The Man Who Has Worked in 20 Countries

Our latest guest blog is from Fred Ng, a former restructuring colleague of Wyn River's founder, Nigel Davies. Fred was recently interviewed for an interim executive firm.


Fred Ng is a chartered accountant with a Henley MBA and a founding member of the Institute for Turnaround. He is currently a non-executive director of a company awaiting IPO in London, and an advisor to various start-up companies. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on turnaround, and China-related business matters. He is also a council member with Gerson Lehrman Group business experts.

Fred grew up in Hong Kong as a colonial child. He describes coming to England to be schooled in his teens like "being launched into a second culture". He comments:

"At the time it was very strange moving to another continent to be educated; everything was new and I quickly had to learn and adapt to act like a local. But I feel the whole experience has made me naturally bi-cultural, and it provided a firm foundation for my career."

His career as a business restructuring and turnaround expert has seen him work and drive business transformation projects across more than 20 countries, including the UK, Italy, Singapore, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Turkey.

Here we ask Fred his views on working effectively across different continents, companies and cultures, and how to drive through performance and business transformation.

Q - What training would someone require if they were looking for a cross-cultural career?

A - Experience is key. For me, the experience I gained in a training job with Ernst & Young immediately after graduating was just the kick-start that my career needed. I was also fortunate to be heavily involved in the Heron restructuring. From an early stage I knew I wanted to follow a career in business turnaround. I then went on to work across a number of multi-national organisations, and - on each occasion - I always tried to seek opportunities for restructuring or turnaround work.

Q - What character traits do you need to drive business performance and transformation? How do you apply this to different companies and cultures?

A - You need to have a passion for getting things changed and for ensuring the proper process is followed through. I'd also argue that most people that follow this type of career are naturally curious, and relish a challenge. And they need to feel comfortable being 'intellectually stretched'. These are useful skills to have and thrive in a modern “disruptive” economy.

Q - How do you get things achieved?

A - At the end of the day, it's about good stakeholder management. You need to gain the trust and confidence of the people you are working with - as quickly as possible. You will be seen as the 'voice of reason'. The 'stakeholders' need to feel reassured that they are in the best hands, so that you can build a plan to move forward with.

Q - How easy is it to adapt from one company and culture to another? How do you ensure the work is done?

A - The principles are the same if you are working in the UK or Uzbekistan. But, as I did when I was a young boy, you need to quickly learn and adapt to the environment you are in and to 'act like a local'. You need to listen and respect the local way of doing things.

Q - What has been your most exciting/interesting project to date and why?

A - There is no doubt working as CFO/CRO at Ferretti, a large Italian luxury yacht builder with sales of €500m, provided the greatest challenge and the greatest satisfaction. I was brought in to manage the complex restructuring and acquisition by a large Chinese group. The stakeholders brought me in because they needed someone with the inter-cultural and restructuring skill sets.

Fred is currently working with a number of Chinese investors, assisting in the post-acquisition management, integration and restructuring of the businesses. Which country he chooses to next conquer is anyone's guess...

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