TransUnion’s president of APAC Lawrence Tsong says planning, focus and working with the right people are key to success
It is no easy feat leading the charge at any company in today’s fast-paced and competitive business environment. Yet Lawrence Tsong’s relaxed and confident stride gives no hint that he has the mammoth job of heading the Asia-Pacific business of one of the world’s largest credit information services companies, TransUnion.
While his confidence comes from decades of experience in management at behemoth companies such as United Overseas Bank Group and American Express, Tsong also attributes his career success to three personal guiding principles: focusing on the things you can control, having a team-based approach and empowerment.
“These are the three things that I have banked on over the last two decades of my experience, and this is a winning formula,” he says.
With this formula in hand, Tsong is taking care of all aspects of growing and promoting TransUnion’s presence in the Asia-Pacific markets. As president, he is also leading the company as it undergoes a major transformation from a credit information provider to an information solutions provider for consumers and businesses. What this means is that it is developing customised data analytical tools for companies and consumers to objectively make credit decisions.
The company employs around 130 people in the region and 4,100 globally. It continues to be in full hiring mode as it completes a three-year, multimillion-dollar upgrade of its global technology platform. The new system will be used to bolster the company’s data analytics capabilities, significantly reducing the time needed to deploy solutions to new markets.
Tsong attended The University of Hong Kong thinking he would study law, but in the end found his passion to be business administration. A two-year management trainee programme with American Express set him up for a career in management roles which took him to different job markets.
Finally, after more than a decade in business development, he felt it was time to find a job that would allow him to contribute to the industry at large while at the same time stay in finance. “TransUnion was spot on,” he says.
So far, Tsong has helped the business’s footprint expand into the Philippines and the mainland. He attributes these achievements to his “success ingredients”.
“First and foremost, you need to focus,” he stresses. “Focus on what you are doing and more importantly, focus on the things that you can control. Don’t waste your time focusing on the things that you can’t control.”
Pointing to an industry example, he says there is no point trying to persuade a regulator who has not moved in a whole month. Instead, it is more important to know when to let go and move on to something else that you can control. “This is very important because in today’s corporate world, you don’t have time, especially in a performance-oriented company. So focus on what you can control.”
Second, he says it may be clichéd – and often forgotten – but success is not based on one person’s efforts. “When I was in university, I thought you could drive success on your own and it’s a hero’s story – a single hero can make success. But when I started working, I realised it’s teamwork and you need the right mix of talent to support you to achieve success.”
By having the right mix of talent and support staff, the crucial next step is being able to delegate and empower the people around you to support you in achieving your goals for the company.
“In today’s corporate world, every executive is running against time. You need to delegate,” he says. “How can you do everything yourself?”
While Tsong has built a successful career by sticking to his guiding principles, he says personally, it was his planning, focus and goal-oriented attitude that gave him the edge and drove him to success.
Tsong also attributes part of his career success to knowing when it was time to move on. “Every move I have made in my career was a planned move, and nothing is accidental. Some people think it’s so structured and so planned and it’s very boring, but I am a structured person.”
His belief that everything happens for a reason and that every move should be carefully thought out is also reflected in his management style. He said that decisions can’t be emotional but instead should have “proof points”.
“It is like when we present a case or a new product to a customer, we have to show proof points and show a cost and benefit analysis, so that if you invest in this product, you know what the returns and the risks are and the points that we will address for you,” he says.
While there are many challenges in his job on a daily basis, he approaches them with solutions in mind, not accepting that human nature should be blamed for failures. He says it is important to find out why things fail and how problems arise, and pinpointing these helps find more successful solutions.
ELEMENTS OF ENGAGEMENT
Lawrence Tsong gives five tips on how to lead a team.
Vision “A leader must have vision and be forward-looking. Leading a team is a long-term vision for the next five to 10 years, so you must set milestones and achieve them.”
Magnetism “Make sure your team members, especially your management team, are on board with your vision.”
Focus “Be focused and goal oriented. Set goals for yourself and focus on what you can control. If something can’t be resolved, let it go.”
Kinesis “Engage your management team and middle managers. These are the people who will help you to drive execution and drive your vision.”
Transparency “Communication is key. Be very transparent with what you have to say and don’t have a hidden agenda.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Following a winning formula.