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THE WELL | cover story |

| cover story | THE WELL

The Midas Touch The Hua Seng Heng Group started out as a traditional gold shop in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Six decades later, it is the leading gold distributor in Thailand. Tanarat Pasawongse, Managing Director of the group, traces its growth and explains to Gavin Nazareth how he balances a hectic work schedule with his duties as a father pHoTOGRAPHY / AMAt nimitpark

I on him: Canali On her: Junior Gaultier

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t’s a love that has been passed down for three generations, a love for gold that began in Bangkok’s Chinatown district. The tale began more than five decades ago when Tanarat Pasawongse’s grandfather decided to take the plunge into the gold business. He opened Hua Seng Heng in 1951, becoming one of the pioneering gold shops on Yaowarat Road or what is today regarded as the city’s golden mile. “Hua Seng Heng started 61 years ago as a traditional gold shop in the Chinatown area. During my grandfather’s time we sold gold jewellery and ornaments, but when my father took over, we began trading in gold bullion,” explains 37-year-old Tanarat, the third generation guardian of the business, adding that today it is the leading distributor of gold in the country. “After joining the company, I established a more advanced way of trading gold bullion by setting up a call centre for clients and developing online along with mobile trading platforms. I also expanded the family business by adding the import-export of gold bars to it. We have also ventured into the financial side of the market by opening a brokerage firm that initially offered gold futures products to clients. After receiving our full licence, we now offer SET 50 futures, oil futures and other such products.”

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Tanarat, or Tai as he is known to friends, only joined Hua Seng Heng at the end of 2005. An engineering graduate from the University of Washington, USA, he armed himself with an MBA from Chulalongkorn University’s Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, after which he set up his own company. “Appworks is an IT company that offers consultancy and system integration services, software development, IT infrastructure and maintenance. My friend who I started the company with runs it today.” The leap from engineering and information technology to gold bullion and futures came from having “no choice,” he says with a smile. “I liked mathematics and investing from a young age, so I guess you could say it runs in my blood. All along I didn’t expect to join the family business just because I was the eldest child. I was sent to school in the States from the age of 12 and was taught to help myself. My dad never talked to me about working in the family business until the day he actually asked me to join it. In fact he used to say that after getting a good education, you should help yourself after graduating, and be able to live a good life; whatever else the family can offer is an additional bonus. With four sons, my dad probably had the traditional way of thinking that if he is tough with the eldest one and puts him on the right path, the rest would fall in line.” The family still has the traditional gold shop they started out with, though there are now four of them in Chinatown and one in the Seacon Square shopping mall. Over the past 60 years, Tanarat says the business has expanded to a 600-strong staff and encompasses a complete line of gold products, including gold jewellery and gift collection, gold bullion, gold-related saving programmes, futures and funds, exchange traded funds, online and mobile gold trading, gold imports/exports and silver grains, as well as a wide variety of financial products. The main building in Yaowarat he says has been transformed into an all-in-one solution for gold shoppers. “The first floor is rented out to a bank; the second floor is a training room for customers to come in for free seminars and training on all the gold and investment products we have. One floor up, we have an online and mobile department that services customers. Then there is the traditional OTC (over the counter) that is like a bank teller. We have 12 tellers and people bring in their cash, which is counted and they take their gold back. On the last level is the futures company where we offer Exchange Traded Funds, gold funds and other products available in the Thai futures market.”

