An interview with Wilson Ng, Partner, Fastlane Group by HKICPA | Article – HSBC VisionGo
“Becoming an entrepreneur and setting up my own practice required a big mindset change,” says Wilson Ng
Wilson Ng, Co-founder of FastLane CPA and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs, says “If you worked for a large corporations you only focused on your own responsibilities” he says. “Now we have a lot more things to manage and execute both operationally and strategically. We have to make the decisions for all unctions of our business.”
Ng set up his firm in 2013 with his business partner Alex So, a university coursemate. Both had started their career with large international accounting firms before moving into investment banks. but after the financial crisis, regulation was tougher and business sentiment was negative in the banking sector. The two were not convinced that the industry could easily revive, and decided it was time to make a change, recalls Ng. “We started working on different ideas, and decided to leverage our profession.”
FastLane Group was born and then slowly expanded into providing a range of professional services from online accounting services, auditing and taxation, and to payroll administration and venture capital investment. Ng is Managing Partner of the firm’s accounting and auditing practice, and So leads other divisions.
The group now has over 20 employees, including the two founding partners and a new partner – but when they started there were just three. “The increasing workload and new clients made it challenging, especially when there were staff turnovers.”
Retaining the right people is hard for small- and medium- sized enterprises, with many new employees opting to move on to bigger companies after a couple of years.
But as Ng notes, the firm offers a clear vision and shared values to attract and retain talent.
“As an employer, we are certainly a less popular choice for those who are looking for big names and flashy offices, but our approach to strive for a real purpose of work helps,” Ng says. “We’re more flexible and agile compared to some of the traditional or bigger firms. Our colleagues are looking for more efficient ways to perform their duties and better appreciation of work. So when we utilize technology that provides flexibility and improved capabilities, we get their appreciation and support.”
Flexible working hours has been a big advantage for Ng, too. “When I started my business, my kids were still relatively young, so I could manage my time – I would occasionally be a parent helper at school, and when they went to bed, I worked,” he recalls. “So I didn’t miss out on some of the time with my kids growing up. It’s a good balance of life.”
“Many of the firm’s clients are operating globally, located outside Hong Kong, and in different time zones. They’re travelling all over the world and need instant responses and advice. This is why we can’t just stick to a paper-based approach and emails. Technology is helping a lot,” Ng says, advising CPAs considering setting up their own firm to use technology to help them work more efficiently. FastLane uses Xero online accounting software and has been a Xero partner since its corporation. “we rely heavily on technology such as Xero, Skype, Zoom, Google Business Suite and Dropbox to maintain close communications and interaction with our clients. Ten years ago you couldn’t,” he says.
Being small and working with other small companies is incredibly satisfying, Ng notes. In big firms, “you’re just one of 100,000 staff – you can’t feel how much you contribute to the whole company. But working with start-ups, you can see them grow and become successful. That kind of satisfaction is greater than working for a big corporate.”
The firm’s hard work is now paying off. “We just finished our office expansion and we are now looking to launch our services in other markets,” Ng says. “We’re getting more people on board, trying to expand and build our brand.”
He believes it’s essential for entrepreneurial-minded CPAs to build networks with other CPA firms. “As a smaller firm, you don’t have the resources of the big firms – like a technical team to look up all the changes in standards and regulations – so you have to leverage your network and external resources for such matters.