When Frederick Fu pays a visit to his engineering department, the team understands he won’t be popping down for a simple meet and greet. While he’ll certainly enjoy a social chat, catching up on everyone’s news, he’ll definitely be after a real discussion. Electronics jargon about new developments in cloud, data analytics, Internet of Things, security and enterprise networking will slip off the Avnet president’s tongue as easily as a question about a colleague’s newest child.
You see, Frederick, who runs the Asia–Pacific arm of the near century-old global technology distributor, is one of those rare bosses equipped with a combination of leadership skills. His technical prowess is backed by his Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering, while his exceptionally personable nature and extraordinary instinct for marketing slips him seamlessly into the boardroom.
Frederick Fu discovers a passion for people
“I always wanted to be a scientist, in a laboratory just on my own, hiding myself,” Frederick laughs. “Physics and chemistry were my passion, but my teachers told me there were not many job opportunities in Asia for those fields, so I chose engineering.
“However, engineers, like scientists, are also very quiet, and don’t tend to talk much. But I was lucky: my first job was with Motorola, where I started as a testing engineer, and then moved through all the processes from factory, to design, to marketing,” he explains.
“It set me up with a great foundation of knowledge about all of the different departments. My extensive training taught me that even though I have a mind leaning towards the technical side of things, it’s important to talk to people. I discovered that no-one can read your heart, that you need to tell people what you want, listen to them, and work out what they are thinking as well.”
While we have a long, rich history, we are realistic that we have to adapt to new generations and new business.
Armed with newfound confidence, and with his passion for people triggered, Frederick turned down the opportunity to become a design engineer, realising he actually did prefer to interact than be stuck behind a computer. He’s since acquired more than 30 years of experience in the electronics industry, including in the semiconductor space with technology companies and electronics manufacturing services including Motorola, Seagate and STMicroelectronics, where he held engineering, marketing and business management roles.
Frederick was the chief marketing officer at Surface Mount Technology and president of STMicroelectronics Taiwan before joining Avnet. He was appointed president in March this year, based in Hong Kong, and is delighted to be at the helm of a company that has not only managed to survive more than nine decades of massive electronic change but has also become the go-to support system for innovators leading the market in technological development.
Avnet becomes even more customer-centric
Avnet is a world leader in more than 115 countries, exploring the transformative possibilities of technology and presenting its potential to the world, providing suppliers and customers with edge-to-enterprise technology to advance business, and staying on board with them from design to prototype to production. In April, the company introduced its new global branding campaign, Reach Further, designed to even further expand customer assistance.
“We are much more than just a buy-and-sell distributor,” Frederick says. “We think very carefully about what kind of service and technology we can provide to customers. In this business, we constantly have to adapt to changes, understand what the market needs, and how we can expand on that knowledge to serve our customers better.
“Our suite of innovative solutions, combined with technical expertise, design, and supply-chain services, has always enabled us to deliver unrivalled in-house capabilities and time-to-market advantage solutions for our customers,” explains Frederick. “We are focused on expanding our reach further to become even more customer-centric. We ensure we are consistently delivering the latest technology and a full suite of solutions and services.
“We are paying a lot of attention to our customers to further enrich their lives with technology. We want to help them realise that what is impossible today will become a reality tomorrow. While we have a long, rich history, we are realistic that we have to adapt to new generations and new business. Our new logo is more energetic and it reflects who we are in the technological field.”
Committed to providing the best technology platform
In May this year, Avnet announced it would consolidate its four distribution centres in Hong Kong and Shenzhen into one new mega facility to increase productivity efficiency and speed-to-delivery. The new state-of-the-art facility at Hong Kong International Terminals will optimise logistic flow and centralise inventory, increasing productivity for the north Asian region by more than 15%.
“By consolidating our resources in Hong Kong, we will be in a strong position to further extend our products and solutions within the region,” Frederick says. “It also reflects our commitment to providing the best technology platform and supply chain capabilities for our customers and partners, as well as supporting our strategic business direction to expand our footprint and business in the region.
We want to help them realise that what is impossible today will become a reality tomorrow.
“Our key opportunities for growth and improvement always lie in the current trends of the market,” adds Frederick. “At the moment, it is all about digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Everyone is talking about IoT and its impact on everything. All our devices will be connected, talking to each other, whether they are smartphones, or wearables; it’s all about networking.
“Take your car, for example. We will be connecting our cars so they will know who’s turning in front of you, who’s passing you, and the road conditions. This connection will be all about safety, because most accidents are due to drivers and human error, not because of the car. With connection, the car will be protecting the driver from having an accident because it will anticipate everything going on around them.”
A marketing man or electronics engineer?
While Frederick can exercise and develop his technical expertise by reading everything he can online and in magazines about electronics and technology, he’s pragmatic about leading a company and managing people. It begs the question: How does he see himself today? A marketing man or electronics engineer?
“Good question,” Frederick laughs. “Obviously, I want to drive the team forward as a business, but I also want us to be a step ahead technology-wise. I love to read everything I can about the latest developments and products, and think about what is working and how to make it better. I love to discuss these things with my engineering team. But then I get very focused on their commercial possibilities and how to market these products.”
“One of the philosophies that I came across that I found interesting is that technology is always evolving and we are living in a very dynamic world. One thing that is constant is change. We have to transform and evolve in the way we engage and manage the business.”
“Things are changing so much every day so it’s important to stay agile and be ready for these changes. We have to be prepared for different scenarios and be open to thinking differently, even if it contradicts our way of looking at the market. When I face uncertainty or challenges, I remember that it’s all part of the fun.”