“All along I didn’t expect to join the family business just because I was the eldest child. I was sent to school in the States from the age of 12 and was taught to help myself” For the layman, a ‘future’ is simply a deal to trade gold at terms (the amount and price) decided now but settled at a future date. It also means that the buyer doesn’t need to pay the full amount right away, nor does the seller need to deliver any gold just yet either. The settlement day, usually three months ahead, is when the actual exchange takes place. Those trading in futures use this delay to speculate both ways, with the intention to sell anything bought or to buy back anything sold, before reaching the settlement day. At the end they will only have to settle their gains and losses. “People familiar with traditional gold investments know that you buy low and sell high; you take the physical back and pay the full amount. It is just like buying any product. In futures, the term ‘margin trading’ comes in to play, meaning that you don’t pay the full amount of the product you are investing in,” explains Tanarat. He adds, “For example, if you want to invest in 50 baht (weight) gold, depending on the market and the announcement of the exchange, you put down approximately less than 10 percent of the price as collateral to have a position to buy that same amount. You only invest, gain or lose according to the movement of the price. If the price moves up by 100 baht, you profit 100 baht times the actual price of the 50 baht (weight) gold.” A new product they recently launched is the Hua Seng Heng Gold Card. “It is a gift card with a one-baht gold bar that can have a message or blessing and be given at weddings or at the birth of a child. It is a lot more stylish.”

Clothes : Hugo Boss

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Next year the company is looking forward to getting more overseas business that will come with increasing economic ties with neighbouring countries. “Now that we have expanded to mobile and online platforms throughout the country, I think the next step will be to go overseas, to have a greater presence as a Thai company.” It is obvious that Tanarat is passionate about what he does as he patiently explains the complexities of trading gold and its futures. With the difference in the timings of the global markets, his brokerage now allows trading up to midnight, meaning long hours at the office. As a father of one, with another one on the way, he says balancing work and home life is a hard act, a task made harder by the fact that wife Pattamas is content to be a housewife. “She is a very family-oriented person. Pattamas used to work in her family’s textile business; they also own a serviced apartment on Soi Tonson, the Suwan Country Golf course and the Circle community mall in Rajaphruek,” he says. “I try to balance both as life is not just about work and personally I want to have a good family life. Studying in the States, I was mostly on my own, and I used to think of having a family of my own and being able to handle it myself.” “The first few years working in the family business was a transition time; not just a work environment change, but it was also taking over from the second generation. There were a lot of changes that had to be made to the different processes. Luckily, my wife is quite an understanding person.” Weekends, Tanarat says, are reserved for the family. Saturday is free time for the three of them, and especially devoted to his sixyear-old daughter Sirinda – or Eclair – and her activities. “We usually join my family for lunch and then do dinner with her family. It has become a routine now. On weekdays I might not have a chance to be with the family much, but now that the work process is settled, I try to be at home before my daughter

“A child learns from seeing who you are and what you are, so it’s OK to tell her that dad has to work, but just as importantly she needs to see a balanced life too”

goes to bed, and then every morning I drop her off at school. At least it keeps me in the loop about what the family is doing and what they need. I think communication in a family is important. A child learns from seeing who you are and what you are, so it’s OK to tell her that dad has to work, but just as importantly she needs to see a balanced life too. I really believe in this and if you look at it from both sides, it is a motivation to try and get my work done in the time given as I cannot turn back the clock on my child’s growth.” Tanarat says he used to have a lot of hobbies but now doesn’t have the time. “I used to play a lot of sports like tennis, golf and basketball and read a lot. But now my hobby is travelling, which I do for work. But it is also a getaway time for me to spend time with the family. Because my work is almost around the clock, at the end of the year I take a long break to spend time with them. We normally go to the US or to Europe because it’s a way for me to spend time with my daughter and teach her about the different cultures and also to be independent.” Any time he spends with Sirinda, he says is special. “I am very attached to her, so even when I go somewhere in the city with her I get to talk to and teach her about the things she sees or experiences and enjoy being with her.” He says she is the only one in the family who loves art and supports her totally in this. “My aim for her future is to teach her to be a good person, be a survivor and do whatever she likes. I will support her, always be there for her.”

Jacket and Shirt: Louis Vuitton Watch: Bell & Ross

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The Midas Touch  

Cover story for Prestige Magazine on the Hua Seng Heng Group, the leading gold distributor in Thailand

The Midas Touch  

Cover story for Prestige Magazine on the Hua Seng Heng Group, the leading gold distributor in Thailand