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McKinsey offers a fantastic training ground for youngsters in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, and the consulting firm is looking for young people with a drive for excellence, Joseph Luc Ngai, director and managing partner of McKinsey & Company Hong Kong, told China Daily.
McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm that serves leading businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, and not-for-profits. Its claimed goal is to help clients make lasting improvements to their performance and realize their most important goals.
Aside from Hong Kong, McKinsey has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.
Ngai is in charge of McKinsey’s financial institution business in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which includes the banking and insurance industry, asset management, and Internet finance.
Hong Kong- born Ngai went to the US when he was 14 and finished high school there. Next came Harvard, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, as well as an MBA and a law degree. He is a member of the New York Bar Association.
“When I was at business school, I worked for McKinsey as an associate in the summer. After I graduated, I actually did not come back to McKinsey,” said Ngai, better known as “Joe” Ngai. He explained that it was the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the era of the “dot com” boom. So he teamed up with a couple of friends to launch an e-commerce incubation start-up.
“I did that for about two years, and luckily McKinsey still remembered me from my associate days. So I was able to come back to McKinsey in 2002, and I’ve been with the company ever since.”
The consulting industry has changed quite a bit over the years, Ngai said.
About 70 or 80 years ago, when the business of consulting firms had just emerged in the market, they mostly did strategy consultancy — working with large companies by helping them with strategic choices, especially when these companies wanted to expand or headhunt top management. Consulting firms at the time worked mainly with high-level management such as company chief executives.
Today, strategy consultancy is only about 20 to 30 percent of what McKinsey does, while the rest of the business is quite diverse, Ngai said.
The company does a lot of work around operational excellence, and a lot of work with companies trying to be more digitally savvy.
Many companies on the mainland are trying to transform themselves, trying different ways of making their businesses work, and this is really a broad spectrum of what McKinsey does apart from traditional strategy work, said Ngai. The company is also embracing a diverse set of skills to meet client demand, he added.
“We have people who can go to power plants on the mainland to reduce costs, we have people who can go to auto factories and are able to do things around efficiency management, we have people who can go into banks, and think about what to do when interest rates are deregulated.”
Ngai believes that McKinsey can provide great opportunities for youngsters in Hong Kong and the mainland.
“I think people come to McKinsey as it is a fantastic training ground for young people; we are a very flat organization, which means that we don’t have many layers between a young person, who has just joined the company, and senior staff in the firm. We go to client meetings together — as a young person, you are very likely to attend meetings with CEOs and chairmen of companies, which is a great learning experience for a lot of people.”
He also pointed out that McKinsey employees travel a lot, so that young people can see a lot of the vast Chinese mainland, as well as a lot of Asia and the rest of the world.
“If you are in your 20s, and you are working at McKinsey, I would imagine that there are not that many places that would give you such variety of experiences and exposure to the business community.”
On the other hand, Ngai emphasized that to be successful in the consulting industry, one needs to have a drive for excellence.
The clients are demanding, the industry is demanding, and the company needs people who strive for the extraordinary.
“If you are a student, of course you can be a ‘B+’ student, you can be a ‘A-‘ student, but we do want people who want an extra bit more to get an ‘A’, we want people who run the extra bit at the end to win.”
The company also needs people who can fight during tough times, said Ngai, explaining that there are times when things are not going well, there are clients who are difficult, and research can sometimes be tough as well.
“During those more difficult periods, if I look around, I’m looking for people on my team, people I feel that I can go to