USP Alumni Network

Name: Gary Wong
Country: Fiji
Programme: Bachelor of Arts (Accounting and Economics) 1991

Why did you choose your field of study? Wished to go into the family business and having an education in Accounting / economics made sense.
Briefly reflect on your student life at USP? Staying in the library till closing time, having noodles / lakari to keep studying past midnight and being together with a diverse student body. Accounting was easy once you tried to understand it, rather than remember the concepts.
Greatest achievement[s] as a student Graduating with a gold medal in Accounting. That was a surprise!! Even better that there were 2 of us in 1991.
Career Highlights since Graduation Obtained an MBA at the International University of Japan in Niigata, Japan in 1995 and was the first person from Fiji to attend the university. Since then, there have been at least other students from Fiji. Started working in banking at Lehman Brothers in 1995 and worked through different firms before leaving banking in 2011. Now run the FP&A group in Finance for AIG Japan, a major US insurer, looking after Budgets and Management Reporting on revenues of US$7bn and expenses of over US$1bn annually.
Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you? The professors at USP encouraged me to keep asking questions and dive deeper as well as Professor Jagdish who introduced me to Lotus 123. I eventually became an expert at lotus before moving to Excel. My family continues to inspire me to keep trying harder.
How do you think USP helped you in your career? Yes. The training in Accounting as well as the background in Lotus 123 helped me keep ahead as well as do Financial modeling. Of all the text books I bought when I was a USP student, I kept a single book, “Principles of Corporate Finance” by Brealey and Myers throughout my life and still keeps an honored place on my bookshelf. Interestingly enough, I used the very same book for my MBA course.
Describe any challenges you faced to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges? Being burnt out from banking, the Lehman shock, and losing a sense of purpose in what I was doing. I swallowed my pride, determined where my strengths and weaknesses were and changed my career by moving into Insurance. While a different industry, there is a sense of betterment as your work directly goes to help people who have suffered losses through some calamity or natural disaster. What I am now focusing on is how to better service our policy holders through “Active Care” which is taking care of our customers before an incident, rather than only after an incident. My advice is to keep questioning what you do and have an open mind. There is more than one way to peel an apple.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)? Hopefully retired and on a beach somewhere otherwise as CEO of a large organization.
What advice would you give to current and future students of USP? Think outside the box. Do not be constrained by what historical precedence. There is always another way or a new product – think iPhone.
Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths. Study hard, think on your feet and keep asking questions. Be intellectually curious and by all means use Excel (VBA a plus) and Powerpoint.
Any other information you would like to share.  Happily married (of course) with one daughter who is about to graduate from High School and looking for Universities.


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