By Stephanie Chan
Calm, composed, and methodical, Loretta Fong displays the personality traits of the typical successful accountant. But Fong, a partner at PWC who was selected as 2021’s Leading Woman on Boards by AmCham’s Women of Influence (WOI) committee, has a passion for volunteering that defies stereotypes.
Fong’s commitments are almost too numerous to list. They include serving as treasurer and council member of Hong Kong Polytechnic University; General Committee member of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries (FHKI); and president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
She first got involved in volunteering with the YWCA, when a friend who served on that board recognized that her accounting and finance experience would be useful to the finance and administration committee. Thinking that it would be a good chance to give back to society, Fong joined the committee in 2007.
“I learned so much during my term of serving—understanding NGOs, getting to know people with different backgrounds, internal control policies and procedures, et cetera,” says Fong, who continues to serve as Vice Chairman of the committee.
Fong’s employer, PwC, has been instrumental in encouraging her involvement with various boards, councils and committees. It was a PwC partner who told her that the Hong Kong government was looking for more female accountants to add to their database of volunteers to serve on boards. This led to Fong’s first government appointed role: in 2016 she was asked by the Tourism Commission to join the board of Ocean Park.
After fifteen months, she was invited to become a trustee of the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. “The Foundation reflects the true value of the park—conservation,” she says. “As a trustee I strongly feel about protecting the environment being the responsibility of every one of us.”
She also has a passion for nurturing young accounting talents. As advisory board member of Lingnan University and her alma mater, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she provides input into the syllabuses of the accountancy programs. At CUHK, she not only established the Loretta WH Fong Scholarship for global accounting students, but also mentors two MBA students every year.
All of these commitments take enormous investments of personal time: Fong estimates she spends between 30 and 40% of her time outside the office on board activities, and gratefully acknowledges PwC’s generosity in allowing her to attend board-related events during office hours.
Fong, who is single, observes that many of her female peers have family commitments that make it difficult to devote their weekends and evenings to board work. Currently, women account for less than 15% of the board members of the roughly 2500 listed companies in Hong Kong. (In Singapore, it’s 20%; in the UK, 34%.)
However, she sees signs that female representation on Hong Kong boards is on the rise. Fong notes that HKEX recently amended its Listing Rules and Corporate Governance Code to end single-gender boards among listed companies and require companies to review their board diversity policies every year. (About 800 companies listed on the HKEX have no female board members.)
“This will definitely encourage more females to join boards for corporate governance purposes,” she says.
Fong, who is deeply interested in ESG, believes that this is an area where female board members in particular have much to contribute. “I observe that female board members tend to care more about ESG matters—how to protect the environment, providing care to staff, preserving endangered species, etc.,” she says. “I can only see that women members would just become more valuable with the trend towards incorporating more ESG considerations in organizations’ goals and missions.”
“People may view professional accountants [as] only interested in earning more money,” says Fong. “However, it is amazing how I can make use of my professional knowledge to serve the society.”