part of consumers’ lives. There are more mobile phones than desktops today, more mobile transactions performed on eCommerce than transactions via desktops or laptops. In addition, people cannot imagine leaving home without their phones, but they can do so without their wallets. We would never imagined this possible back in the past before the introduction of iPhones.