Stefanie Ng, appointed as Audemars Piguet’s South-East Asia (including India and Australia) CEO in 2019, experienced several months of “normalcy” in her new role before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
The Singaporean, who has been with the company since 2012, immediately got into the mindset of realigning the business.
“2020 was a year where every business needed to pivot in one way or another. Covid-19 is like a hurricane sweeping across the entire world, disrupting the ‘norm’, ” said Ng in an email interview.
“Years ago, we initiated a switch of our business strategy from wholesale towards retail. The pandemic has highlighted even more so how important relationships to local clients are. We are glad we did the move years ago.”
Among other things, challenges ranged from finding different ways to share updates about their novelties and thinking of new ideas to captivate clients as they were unable to host clients like they did pre-pandemic.
“Our sales staff had to find creative solutions and stay well connected with our clients. We also had to look for innovative ways to share updates regarding our novelties, ” said Ng, who has held posts as regional marketing manager and, marketing and operations director in Audemars Piguet.
“We notably had to learn and implement new technologies and solutions to make this an unforgettable experience: like our Live Broadcasts from Le Brassus.
She noted however, how important engagements in real life remain, as building true relationships go beyond the digital world.
With borders being closed for over a year now, Ng has not been able to meet with their teams in Malaysia and Thailand, posing a challenge for any leader.
“Although I speak with the team regularly over the phone, it is very different from the connection you get through informal face-to-face interaction. However, it is through challenging times where the gems emerge. I have a team of great co-workers who are willing to weather the uncertainties and challenges.”
The unprecedented circumstances of the past year made adaptability an essential trait in any business, even more so the role of a leader.
“The world is no longer the same as it was pre-Covid. This pandemic has taught us the importance of adaptability. We are still having the eye on the same target but with the resilience and creativity to adapt.”
Ng describes her approach to leadership as centring around inspiration, motivation and mobilisation, crediting transformational leaders she has worked with for her professional growth.
“Having said that, I think that as leaders, we need to adapt and be flexible in how we administer our leadership methods and that’s what I apply in my role. I am also a firm believer in leading by example, ” she said.
A steady demand in the region meant that the South-East Asia market fared well in 2020, and Ng expressed how fortunate they were.
“We are lucky to be in this position and our clients are still indulging in fine timepieces, ” she expressed. “Despite the pandemic situation, we still see a regular stream of appointments to view watches at our Westin KL boutique located on level 33. We are thankful for the support of our clients and look forward to revealing the new boutique at Starhill in the coming months.”
Throughout her career with the brand, Ng has worked on and spearheaded numerous launches and projects, with most of the standout moments occurring during her earlier days.
“The first key change I am lucky to experience is our business shift from wholesale to retail that started in 2012 when I joined the company. It has been and continues to be a very enriching journey. We get to know our clients better and become closer to them as time passes, while keeping our ears to the ground, ” she said.
“The biggest project that I was handed was the Royal Oak 40th anniversary celebration, and that was when the team started to explore working with contemporary artists.
“This project kickstarted our relationship with Art Basel in 2013 and Audemars Piguet Contemporary, our art programme. Today, we are still going strong with these initiatives, ” she added.
This year the brand has already launched several of the 60 models they will be revealing throughout the year, including the Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon, an exciting collaboration with Marvel.
“Some of my personal favourites from the 2021 novelties include the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet featuring a ceramic middle case, an upcoming ladies piece (which I can’t reveal at the moment) and the interchangeable strap system for the new Royal Oak Offshore models that I have been waiting for, ” said Ng.
Ng believes it is the brand’s values of tradition, innovation and strong family spirit that resonate with watch lovers in the South-East Asian region.
“For more than 146 years, this family-owned company has preserved and built on traditions in order to advance its craft” says Ng. “Each Audemars Piguet timepiece continues to carry this uncompromising blend of ancestral craftsmanship and forward-thinking spirit.
“The brand also constantly looks at new trends and new ways of fitting with our clients’ interests and that appeal to our customers.”