When Ralph Leung relocated to Hong Kong from Morgan Stanley’s New York offices, he was a newlywed eager to energize the financial world as one of the bank’s senior deal makers for the Asia Pacific region.
Four years later, when he accepted a call from a U. S. recruiter, he had been credited with having helped to lead numerous transactions (mostly IPOs) from the region, including Alibaba Group’s historic $25 billion IPO. What’s more, Leung had become the father of two.
“It was time to go back home,” recalls Leung, who would relocate to San Francisco’s Bay Area after accepting a finance leadership role for an online video and entertainment company.Read More
Looking back on his Hong Kong years, Leung tells us that the experience was a departure from his previous Morgan experience because it involved advising more early-stage founders and entrepreneurs.
“I learned what Series A, Series B, and Series C meant and how to grow a business from different capital perspectives,” continues Leung, who credits the experience with having helped to open the door to CFO roles within early-stage companies.
Still, Leung tells us that some of the best learning experiences from his banking years came from transactions that never occurred, including one IPO that after 2 years of persistent effort failed to capture the necessary investor attention.
“It was taking a lot of time to educate investors, and while we thought that we could get over the hump by using industry research and really demonstrating how the company could be a profitable business, we underappreciated the difficulty of advancing the narrative,” explains Leung, who tells us that the IPO was “shut down” when the company opted instead to reposition itself according to investor feedback and give itself an operations boost to make it more attractive to investors.
“So, the business responded and made some changes, rather than just trying to have us sell through certain obstacles,” reports Leung, who adds that ultimately the business went public a year or so later.
He concludes: “Some obstacles just have to be respected and resolved.” –Jack Sweeney
“Prioritize learning and embrace a nonlinear, nontraditional path, even if it then takes you a bit longer to “climb the ladder.” Don’t be afraid to take a small step backward to make a big step forward. Learn as much as possible to understand where you can be most uniquely valuable to a company at the most critical milestones and where you can have the most impact—then focus on doubling down to develop those skills and experiences as you advance your career.” –Ralph Leung, CFO, Achieve
Made Possible By
CFOTL: Tell us about Achieve … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Leung: Achieve is a 21-year-old business that was started when its founders, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, came out of Stanford grad school in 2002. Their thinking at the time was that as they looked around the markets and looked around the economy, they saw that it was middle-class Americans who often needed the most help in getting back on the right financial footing.
They also recognized that there were a lot of companies out there who were preying on this group, such as the ultra–high cost debt providers. They wanted to use technology and data and good service to help this group instead of putting them into greater debt. So, the simple premise behind why they wanted to start this business was to help everyday Americans.Read More
Fast-forward to today. Achieve has multiple products, and we are the market category leader in one core one, which is debt resolution. Debt resolution, in a nutshell, is a financial rehab program for, say, someone who may have undergone some type of life event. Think divorce or lost job or family illness—something happened in their life. They used to be a great FICO borrower, and then something happened in their life and their score got knocked down.
Now they’re stuck in these near-prime segments where they might have a mid-600s FICO score. The big banks are no longer really focused on banking them because they got knocked down a notch and they’re stuck in this world. So, they ask, “Well, how do I fix this? How do I get back to where I used to be?” This is what our program is for.
They’re saying, “We’ve racked up $50,000 in debt and have eight different credit cards and are just barely making our monthly payment—and we’re just stuck in this purgatory. How do we get out of it?” The rehab program allows you to do that. You would join the rehab program that we’ve built over more than 20 years that our own machine learning engine can optimize.
When they come into the program, we can help them to negotiate and settle a lot of this debt with these creditors fairly quickly so that there’s a win, win, win. It’s a win for them because they’re able to graduate from a program with much less or even no debt, with a higher FICO score. The creditors also get some of the balance back because otherwise the debtor may have to declare bankruptcy and stop paying them. As far as we’re concerned, we not only make a little money but also have a happy customer who feels that we have helped them to journey back to where they used to be.
Achieve | www.achieve.com | San Mateo, CA