A shining crown jewel – ADP China’s 10th anniversary

2016 is a special year for ADP, one of the world’s largest providers of human capital management solutions, as it is ADP China’s 10th anniversary. In today’s executive interview, Mr. Charles Hamilton Ferguson, President of Asia Pacific from ADP will tell us the stories behind these ten years.
Charles Hamilton Ferguson is president for the Asia Pacific region at ADP.  With a vast network of senior executives across Asia, status in the market as a cloud computing expert, and reputation as a trusted advisor amongst his peers, he brings his experience and technology leadership to the fore as the driver for delivering ADP’s employee engagement and human capital management (HCM) solutions to firms of every size in Asia. He has over 20 years of experience in the information technology industry working in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia with over half his life living in the region. 
2016 is a special year for ADP, one of the world’s largest providers of human capital management solutions, as it is ADP China’s 10th anniversary. In today’s executive interview, Mr. Charles Hamilton Ferguson, President of Asia Pacific from ADP will tell us the stories behind these ten years.
 “Ten years ago, ADP China was a small office on Nanjing Road in Shanghai with 15 employees. The industry of human resources outsourcing was still a restricted area for foreign investment that time. With the efforts of multinational companies represented by ADP and the gradual relaxation of policies, HR outsourcing services has been transformed into the ‘encouraged category of foreign investment’. From then, not only ADP, but the whole industry has benefited from the change.”
In the past ten years, ADP has made distinct footprints in China. The team has grown from 15 employees to over 500. The business model has changed from merely supporting global payroll outsourcing to providing comprehensive payroll outsourcing services to different types of companies. The client pool has gradually expanded from mainly multinational companies in China to cover local private companies. The R&D function has changed from international support to dedicated R&D team in China. The service team has also developed from supporting local clients to supporting the entire North Asia region. The development strategy has changed from the original M&A to continuous establishment of strategic partnership. And we’ve also received a lot of awards from clients and the industry.

A diamond on the crown

At the time of ADP’s 10th anniversary in China, the company’s new President of Asia Pacific Charles shared with us ADP China’s strategic importance in Asia Pacific and in the world. 
 “ADP always pays close attention to the fast-growing markets. Asia Pacific is the region that develops the fastest globally. ADP has a lot of strategic investment in China, and for the whole group, China market is like the diamond on the crown. We’ve laid a solid foundation for our business in the past 10 years, our future target will be accelerated growth,” Charles proudly said.


As an international company with global perspective, adapting to the market trend timely is critical to the company’s success. This is fully interpreted by ADP China. “When first entering China market, ADP mainly provides HR outsourcing services to multinational companies in China. With the change of market demand and increase of business volume, it becomes imperative to localize the business strategy. Based on this consideration, ADP successfully acquired ChinaLink in 2009 to provide more comprehensive outsourcing solutions including local payroll, benefits and HR management systems to China market,” said Charles. 
Looking back on our strategies in the past ten years, “win-win cooperation” ran through ADP’s development in China. ADP has a lot of partners globally. Besides working with payroll services companies, ADP also works with companies like Workday, Kronos. In China market, ADP has reached strategic partnership with Ping An Group. ADP is always looking for new ways to build global partnership – to achieve service extension via partnership and leverage partnership to drive ADP’s business growth and also clients’ development. 
After 10 years continuous endeavoring in China, ADP’s employees number has now reached over 500 with operations in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Wuxi, providing HR management solutions to over 400,000 employees from hundreds of companies. Right now, ADP China is committed to provide a series of solutions and products to make the business scope more diversified. The company not only imports products and solutions from USA, but also provides customized solutions to China market, this is very important to ADP’s continuous development in China. Moreover, as the technical and service center in Asia Pacific, ADP China also strongly supports the company’s business growth in North Asia.
 “ADP has newly designed a regional R&D mode, which is slightly different from the past. As in the past, every country has its own development team, but right now our R&D team works on a regional level. For example, we have dedicated R&D engineers in China to develop the next generation solutions for Asia.”
 “As I mentioned earlier, merger and acquisition, choosing the right partner or developing localized products via regional R&D are all very good ways to develop ADP’s business in Asia Pacific and in China. On a global level, ADP has precedents of entering a new market through mergers and acquisitions, and after acquisition, the number on the corporate balance sheet is very satisfactory. Personally, I’m very looking forward to mergers and acquisitions and I wish to seize the good opportunity.”
ADP Group highly values China market and wishes to help Chinese companies to develop their businesses not only in China but also in the world. “As an expert in the HR outsourcing field, we wish to bring our advanced management techniques and experience to Chinese companies. There’re a lot of opportunities in China. As of the first half of this year, the M&A cases in China accounts for half of those in APAC and over a quarter of those in the world. Chinese companies have replaced US companies to be the largest buyer of overseas M&A for the first year. The number is very surprising and exciting. Many companies in China have already started to deploy their global development. As a service provider and partner, we’re committed to help them with the integration of global HR management, compliance with local laws, payroll accuracy, data security and cross regional cultural synergy. One of our recent focuses is to introduce ADP’s advanced M&A solutions and experience to local companies to help them define and execute the human resources integration after M&A according their unique transaction needs, so as to ensure Chinese companies’ success in overseas acquisitions.”
When asked to summarize ADP’s 10 years development in China, Charles commented, “the past 10 years has not only witnessed ADP’s fast development in China, but also the rapid growth of the overall HR outsourcing industry in China. ADP China is lucky as the HR outsourcing market in China is exciting and prospective. In the future, I wish ADP continue its double-digits growth in China and becomes the fastest-growing and also most profitable market in ADP group.”

