Balancing Between Work and on the Board

Errol Bong is the APAC Head of Legal & Compliance at Liquidnet and believes that progressive organisations understand the benefits of their employees having a healthy work-life balance.

Errol Bong certainly knows the meaning of hard work and he has pushed hard to get qualified as a practising lawyer in Hong Kong, New South Wales, England & Wales, New York and Washington State. It was particularly taxing studying the New York Bar while working full time as a director in the General Counsel division at Credit Suisse. However, he explains that it is extremely important to manage individual work-life balance. He is currently Head of Legal & Compliance at Liquidnet, a leading alternative liquidity provider and brokerage house and after working at magic circle law firms and top tier investment banks, he can see the benefits a healthy work-life balance provided to the organisation and its employees.

Liquidnet provides a weekly on-site bootcamp to help busy employees stretch out and get their cardio exercise and actively encourages their employees to keep a healthy lifestyle with fresh fruit and vegetables available every morning. Further, they encourage their employees to keep training and improving on their favourite sports. For Errol, that has been wakeboarding, wakesurfing and scuba diving. “Hong Kong is an island; why not make the most of it?” says Errol. “We are blessed in Hong Kong, where you can go from Central to the beaches on the southside of Hong Kong in less than an hour. I have worked in London and other financial centres and there was no chance of being able to do that.”

While wakeboarding is a familiar sight on junk trips, wakesurfing is still a relatively new sport. “I saw a lot of ocean surfers in Big Wave Bay and other locations in Hong Kong hoping to catch a nice surf wave but thanks to Hong Kong’s protected waters, mother nature rarely obliged. Wakeboarders in America were looking to develop a sport that was more accessible to a wider range of people that had different levels of fitness compared to wakeboarding. Wakeboarding is a physically taxing sport and is a good sport for a younger person. However, wakesurfing can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their age or fitness level. We found that this sport was perfect for Hong Kong where you can surf an endless wave generated by your own boat so we decided to help promote this sport in Hong Kong”

He enjoyed wakesurfing so much that he set up his own wakesurfing school known as Wakesurfection and the Hong Kong Wakesurf School since 2010 and is still in operation today. When asked how he managed to do this while still working as a lawyer, he laughed and said “Good time management and prioritisation is key. However, on a more serious note, I was teaching friends on weekends and I decided to do it in a more organised manner and that’s how it all started. I’ve really enjoyed it since running the school has allowed me to meet a wide range of people that I would have never met otherwise. However, safety has always been important to me. I am a certified PADI scuba diving instructor and can certify rescue divers. I’ve been trained in marine rescue and CPR and I find that’s important if you are bringing guests on your boat. You want to be trained to help them in a worst-case scenario and my scuba instructor training allows me to do that”

Nevertheless, it has not always been easy. Errol explains that this sport requires very specialised boats which can displace a large amount of water in order to create a surfable wave. It was very difficult to find a quality boat that was still affordable. Moreover, most boats of this class were built for use in calm freshwater lakes in the US and not designed to handle the tough marine conditions in Hong Kong. “I have since moved into boat design focusing on developing a boat that has a strong and robust hull, fuel efficient engine and of course generates a great wakesurfing wave” Errol says. “We are partnering with a great boat builder in California to develop one of the first boats with a new German engineered turbo diesel engine that has more torque, lower maintenance and greater fuel efficiency than a regular petrol engine. This boat will also have a unique resin infused hull which uses a technique used by the aerospace industry; it creates a more robust hull that is better able to cope with the tough marine conditions in Hong Kong. The cost of these specialised boats has risen dramatically as the amount of technology has increased but we are still focused on designing boats that are still affordable to the average lawyer and his family. We are focusing on boats that are easy to use and maintain: these boats can be driven by anyone that can drive a car. Finally, a boat needs to displace a large amount of water in order to create a great surfable wave; most boats use ballast bags which draw seawater to create that displacement. However, these bags take up a lot of room on boats and usually take some to fill as they use electrical pumps. We are working on a boat that will use under floor ballast tanks saving lots of space. Further, they will be gravity filled by opening large valves below the waterline which will allow these ballast tanks to be filled and emptied much more quickly than electrical pumps.

I have really enjoyed sports: not only has it kept me fit, it has allowed me to meet new people and get into the area of boat design and manufacture which I never would have moved into as an everyday lawyer. As lawyers we are usually at our desks and the only part of our body that gets any exercise is our brain. It's great to be outside wakeboarding, wakesurfing or designing and testing a new prototype wakesurfing boat. When I get back to work on Monday, my mind is refreshed and I think my employers recognise that with the increased productivity that get from myself and my team. It has been rewarding coaching people how to wakeboard, wakesurf or scuba dive particularly where some students have been afraid of water. It’s great when they have a big smile on their face after they get up on their wakesurf or after their first trip scuba diving”.