Career Advice Successful High flyers’ story

A personal finance platform that helps you make better financial decisions

In his role as general manager of online platform MoneySmart, Arthur Wan has one overriding objective: to help consumers make better financial decisions.

“Nowadays, it can be super hard to navigate different investment products, so we make it easy to compare things like credit cards, loans, travel insurance and mortgages on a neutral, unbiased platform,” he says. “We also do lead generation for banks and insurance companies. So, for example, if a customer does a comparison and decides to apply for a certain card through our site, we get a referral fee from the bank.”

With this kind of one-stop shop for the personal finance sector, users can do research, assess the options, and find general advice on the various tools and solutions.

The core information comes from banks and financial institutions, but the site also has tips on, say, applying for a personal loan plus an investor education blog with articles and videos.

“Any comments we make depend on personal experience,” Wan says. “But we do our own research on interest rates for loans and incentives, conduct fact-checking, and interview professionals.”

Operations began in Hong Kong just over a year ago, since when site visits have reached around 500,000 a month. The target is to hit over 700,000 per month by adding car and possibly medical insurance products.

“It has been super rapid growth so far, and we expect that to continue.”

Though born in Toronto, where his father was a banker and his mother was the homemaker, Wan attended South Island School when the family returned to Hong Kong and, as a teenager, developed a spare-time interest in graphic design and cars.

“I would go to Mercedes showrooms, get brochures and look at ways to enhance the design,” he says. “A bit later, besides drawing something aesthetically pleasing, I thought it would also be good to understand the components and functions involved in making a product that is practical and fit for purpose, which led to a three-year degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Hong Kong.”

Before graduating in 2000, with no definite career plans, Wan went for a couple of interviews and, quite fortuitously, “stumbled upon” a job with IBM as a management trainee. He signed on in the belief that experience with a big-name technology company would open up all kinds of opportunities — as indeed proved to be the case.

After settling in, he was assigned to the team selling AS400 servers and smaller-sized mainframes to banks, insurance companies and manufacturers. It meant dealing with IT managers, CIOs and CFOs, a difficult task made much easier by the comprehensive training in sales methods and techniques.

“We were taught how to map account structure — the people to contact in different companies — and to understand various stakeholder needs,” Wan says. “I learnt how to build rapport, have objectives for each meeting, steer a discussion, and pick up information about competitors. There was also a mentoring system with shadow meetings to help us understand how people behave and why they do certain things in different situations.”

After a 30-month stint in servers, Wan transferred to IBM Macau, a new 10-person satellite office handling hardware, software and consultancy services. His mission was to set up operations and sales, and it was an exciting time with bids for government tenders, new casino-resorts opening up, and large-scale projects like the East Asian Games.

“There were major contracts for things like casino POS (point of sale) systems,” Wan says. “The competition was cut-throat, winner takes all. It was a unique environment, but always friendly too.”

By 2005, though, he was ready for a new challenge, so went into partnership with his brother. Their plan was a start-up built around sports coaching, with trained instructors overseeing after-school activities like swimming and basketball at otherwise underutilised facilities.

Accordingly, they approached international schools and residential clubhouses, recruited freelance coaches for different sports and, subsequently, expanded to offer classes in yoga and flower arranging, as well as summer camps for kids.

“Initially, we just wanted more people to benefit from the facilities,” Wan says. “It was fun, but also good business, in fact a mini goldmine with near double-digit growth every year. I did that for three years until everything was going smoothly, and my brother still runs it.”

The chance to join Yahoo lured Wan away, in particular a role in search engine marketing and advertising. It later came to include all facets of digital marketing — video, content creation, expansion into e-commerce, and even a groundbreaking product launch for car company Audi.

“People hadn’t imagined you could sell cars online, but we sold the first 10 in seven minutes. That was amazing, very fulfilling.”

During that period, Wan also saw the importance of influencing others to achieve corporate goals, rather than being an individual contributor. And that insight stood him in good stead in his next two roles.

The first, in 2014, was with Google, managing online ad sales in Greater China to less traditional advertisers like health supplement firms plus finance and insurance companies. The second was with Groupon HK, as general manager of the entire Hong Kong operation, looking after inventory, costs, a physical store and, after the 2017 acquisition by HKTVmall, the migration of all customers and systems.

“E-commerce is even faster-paced than digital marketing, so there was a lot to learn,” he says. “It was also good preparation for coming to MoneySmart where the focus is on growing the team, getting the right strategies in place, and knowing where to look for opportunities.”

As a father of two, Wan values family, friends and a work-life balance that allows time for charity work, swimming, hiking and camping in Sai Kung.

“I’ve also done an ‘adrenaline junkie’ tour to New Zealand and now want to fly in an F-14 jet fighter,” he says.