Andrew Tiang shares his story
By PRETHIBA ESVARY
His daughter comes up to him, sits on his lap and he asks her: “Why do you call me Mr Touch ‘n Go?”
To this, his eight-year-old says that it’s because every time he returns home from his travels abroad, she manages to see him for only a short while before he has to leave again.
I couldn’t help but smile as I observed this heartwarming father-and-daughter exchange between Andrew Tiang and his youngest daughter, Calista.
Unlike some of my other interviews which have taken on more formal tones, I was somewhat surprised to see how casual the Tiangs were in the presence of a complete stranger, and the cute exchanges they had with each other throughout my interview with them. It made me think what a wonderful and close-knit family they are.
Andrew runs a hugely successful e-commerce investment trading solutions company, N2N Connect, with his wife, Jovelyn Lai.
In conjunction with Father’s Day, I interviewed Andrew to discover the secrets to juggling a role as a successful business owner while being a parent to five children.
Taking a calculated risk
Prior to setting up N2N, Andrew worked for a European software company where he excelled as a general manager of the company’s Asian Development Centre. When he was given a career-accelerating promotion however, Andrew resigned.
“In 2000, my wife and I discussed the future of our two sons then. We were having quite a comfortable life at the time, but we were worried that our children may face extreme pressure in today’s ever-competitive world with fast rising costs of living surrounded by professionals from abroad in our increasingly borderless world.
We wanted to build something for them. . . .A business of our own that we could pass on to them.
Andrew admitted that it was a big risk to abandon a high-paying, stable job to explore an unchartered territory, but it was a calculated risk that he was willing to take.
A differentiated business strategy
N2N developed a system that is managed as an outsourced operation on behalf of investment banks and brokerages.
“It offers a multi-exchange, multi-asset class, multi-currency and multi-lingual service which comprehensively includes fundamental, technical, analytic and algorithmic functions all in a single platform,” Andrew informed.
What does this mean?
With regard to multi-exchange, Andrew explained, “Most Asian systems are designed for their respective countries.
But we wanted to build a system that is able to work everywhere the same way, yet incorporated local variances and regulatory and behaviour requirements.”
He added, “A lot of companies developed a system for a particular asset class – share trading/ forex/equities, etc. We decided to take on the challenge to offer multiple asset classes.
That way, clients (investment banks and brokerages) don’t have to keep looking for new vendors.
We can provide them everything in one single suite.
They can license any asset class and function as add-ons to the setup they already have with us.
“In the financial supply chain, some provide market data services, charting, fundamental, institutional/ retail platforms for instance. But, we are in all of these financial supply chains.”
Hence, the company’s name N2N which literally means an end-to-end one-stop service provider.
Today, the business is present in 10 countries and connects clients to more than 15 exchanges, thereby serving several million users.
In his quest to further grow his business, Andrew however encountered two hurdles – time constraints and bringing in quality leadership to manage growing teams.
One of the ways they addressed this was through Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)’s GAIN programme.
Apart from facilitating N2N’s regional expansion, MDEC has jointly brainstormed strategies to bring in quality talent for N2N to enhance its delivery process.
Andrew said: “We are now tapping into tertiary institutions and training good interns to get them familiar with our mission and scope of work so that they can be part of us upon their graduation.”
It’s about striking a balance
Even till today (17 years into the business), time remains an inevitable challenge for Andrew and his wife.
Andrew gave an instance where he and his wife had to miss their eldest daughter, Carmen’s, sports day, where she was participating in the 4 x 100m relay.
“You should have seen the disappointment in their faces when they discovered that we needed to travel overseas for business again,” he said.
So, whenever he is free or when it’s the weekend, Andrew devotes all his time to his children.
“Shopping, movies, cycling, dining out; we try to compensate where we can’t give enough,” he added.
When I asked him how he prioritises overseas business meetings and family, he said that unless major decisions and negotiations have to be made, he and his wife would encourage other staff to represent the company at those meetings.
“Balance of life is important and my children are no doubt a big motivation for me,” he said.
After a hard day’s work, I come back home where the children rush to hug me. At that moment, the pressure from work is temporarily taken off. All the other problems can wait. It’s family time.
Imparting valuable lessons unto his children
I was lucky enough to meet and chat with Andrew’s children to discover some business and leadership lessons they gained from their father.
