UM Alumnus Danny Chau:
Change Brings Opportunity
Text: Kelvin U| Photo: Ella Cheong with some provided by the interviewee | ISSUE 116 September My UM
In 2014, Danny Chau, an alumnus of the University of Macau (UM), quit his high-paying job in the financial industry in Macao to start his own business at the age of 36. ‘I wanted to take on bigger challenges at the time,’ says Chau. His entrepreneurial spirit drove him to pursue a different path in life, and since then he has been working hard towards his goals without regret. Today, Chau is the co-founder of several enterprises in Macao and he continues to hold a firm belief that change brings opportunity.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, Chau has been a regular presence among volunteers in Macao in the fight against the pandemic. In the early days of COVID-19, face masks were in short supply so Chau and shareholders of his company imported masks from Portugal and other European countries to address the urgent needs of Macao. Anticipating that the pandemic would lead to a continuous shortage of masks, he and Jorge Valente, his partner in Sino-Portuguese trading, established AS King Medical Products Limited and began to manufacture face masks in Macao.
It took them nine months to complete the various processes necessary to set up their factory. These included renting a factory space, designing masks, supervising the related work, purchasing machinery, producing masks, and inspecting the final products, which was quite a thrilling experience. ‘Many of my friends thought I was crazy to invest in a factory in the midst of a recession. Our goal was to do something for Macao and give back to the community,’ says Chau. Masks belonging to one of the more readily available brands in Macao, ‘AS King’, are produced by Chau’s company. As a token of his appreciation to UM, in 2021 he produced a batch of masks with ‘UM’ printed on them to give to his alma mater to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Students in UM’s ‘STEM 40’ project visit Danny Chau’s company
Chau and his business partners have invested USD 1 million in the company so far, but the operating costs of mask production have been rising. Without capital injections from shareholders, it is difficult for the company to sustain itself. To address this problem, Chau began to discuss new joint projects with enterprises in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area earlier this year. ‘We hope to change our business model to focus on other areas of medical supplies, so that our company can develop sustainably in the long run,’ says Chau.
Danny Chau (1st from right) volunteers in the fight against the pandemic
A World View from a Financial Perspective
In 1996, Chau was admitted to UM with a major in marketing, which opened the door to knowledge in areas such as financial management and finance. ‘My academic results in secondary school were not particularly outstanding, but the university gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons. I think my decision to study marketing has had a great impact on my life after graduation,’ he says. After graduating in 2000, Chau found a job in the financial industry and was exposed to global market trends every day. With a willingness to learn and work hard, he was promoted to deputy general manager of Macau Insurance Company Ltd in 2009, managing a number of departments in the front and back offices.
‘To understand finance is to understand the world, and to understand more about the world is to understand more about yourself,’ says Chau. ‘Over the past ten years or so, I have spared no effort in deepening my knowledge of finance and management, which has gradually shaped my outlook on life and the world. It has also broadened my perspective and mind.’
At a time when Chau’s career was on the rise, his nearly 60-year-old father, a banker, was preparing for retirement, which inexplicably struck a chord with him. ‘My father has been a role model for me. From his career development, I foresaw that if I stayed in my job, I might reach a career peak as he did and then retire. Unlike him, I want to conquer one peak after another. So, I knew I had to make a change,’ he says.
So at the age of 36, Chau made the decision that completely changed his life — he quit his job and started his own business.
In 2014, after leaving a job that had lasted more than 15 years, Chau founded Goldchess Asia Consulting Ltd. In his new position, he assisted a number of international ground handling groups in Europe and Asia in project tendering for airport ground handling services in Macao. Without much knowledge of this field, he also took courses in ground handling and aviation risk management.
‘As a corporate consultant, my company is responsible for coordinating communication between all stakeholders in a project and drafting the legal provisions of contracts. For a period of time, I spent my days discussing terms and conditions with the lawyers representing different parties on a daily basis. This allowed me to not only keep abreast of the laws of different countries, but also see the constraints and advantages of doing business in Macao. It also made me realise that Macao must actively integrate itself into the Greater Bay Area and increase ties with the overseas, Asian, and Sino-Portuguese markets to seek further development.’ says Chau.
As a tireless learner, Chau is eager to acquire knowledge related to his new projects, even if it falls outside his areas of expertise. In 2020, he obtained an Executive Master of Business Administration from HEC Liège Management School – University of Liège. In the same year, he became the first person from Macao to receive a fellowship from the London Institute of Banking & Finance. In 2021, he was elected an outstanding young entrepreneur by the Guangdong-HK-Macao Bay Area Entrepreneurs Union.
Having been in the business world for more than 20 years, Chau has always given top priority to quality in his work. ‘I set a high standard for myself in everything I do and I never accept sloppy work. If we want to do a good job with our brand and win people’s trust, we must insist on delivering products of the highest quality,’ he says.
The Responsibilities of an Entrepreneur
While Chau is rigorous at work, he treats his employees with kindness and lacks the arrogance often associated with company leaders. However, he says he has felt increasing pressure, mainly from his commitment and responsibilities as a leader since starting his own business. ‘I often wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares of being broke and not having sufficient funds for my company,’ says Chau. ‘However, this pressure is also a driving force, as it constantly reminds me that I have to work hard to ensure that the company is financially sound in order to protect the livelihoods of my employees.’
As vice president of UM’s Alumni Association, Chau often returns to his alma mater to share his entrepreneurial experience and details of Sino-Portuguese trading with students and entrepreneurial teams. ‘Most entrepreneurs of the previous generation rely on their families’ connections and wealth to do business, and they usually only do business in areas they are familiar with. In today’s world, what matters the most is the ability to adapt to change. Business opportunities lie in areas that nobody has touched on or thought of. This is particularly evident in the fields of technological innovation and medical innovation,’ says Chau.
Danny Chau returns to UM to share his entrepreneurial experience
When asked about the secret of his entrepreneurial success, Chau always says, ‘Walk with the market!’ However, besides having a good grasp of the market, he believes that a good entrepreneur should also be able to flexibly use his or her knowledge to explore new business opportunities, make bold assumptions, search meticulously for evidence, and adapt to change.