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Leading lady in e-payment

Published on Friday, 07 Dec 2012
Kerry Wong
Photo: Paul Wong

The e-commerce field has completely reshaped the way people find, select and, importantly, pay for goods and services. This final part is crucial to the success of online payment service PayPal, which has become one of the most widely used e-commerce payment platforms on the internet.

Kerry Wong is managing director of PayPal in Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. Her main task is to expand the company’s business by raising general awareness and overseeing negotiations which allow for payment via mobile devices and the internet.

How and why did you get into the online sector?
For the first part of my career, I was in a more traditional “bricks and mortar” type of business. After graduating in Australia, I came to Hong Kong in the mid-’90s and started my corporate career with American Express. Later I got into the online space because of my love of technology. I also wanted to be part of the new movement that enabled consumers to go online and use technology to manage travel bookings and other parts of their lives.

I was headhunted by an online brand, Zuji, to launch them as a consumer travel player in the Hong Kong market. It involved working with 16 major airlines and I had to bring in a new model that changed the traditional travel-agency experience that Hong Kong consumers were used to. In 2006, eBay asked me to join them to help start up their businesses in the Asia region, which I did before transferring to PayPal two years later.

How does the online space differ to real markets?
I would say the main difference comes down to the experience and, today, that is converging for both the merchant and the consumer. The line between the online and offline world is starting to blur. But if you look at the practical nature of an online business, because the internet is ubiquitous, you can reach a buying audience all around the world with 24/7 access. You are not relying on foot traffic and your “shop” is available for anyone at any time.

For the consumer, that opens up a new world of shopping – when travelling, in the middle of the night, or on a mobile device – with the chance to do easy price comparisons and have everything brought to your door.

What are the key elements of your current role?
PayPal’s mission is to provide innovation and relevancy for the future of payments. Nowadays, that could be on a phone, on a point-of-sale acceptance device or in the cloud. We need to develop the technology and open our platform to enable any type of e-payment.

In Hong Kong, we are looking specifically at how people are using smartphones and connected devices for their day-to-day shopping in order to match the requirements of both consumers and merchants.

What are the main challenges?
One of the ongoing challenges if you work in an online format is user acceptance and adoption. The younger generation uses many different platforms to source and search for goods and services. They’re looking for trusted, secure platforms to keep their data safe and to complete purchase transactions with peace of mind. As the e-commerce space expands, it creates a lot of opportunities for us and the industry in general.

How fast is the market growing locally?
In 2011, online shopping in Hong Kong was estimated at US$1.9 billion. We forecast it could reach US$2.5 billion by 2015, based on today’s trends. But there are factors which can change that, such as the speed at which consumers are adopting mobile and tablet technology. As you see that pick up, there will be more demand and more of this type of shopping behaviour, with everyone outgrowing their forecasts for mobile transactions.

What sort of targets do you set yourself every day?
Working in a multinational business, you find that a typical day doesn’t really exist. But you must be engaged and get out into the markets to understand the shopping environment in the countries that you manage. A lot of my time is spent on the road, around Asia and to the US.

One thing is for sure – the pace of change means you are always on your toes and always learning.

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