A Macau local, Wayne Lio has not only witnessed the city’s incredible transformation over the years but is playing is own role in its future as Senior Vice President of Business Development with leading Macau junket Tak Chun Group.
Inside Asian Gaming: Thanks for taking some time out to chat to us Wayne. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Wayne Lio: Sure. I’m from Macau originally. At the age of 12 I moved abroad to Vancouver, Canada, to study and go to High School. I then went to college where I studied as a mobile electronics engineer.
After graduation I worked in Vancouver for about eight years and opened my own shop doing car audio – electronics. I worked for a telecom company for about three years as well and then moved back to Macau in 2000 and worked for another telecom company – Hutchison in Hong Kong.
I actually built their call center here in Macau. At that time they were just trying to get their license to operate the second telecom company in Macau. During the time at Hutchison telecom, I also completed my EMBA program, Master Degree Of Business Administration at the University Of Wales, Cardiff in the UK. Then in 2004 I moved to Hong Kong and started working in a completely new industry … finance!
IAG: Why the big change?
WL: Well it presented a bit of a challenge. But it wasn’t easy for me at the time because micro-traders – we don’t have much in the way of wages. It was basic salaries, the bare minimum. So we had to trade a lot – buy and sell. The first three years were the toughest time for me to get involved because I didn’t really study the entire field of finance so I had to go back and study the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CFP (Institute of Financial
Planners of Hong Kong), CWM (Chartered Wealth Manager) and try to get all those
regulator licenses in Hong Kong – the SFC (Securities and Futures Commission) license and trading license. So it was difficult at first, but after doing trading and also funding for two property funds in Guangzhou, our company, Convoy, was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2009 – stock number 1019.
After we were listed we tried to move some business to China and in 2010 planned to open a branch in Macau as well as a branch in Zhuhai because they are so close together. That’s why I ended up coming back to Macau.
IAG: Of course, you are now in the VIP gaming business with Tak Chun. How did that move come about?
WL: Well the Macau branch we opened was owned by my company at the time, Convoy, but the Zhuhai branch was open for everyone so I invited Mr Chan (Tak Chun’s CEO Levo Chan), now my boss, to a joint venture to invest with us in Zhuhai. The investment we were looking at was properties, hotels, because Zhuhai is so close to Macau. That was the first time I was in contact with the junket business.
In 2011, after a year of operations, Mr Chan and I had a lunch at a local restaurant to review the first 12 months. The first year we didn’t lose any money but didn’t gain much so it was just normal running, but he asked me how much turnover my company in Hong Kong, which was a listed company, had. I told him it was about HK$15 billion each year and he said, “Wow … that’s so little!”
I asked him, “Why do you say it’s so little?”
He said, “Because it’s only HK$15 billion!” Then he told me a number. He said, “I’m doing about HK$20 billion.”
I said, “Wow, HK$20 billion a year, that’s crazy in Macau!” He laughed and said, “No, HK$20 billion a month!” After that I told him I would work for him instead!
IAG: The Macau you work in today is obviously a very different place to the one where you grew up. What are your memories of Macau when you were growing up?
WL: It was a very old, traditional place. It was mostly fisheries and people were so close to each other because I think at that time there were only about 115,000 people living in Macau.
IAG: How did you used to spend your days then?
WL: Soccer! Only soccer, every day. But it was the same as today with finding space to play because Cotai was just mud. Nothing but mud.
IAG: As a local, what has it been like to watch the city change so much over the past 13 or 14 years?
WL: It’s a totally different story. I never thought Macau would be like this. I never thought it was capable of becoming a Las Vegas style city, let alone run over Vegas by six times! But it’s great to be involved in the business that has driven that – the gaming promoter business. To me, the gaming promoter business is quite similar to the business I used to be in – finance.
IAG: Speaking of the junket business, VIP gaming has taken a big hit in recent years but Tak Chun ranks among a small number of high profile VIP promoters to have not only survived the downturn but seemingly thrived. Why is that?
WL: That’s because the crisis you mention was mainly about credits. Luckily, when I first got into this company – and with my financial background – we applied very strict credit control.
For example, AML (anti-money laundering). If people had bad records we wouldn’t do any business with them. We also had a lot of collaterals – property agreements to evaluate the value of the player or debitor. So our procedure for releasing credit has always taken a bit
longer than some other companies.
In this gaming business, people want everything fast so when a player loses their money and goes looking for more credit, they probably wouldn’t come to us because they know we wouldn’t release it straight away. We go through the whole legal procedure which can take two or three weeks. We’re quite conservative when it comes to releasing credit.
This is one of the key factors. We didn’t boom as much as some of the other companies during the peak, we just maintained our business in a very stable way, but at the same time when the economy crisis happened in China we were protected. That’s why we survived
that critical time. But again, times change. Right now I think the whole market has stabilized in many ways so we are being more aggressive to try and get more market share. That’s why we have launched three new rooms recently at Wynn Palace, the Parisian and Studio City.
We’ve also got rooms in other areas of Asia like the Philippines and Korea. As part of Tak Chun’s gaming initiative, we are also committed to bringing an exceptional entertainment experience to these destinations around the world.
IAG: With so much going on at Tak Chun, what do you do to relax?
WL: I play golf. I play every morning at 7 o’clock.
IAG: Does that mean you’re quite good?
WL: No! But golf and hiking are the most convenient things for me because I can play golf at 7 o’clock for around two-and-a-half hours, then I do some hiking through the mountains. The whole day will take me three or four hours total, then after 11 o’clock I go home to have a shower, get changed and go to work because my work hours start early afternoon and go through until midnight. This is how the time schedule works.
IAG: What about food. Do you have a favorite restaurant in Macau?
WL: It depends on what I feel like. If I want local food I have two that are my favorite – they are local noodle restaurants – and the other one I think is quite good is Albergue 1601 which is Portuguese and very traditional.