Q&A with Aaron Pang, Associate Director, Business Transformation at Ernst & Young

Aaron Pang, Associate Director, Business Transformation at EY, created his first e-commerce business and online marketing business at age 21 and achieved over one million US revenue in the first year. In 2015, he led the home market of a global successful logistic-tech venture, Lalamove. After that, he went on to lead a three-year transformational program for a global accounting body Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA). He is the creator and host of the Transformative Purpose podcast, author of two books Reborn Digital and The Asian Dad.

I believe when all of us focus on becoming a better future self, together, we can co-create a better world for the next generation. Children are our future.


MEDIA 7: Actions speak louder than words, and yours tell an incredible story. Which of your professional milestones are the most memorable?
AARON PANG:
While technology has given us many benefits and convenience, it has also resulted in challenges to humanity. As we are more connected digitally, we are less connected as humans.
I build community to inspire. I believe when all of us focus on becoming a better future self, together, we can co-create a better world for the next generation. Children are our future.

Below are some of the most memorable milestones:

1. Reborn Digital, a book that I authored in 2021 has become one of the bestsellers in Hong Kong and Macau. I enjoyed the journey of writing because it taught me how to find time to write while juggling a young child and a full-time job. The book is suitable for anyone who wants to understand more about the new digital economy and how to transform.

2. Every week I speak to an inspirational guest through our podcast, Transformative Purpose. The podcast aims at building a global community through positivity and helping others to discover their north star. After one month of launch, we have received global support from a diverse international audience from CEOs to parents to children. What struck me the most is that we now have people from Vietnam, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Australia helping with the vision.

3. The digital transformation journey at a very traditional company Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) and redesigned many of its digital and non-digital service and channel experience which impacted over 65,000 members and students as well as the public in the last few years.


M7: What inspired you to become a successful entrepreneur when you were 21 years old?
AP:
I majored in actuary in year one and then changed to marketing and management double major after I realized actuary was not for me. Thinking back, the rare combination, reading management books, and following leadership gurus including the likes of Andrew Grove, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, back in the day, has probably taught me to think about problems creatively and logically.


I dream of a world where everyone knows about their north star, focuses on becoming a better future self, work with one another together, to co-create a better future for the next generation.



M7: Your first online marketing business’ revenue turnover was over a million in the US market within the first year of its launch. What was the strategy behind achieving such a grand success in a short period of time?
AP:
I love challenges and enjoy spotting opportunities, analyzing data, doing experiments to make things better. The success came from relentless trying and failing. I think there were four key factors that drove the success.

- Firstly, be opportunistic. The business was only making US$10-$20 net every day in its early days. It took a while to figure out the winning formula.

- Secondly, be analytical. We did a lot of research analyzing data from many different sources.

- Thirdly, be resilient and keep testing. We did a lot of experiments to try what worked and what did not work. Similar to Thomas Edison, he proved there were hundreds of other ways in which light bulbs wouldn’t work. It all depends on how you look at an issue.

- Lastly, the power of context played a role as well. We were in the early days of e-commerce right after the dot-com crash. Despite having no technical knowledge, I taught myself how to build several e-commerce and drop-shipping websites, market our brands online, and focus on finding ways to provide more value to customers which traditional retail value chains could not fulfil.


M7: As the Managing Director of Lalamove, how have you helped the company become a globally recognized logistic-tech venture?
AP:
 I was the Country Leader between 2015 and 2016, a period where we were facing fierce competition from our local competitors and we also had very high attrition. To break out from the red-ocean and not to be seen as offering a commoditized last-mile delivery service, we launched new services to differentiate from our competition, such as motorcycle, standardized door-to-door shipping for retail and luxury retail eCommerce including Google, Zalora and the like. We also formed many strategic partnerships to improve the customer and driver community in Hong Kong.

Operationally, we streamlined and standardized a lot of our operations to improve the scalability, consistency and quality of our services. To name a few, we introduced onboarding, engagement and offboarding strategies for drivers. To tackle the high employee turnover in customer service, we introduced rotation, created a career path, defined service protocols to handle customer and driver complaints. To help with engagement, I allocated part of the operating budget to customer service, which they can use for team-building.

Because of my passion for data, we were quite diligent in tracking customers and drivers’ data and their behaviors. I created a new role for data scientists and we co-created leading indicators, e.g. standard deviations to track customer and driver anomalies so that we can step in timely.


M7: Can you please take us through the transformational program that you implemented at Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) that made it a global leader today?
AP:
There were three key stages, build, operate and transfer. We first assembled a centralized digital team that supported all the business units. To ensure timely decision-making because organizations such as HKICPA and the like tend to be quite bureaucratic, I led a steering committee that directly reported to the council members.

During the implementation, we focused on the customer-facing digital touch-points with members and students first. We conducted surveys from time to time to gather their feedback and satisfaction. We celebrated small wins and then took on the more challenging enterprise innovation around customer data, servicing model and process optimization. Almost 100% of our members were satisfied with the digital improvements.

Lastly, we upskilled and transferred the digital ownership back to the business and IT departments.


Treasure every breath in life because someone else might not have a chance to. Learn to focus on the means and enjoy the discovery. Life is like a book. You don’t know the next chapter that lies ahead of you. But what you do today, can influence the narrative of the next chapter.



M7: What is the goal you hope to achieve through your Transformative Purpose podcast?
AP:
I dream of a world where everyone knows about their north star, focuses on becoming a better future self, work with one another together, to co-create a better future for the next generation. Children are our future.


M7: You are a proud author of two successfully published books: Reborn Digital and The Asian Dad. Can you please tell us more about them?
AP:
My first book was inspired by my son.
On April 9 2019, the day before my son turned three months, he suffocated. I thought he would die in my arms. That experience made me re-look at the world through the lens of a young child. I wrote my first book, The Asian Dad so that one day my son would understand the purpose of parenting and what his parents had to go through. I published my first Chinese paperback in June 2021. The book aims to educate companies and others on how to become Pi and T-shaped talent by understanding more about digital transformation and how to transform.


M7: You are an inspiration for ambitious youngsters today. How would you advise them to stay motivated and keep working hard to achieve their goals?
AP:
Our values and behaviours are shaped by years of upbringing and life experiences.
The most important thing is to stay healthy.
I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy twice in my life. I was not able to smile, blink, eat, and speak clearly for about nine months. Treasure every breath in life because someone else might not have a chance to.
Learn to focus on the means and enjoy the discovery. Life is like a book. You don’t know the next chapter that lies ahead of you. But what you do today, can influence the narrative of the next chapter. Steve Jobs founded his company in the 70s, it took almost 30 years before we saw iPhone.

Success in life is not about how much money we have made or our job titles. The world is broken today, it is more divided than ever before. Do our part and help make it a better place by being human to one another. We should measure ourselves by the impact we made on the world and the number of people we have helped.

I try to train my brain to think these ways and then build an ecosystem to reinforce these values. Ecosystem meaning, your mentors, your language (do you say I instead of We), your habits (are you burned out? Do you exercise?) and then experiment (if there’s something you are unhappy about, be the change). I just happen to use my voice and book to inspire others to find their north star. Life is a discovery. If I can do it, so can you.

ABOUT ERNST & YOUNG

Ernst & Young exists to build a better working world, helping create long-term value for clients, people and society and build trust in the capital markets. Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate. Working across assurance, consulting, law, strategy, tax and transactions, EY teams ask better questions to find new answers for the complex issues facing our world today.

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