1. Financial management
With a desire to teach his children the value of money, Andrew and his wife taught them – from a young age – to organise and manage their monthly allowances. The outcome of this can be seen in Andrew’s second son, Bryan’s financial management style today.
Bryan explained to me that when he first entered university, he tabulated his weekly expenses to show his parents how much allowance he would need every month. When it came to additional expenses, he would present them with proof.
For instance, if it was a family expenditure, he would inform his mother, who would reimburse him on a monthly basis.
2. Business acumen
From a young age, Andrew exposed his children to his business to help them understand his work.
Bryan conveyed that it took him some time to understand the business, but when he did, he conducted stock games at his university for his peers.
In fact, Andrew’s 12-year-old daughter, Carmen, started her own online business!
Aware of the recent trend of slime (yes, the mushy, semi-solid) among pre-teens and teens and upon realising how satisfying slime is to play with, Carmen decided to make her own and sell them online.
She prices her own products, depending on what the ingredients are. Andrew only steps in to help determine if she’s made a profit or not. Amazing, isn’t it?
When Bryan was managing a theatre production at university, he got to experience first-hand the importance of leadership when handling various areas such as sales, acting and crew motivation.
I remember my dad telling me that in a business, it’s all about looking after your people. I never fully understood that concept until I went into theatre.
In a nutshell
Over the past 20 years as a father to five children, Andrew says that there was never a point in time where he thought he couldn’t do it – being a parent and a business owner.
My interview with this down-to-earth individual – who was more than willing to meet me for an interview despite having returned from a business trip the night before – proves that one can indeed balance the roles of a great father and a successful businessman.
From its humble beginnings, N2N Connect has grown to become the largest Asian-based Pan Asia company offering a full-suite financial investment platform, and it is an all-round success story for the Tiangs – personally, and professionally.
To fellow parents who are business owners or aspiring to be one, I hope this piece has inspired you. Happy Father’s Day!
To find out more details about how N2N Connect is disrupting the financial investment industry in Asia, visit www.n2nconnect.com
His children say. . .
Brandon Tiang, 20
What was the best advice your dad gave you?
“I’ve received tonnes of advice from my father, however, there is one that I follow or somewhat live by. The advice is, “If you start something with a 100%, end it with the same amount, nothing less.”
I was told that as I was slacking off while studying for my last paper because I felt as if exams were already over.
Bryan Tiang, 19
Name one thing you like about your dad.
“When you ask him for advice or opinions, he can be brutally honest. It may seem hard at first, but when you think about it and experience it, you think “hmm he was right”.
Yes, we do argue, but it gives me a realistic point of view of my situation.”
Bevan Tiang, 17
Tell me about a difficult moment in your life and how your dad helped you.
Context: Bevan didn’t start talking until he was four and a half. According to a specialist, this was because his brain was developing ahead of his speech capability. Growing up, he found it difficult to synchronise his thoughts with his speech and so his sentences were sometimes either incomplete or were hard to comprehend.
“When I was younger, my dad would sit down with me, pose a few questions and ask me to respond to the questions in a certain manner. It wasn’t perfect, but it helped me a lot. I was too young to realise then, but now that I think back to it, it was a nice thing that he did.”
Carmen Tiang, 12
What do you like most about your dad?
“The fact that he knows when to spend time with me and when not to. It’s like he can read my mind. He knows what I want.”
Calista Tiang, 8
Why are you proud to call him your dad?
“Because whenever I’m sad or we want to get something, my dad always says okay. “My dad always makes me happy. When I see him, I always want to squish his cheeks.”
Andrew’s tips for parents cums business owners/ those aspiring to be one
If you are financially prepared and willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown, Andrew says:
“Conserve your petrol tank and don’t risk breaking down your car in the middle of a highway. Make sure your tank can take the distance. Plan the journey with multiple achievable milestones. Things evolve along the way. What you end up with is usually far from what you expect unless you are lucky.
“Your children will be your best motivation. Do it with them and they will be with you.”
If you are not financially prepared for it, Andrew says:
“Don’t rush into it. Remember, your primary responsibility is to ensure you don’t endanger your family and drag them to sink with you. Be patient and wait for the next round when you are better prepared. Nobody plans to fail, but many just fail to plan properly.