Life is full of opportunities, and much depends on making good use of them
Executive Director &
Chief Financial Officer
CITIC TELECOM CPC
Esmond joined CITIC Pacific
as Vice President of Project
Esmond assumed the
position of CFO of CITIC
CITIC Telecom CPC acquired
China Enterprise ICT
Solutions Limited (CEC)
Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer
CITIC TELECOM CPC
Esmond joined CITIC Pacific as Vice President of Project Development
Esmond assumed the position of CFO of CITIC Telecom CPC
CITIC Telecom CPC acquired China Enterprise ICT Solutions Limited (CEC)
Mr. Esmond Li, Chief Financial Officer of CITIC Telecom CPC, is a great example of a CFO who has demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in running a business, guiding it from a start-up to a fast-rising company.
Esmond traces the origins of his entrepreneurism to the start of his career, when he worked for Ernst & Young in Hong Kong, supervising a team of audit staff, and providing constructive advice to a range of clients. “I was privileged to meet and work with leaders of thriving companies including some of the large listed and private companies across industries, and was deeply impressed by the way they were prepared to take on risk in seeking to grow their businesses,” he says.
Today, Esmond is CFO of CITIC Telecom International CPC Limited, the data business arm of CITIC Pacific. He had joined CITIC Pacific in May 2001 as the Vice President of Project Development, focusing on the development of new telecom business opportunities, and assumed his present position in 2004.
During those early years, CITIC Telecom CPC experienced turbulent times, with severe price war competition in the market that put the company in a risky position. However, Esmond took on a stronger leadership role, overseeing a turnaround that has led to the company’s turnover reaching its present level with double-digit percentage growth in revenue in recent years. CITIC Telecom CPC is now a leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solution provider with multiple branches across the Asia Pacific region, and is a preferred partner by multinational corporations and business enterprises.
“We continually face fierce price competition,” remarks Esmond. “For a CFO, it is very natural to control CAPEX and OPEX, and to cut costs. But as innovation is a driving force for our business growth, and delivering quality service is always our competitive advantage, I am also keenly aware of the need for ongoing investment, and have ensured that our expenditure on the backend infrastructure for supporting our various offerings has not been trimmed.”
Esmond also oversaw the turnaround by drawing on his previous experience in mergers and acquisitions. In 2010, the CITIC Telecom CPC management team decided to acquire China Enterprise ICT Solutions Limited (CEC), as a strategic move to expand penetration in the China market. Esmond spearheaded the acquisition, and subsequent smooth integration of CEC. In tandem with this process, Esmond’s finance team including legal and procurement divisions was also expanded, to over 50 people based in Hong Kong and cities in Mainland China.
Becoming a key member of the management team of a fast-growing and evolving conglomerate had always been Esmond’s career goal. Being in the finance and accounting field for over 30 years, Esmond has developed strong analytical skills that have enabled him to make correct business decisions, which he believes is essential for successful entrepreneurship and driving the growth of a company as top management. After working as an auditor for Ernst & Young, Esmond spent over 12 years with Cable and Wireless HKT Group (now PCCW). Here, he had a great opportunity to join the management team and develop an entrepreneurial spirit. His role changed from financial accounting to management accounting, as he became responsible for leading the business planning process and transforming the Group’s business process and culture to meet the challenge of changing from a monopoly to a competitive environment.
“I began to understand that to succeed, you need talented people working for you – and to achieve this, there’s a simple rule: care about your staff, and really show you care.”
“Not only did I focus on the technical skills of financial management, but also extended to the understanding of the business and its operations and the way to grow the company and maximize returns,” recalls Esmond. “I began working with team heads to drive the growth, doing forecasts and evaluating the actual performance to adjust Group plans.” Importantly, too, Esmond began developing interpersonal and people management skills.
People management then posed a great challenge, as staff had been accustomed to the inflexible working mode that had been adequate in a monopoly market environment. Initially, Esmond found it hard to instill in staff a can-do attitude, which became essential in the face of the keen competition that arose after the opening of Hong Kong’s telecom market.
“This was the time I start to think like an entrepreneur,” notes Esmond. “I began to understand that to succeed, you need talented people working for you – and to achieve this, there’s a simple rule: care about your staff, and really show you care.”
Esmond was once been seconded to the parent company of Cable & Wireless in 1996, to gain familiarity with the operations in the London headquarters. This also helped in sharpening his interpersonal skills in an international and metropolitan environment.
Esmond’s last position in Cable and Wireless HKT Group was Financial Controller of a wholly-owned interactive multimedia subsidiary, with which he gained extensive financial exposure and experience in developing business plans for a leading internet access and portal service provider in Hong Kong. “In this role, I learned that to be a successful entrepreneur, you must be forward looking and innovative,” says Esmond. “This is the only way you can sustain growing the company.”
On joining CITIC Telecom CPC, Esmond drew on his wealth of experience, including his people skills. He has readily adopted an open door policy, to make himself approachable and accessible to his staff. In addition to regularly communicating with his team members so that they understand his business goals, he thinks being a good listener is important. It is also a good way to show he cares.
Esmond believes that eagerness to learn is an essential quality that will lead him on the road to success, and has continued learning with CITIC Telecom CPC, notably while overseeing the acquisition of China Enterprise ICT Solutions Limited. “Not only did I boost my financial knowledge and become familiar with the compliance and regulations in China, I also enhanced my people management skills, as staff in mainland China have a very different work mode,” says Li. Staff in China are used to taking orders without understanding the underlying rationale, and Esmond found he needed to instil in them an innovative mindset by giving them a wider perspective of how the business operates.
Looking ahead, Li’s mission is to help expand CITIC Telecom CPC’s coverage to become worldwide, with further acquisitions to continue growing the company.
Though accountants are typically viewed as conservative, Esmond has long realised that success depends on taking risks. “Assertiveness is important,” he adds. “You need a clear mind and strong analytical power to make a correct decision – and then go for it.”