Angela Leong On Kei was raised by a family in which her mother was the breadwinner, her father having passed away during her childhood years. Inspired to start her own business to improve the living standards of her family, Leong had to work three to four part-time jobs back-to-back when she first arrived in Macao to sustain both herself and support in no small measure her family members. She recalls that as busy and hectic as life was in those days it was nevertheless fulfilling despite the painstaking efforts she had to make to progress. Not having received much education, Leong always believed that she had to work much harder than anybody else as she firmly subscribed then, as she does now, to the idiom that ‘diligence can make up for the lack of talent’.
The real turning point of her life, however, was undeniably when she met Dr. Stanley Ho Hung Sun – respected far and wide for his business acumen as well as philanthropy – brought together by their common interests and hobbies. From the outset, it was obvious that Dr. Ho appreciated her genuine aspiration of starting a business of her own, which, given her evident studiousness, fortitude and diligence, was the perfect foil for his erudition and rich business experience. Consequently, Dr. Ho gave her periodic counsel, revealing to her the path of entrepreneurialism, during which process he became not only her mentor but partner in life, with the best tacit understanding of each other.
Given her passion and burgeoning talent for business, Leong soon created a new world in the business sector, entering the mainstream management of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau S.A. (SJM) with people’s valued and appreciated recognition of her efforts, since when she has participated in expanding and innovating the company’s business, ascending over time to her current position as Managing Director and Chief Administrative Officer, demanding roles in which she supervises the company’s daily operations. Having overcome numerous difficulties and challenges along the way – such as partaking in and witnessing the listing of SJM Holdings and the construction of the Grand Lisboa Palace project, among other milestone events – she can finally heave a sigh of relief that all the hard work has finally paid off, although by no means is it finished.
Meanwhile, Leong has continuously followed the philosophy of ‘repaying society for one’s gain from it’ as espoused by Dr. Ho, leading the company in taking the initiative to fulfil its corporate social responsibilities and keeping a close eye on social and livelihood issues in the course of seeking a breakthrough in the company’s development. It will come as no surprise, then, that she is proactively involved in many associations and groups that seek to make society a more level playing field, taking the long view that we all have a responsibility to venerate those who have gone before and those generations currently emerging.
Bearing this philosophy in mind, SJM has made fruitful achievements – gaining wide public recognition in the process – in just a few years in areas such as the development of the company’s non-gaming elements, the promotion of responsible gaming, ongoing and evolving staff training, and supporting schemes in practical ways for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a priority for the MSAR Government in its declared objective of the territory transforming itself into a World Centre of Tourism and Leisure, among many other initiatives.
Leong is fully aware of how difficult life can be for grassroots workers, having been one of them and gone through similar trials and tribulations of her own. When she delved further into corporate management, therefore, she recognised the need to bridge the communication gap between staff and the company in order to balance the rights and interests of both parties. This notion encouraged her, in turn, to establish the SJM Staff Welfare Consultative Committee, on which she serves as chairperson, to fight for employees’ benefits, earning her much admiration from the staff. She always recalls what Dr. Ho has continually stressed: “When one drinks water, one must not forget where it comes from”, which means one must put oneself in others’ shoes for ‘harmony’ and a ‘win-win’ situation. The saying also transpires to be her life motto as well as the vision of the company’s development.
SJM, which continues to prosper under Leong’s stewardship, now operates over 50% of the casinos in Macao and employs around 20,000 members of the community. These employees have not only made outstanding contributions to the government’s tax coffers but provided ample employment opportunities for society. They have also won wide recognition from Macao residents and various sectors of the community for their achievements in aspects as diverse as public welfare and charity, responsible gaming, and urban construction.
Given her outstanding achievements in the gaming industry, Leong was awarded the Medal of Merit – Industry and Commerce in 2009 by the Macao SAR Government and has been crowned ‘Successful Female Entrepreneur’ by several organisations, for which she has expressed her gratitude for the recognition of government and commerce with typical humility. In addition, she was also awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star (B.B.S.) in 2015 by the Hong Kong SAR Government. She believes that she still has a lot to learn in managing an enterprise – in particular in a business and social environment that is changing at a faster pace in Macau than possibly in any other part of the world – and is adamant that she will continue to look to Dr. Ho as a role model in her further contributions to industry and society.
In conclusion, she often advises young people – in whom she has invested much time and effort over the years through scholarships and educational ‘love your country’ fieldtrips – that when they first enter society they have to bear hardships, be level-headed and prepare themselves for a career they are passionate about. There is no such thing as luck or copying the path to success, she admonishes – only relentless diligence can pave the way for youngsters eager to create a bright future of their own.