Most valuable player: Fredrick Li’s love of sport is taking local sport retailer D-Mop into the major leagues
Finance and fashion may be odd bedfellows, but former investment banker Fredrick Li hasn’t looked back since he swapped dealing with the markets for the equally unpredictable world of fashion.
After graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, Li worked at investment dealer TD Securities, then joined family business Win Hanverky Holdings in 2004 at his father’s request. An integrated sportswear manufacturer, distributor and retailer, the company owns several brands, including D-Mop, Futbol Trend and Sports Corner.
Li’s foray into the family business began in manufacturing, and he moved across to retail in 2010, where his current role is director of high-end sports line D-Mop.
He didn’t find it difficult leaving finance behind. “Our company’s DNA is sportswear, and I’ve always looked up to athletes as my heroes; I [always] wanted to be Michael Jordan. Sport is my passion and I still play and watch a lot of sports. I figured if I can’t be an athlete, I may as well be in the background of it, selling sportswear.”
The major turning point in Li’s career so far hasn’t been leaving the financial world behind, but making the switch from garment manufacturing to retail fashion five years ago. “I studied finance, but now it’s not just about the money; I like what I’m selling. I fly a lot to Japan, Korea and Europe, just to keep ahead of the latest trends.”
The major challenge of his current role is dealing with competition from other outfits. “Hong Kong is so small and there are so many fashion retailers, so it’s hard. But as with sports, I see it as trying to win a match.”
To stay ahead of the game, D-Mop plans to expand its range of luxury sportswear. It has already built up a good relationship with Fendi and is currently the only independent retailer in Hong Kong to sell Fendi sportswear.
Li works closely alongside his father Roy, the current chairman of Win Hanverky. Their offices are only five minutes away from each other, and he pops in regularly to run things by him. Nevertheless, the director is also keen to stress the importance of his team to the brand’s success. “I take a democratic approach to leadership. I think freedom brings creativity, and in our business creativity is very important.”
At just 38, Li is a young leader and favours a more collaborative approach instead of the traditional top-down management style. He is also a fan of contingency theory, which dictates that there is no best way of organising and the appropriate form depends on the kind of task or environment with which you are dealing.
“It’s not easy having so many people under me. I have to make sure they understand my vision, but I also need to make sure I understand what my team’s needs are,” he says. Li’s hands-on approach towards “every single product” also sees him visiting shops to provide guidance to the sales staff.
In terms of products, D-Mop has added lifestyle products alongside its sportswear offerings, including Microsoft phones and books on fashion and art. “D-Mop is not expensive, and it’s not just for people who want to be cool. It’s for everyone,” Li says.
When he’s not thinking up strategies to differentiate D-Mop from other brands, Li tries to make time in his schedule for tennis, working out, golf with his father, and tea with his mother. “I tell my colleagues to take days off and not worry so much about work.” His off-duty look sees him ditching office suits for gear from the shop’s own clothing range, and he is a big fan of luxury sportswear.
He is currently trying to inject more “lifestyle” elements into D-Mop, with up-and-coming DJs encouraged to get behind the turntables and art exhibitions planned for the Central outlet. With Fendi and Kanye West pop-ups planned for later in the year, and a Hello Kitty sportswear collaboration already on the rails, he might just be onto something.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Most valuable player .