Competition is a good thing

Speaking of more and more local start-ups starting to set foot in the field of human resources outsourcing, Charles says, “Competition is a good thing, we welcome healthy competition. The rising of start-ups demonstrates that there’re a lot of opportunities in this industry. Moreover, I believe competition will bring in innovation and facilitate business growth and market development. I hope our competitors will be successful, their success will also motivate our progress and success.”
Charles shared his view on ADP’s advantage compared to other HR services providers, “I have to say there’re rarely any competitors comparable to ADP globally in terms of industry experiences, company scope, market reputation, leading solutions and most importantly our talents. We not only provide SaaS and managed services, we also provide integrated outsourcing services. That is, we can either provide client solutions or they can tell us what they want and we will do the full execution. ADP’s products and services is not only an independent outsourcing project, it is more like an integral part of a company’s strategy. Payroll process standardization will help multinational companies to streamline their strategic deployment and system upgrades, while receiving services of high efficiency, best practice and consistent quality. ADP’s advanced philosophy and sophisticated system will help clients save maintenance and operation cost while ensuring security and compliance, so as to greatly improve HR department’s work efficiency. In addition, a lot of services we’re providing now globally will be introduced into China in the future, such as various talent management solutions.”


The technology development is continuously penetrating the human resources industry. HR outsourcing services providers need to rely on information technology to enhance their competitiveness and to achieve transformation and upgrading, so as to meet clients’ ever changing needs. In terms of customization, Charles emphasized that we need to distinguish “what clients want” from “what clients need”.
 “To continuously meet the market needs, the best way is to provide clients with different options. We provide classic integrated outsourcing services, we also provide other cloud based technology. Though clients from different regions may have different needs, the percentage of those different needs will be no more than 20%. Sometimes clients will put forward specific requirements, we can fully meet “what clients want” technically, but our purpose is not to “lock” clients or charge them for unnecessary customizations. We choose to share with them the best practices. ADP provides various HR services to hundreds of thousands of companies globally, and we’ve accumulated a wealth of best practices of standardization to help clients optimize their processes to reduce cost and improve operation efficiency. Using cloud based solutions means we can provide clients with solutions of different levels including integrated outsourcing services, managed services or SaaS anytime anywhere. We wish to drive the industry benchmark by providing “what clients need” to help Chinese companies seize the opportunity to achieve growth in both local and overseas markets. ADP has over 67 years’ experiences of payroll management in over 100 countries, so we have a very deep understanding of payroll,” Charles added. 
ADP China has gradually increased its efforts in entering different market segments. In recent years, besides keeping on consolidating our business advantage in traditional manufacturing industry, ADP China has also actively expanded into more diversified market segments. So far, ADP China serves over 200 companies from IT, finance, retail, telecommunications, electronics and technology industry, which account for more than half of the clients ADP serves in China. With the further implementation of our local strategy and diversified market deployment, the number will continue to increase. In the same time, the company is now gradually serving more local clients while at the beginning 80% of the clients ADP China served were multinational companies. 

Innovation in the only way

Prior to joining ADP, Charles has worked for many global companies such as SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft, Intel, with over 20 years’ experience in information technology. “I have to say my entire career is closely tied to cloud computing. Cloud technology affects every aspect of our life, including human resources management.
Nowadays, people have different expectations for job compared to previous generations. One of the reasons why I joined ADP is that I saw opportunity of using cloud technology in human resources management.” 


ADP is the first HR services provider that applied SaaS technology, even before the concept of SaaS is brought up. ADP has been working in cloud technology for decades and, always dedicated to provide the most valuable solution to clients. “We provide SaaS, which means we have the capability to provide HR data management anytime anywhere via any devices. This is not only to prove ADP’s cutting edge technology, it is the only way every company need to go through to keep up with the trend.”
To better meet company’s needs in the internet age, ADP China has also launched mobile device solutions to efficiently integrate payroll, benefits and other important HR information. It not only improves work efficiency for HR professionals, but also optimizes the experiences employees and managers have when viewing and managing HR related information both on desktop and mobile devices. 
 “However, we look forward more into the future. We look forward to automation, such as Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning and the impact they will bring to HR management, especially the change they will bring to highly repetitive standardized operations like payroll calculation. ADP has very forward-looking insights on how to integrate automation into HR management. In the meantime, we also look forward to the application of big data in the future, how to provide more strategic insights to clients based on cloud technology. For example, ADP delivers big data platform for workforce management insights in USA, providing HR professionals with benchmarking and predictive analytics. Just in October this year, we’re very honored that ADP DataCloud was recognized as a Top HR Product and an Awesome New Technology for HR in 2016 HR Tech conference in Chicago. Cloud technology, SaaS and cloud-based services are all very good techniques; I believe there’ll be more innovations in the future. As a leader in human resources management, ADP focuses on how to leverage these innovations to bring higher efficiency to human resources management.”
 “Innovation is not only about innovative products and services, but also an innovative way of thinking,”Charles added, “Innovation not only lies in product, but also the way of design thinking. Design thinking is not about how a thing looks like, but how it works. So we’re always trying to remove the outdated processes, optimize the process to achieve high efficiency. This could be achieved via automation, or redesign the process, we’re always thinking about new ways of doing things.”

Charles’s three management concepts

As a HR services provider, ADP’s internal HR management experiences is also worth learning. ADP APAC has initiated a very active CSI (Corporate Social Innovation) event. Employees will take turn to arrange one Friday each month to contribute their time to community. This kind of event is critical to build team spirit, and also to be more targeted in communicating ADP’s brand – a more human resource.
 “I’m a very passionate, very aggressive and very result oriented entrepreneur. So obviously, what ADP wants to do now is rapid growth in APAC, while of course also means the rapid growth in China. Some people don’t like the word of aggressive, but I think this is an assertive word, it means we will be very strong and very competitive. The philosophy that I want to communicate to our 1700 employees in APAC can be divided into three parts, first is happy employees, second is customer for life, and third is continuous innovation. If we do these three things in order, everything else will be fine. We’ve basically achieved the first two, right now we will focus on innovation and sales.”


In addition, ADP has a very unique characteristic compared to other multinational HR services providers, that is, APAC president is also General Manager for China. Charles also highly approves this kind of leadership team set up, “Actually, not only I’m both regional president and China GM, many senior executives in ADP are based in China and they serve the entire APAC market. This mode is indeed unique and rare. It has worked like this in China for many years and it works perfect, it is also a reflection of China market’s strategic importance on a global level.
To describe the feelings of being both APAC President and China GM, Charles only used one word – Luck. Charles has been in APAC for over 32 years, and he said, the role is actually assigned to a native person.
For Charles, the career experience in ADP is the most diversified and challenging one he has ever had. He is looking forward to the uncertainties in the future!