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Embracing new challenges

Wilfred Ong

Name: Wilfred Ong

Position: Head of Legal & Compliance, Philips ASEAN Pacific 


Embracing new challenges


Twenty-seven years. That’s how long I’ve been in the legal industry.


Twenty-seven years, and in my 16 months at Philips so far, I have already used all the knowledge and skills I picked up in those 27 years.

Taking on healthcare


I came from a career that was primarily IT focused, but was sought out to join Philips as it was moving into a new phase of providing health tech solutions.


An issue faced by many countries, especially those in the APAC region, is that of an ageing population. Governments around the world are emphasising the right kind of healthcare mix, and I saw myself joining the fray and using my experience to make an impact.


Facing complexities and the unexpected


Philips has a huge portfolio, unlike competitor companies that may specialise in just one segment. We have the advantage of an entire spectrum of products and solutions, with something for everyone, covering the consumer lifecycle and extending to B2B, B2C and B2G. The sheer length and breadth of offerings makes a lawyer's work more interesting and inevitably more complex.


Professionally, I have had to embrace the unexpected. The legal challenges I've encountered in Philips are some I have yet to face to this degree. There is also a strong compliance culture here, which means plenty of compliance program project management work is weaved into my day-to-day work. Globally, there is increasing scrutiny on the medical device industry and Philips takes this seriously. We spend a lot of time making sure our business processes are compliant end-to-end, which for me is a continuous cycle of learning.


Another challenge that my team and I meet with is the issue of data privacy laws. As a data-driven company, we are closely watched by regulators and must be able to address cross border data privacy and ownership issues. The solution would always be to have permission, and to first anonymize sensitive or personal data, in compliance with the different healthcare requirements in each market. The ability to properly harness the value of this large amount of “Big data” is new territory, as far as the legal profession is concerned.


Right time, right place


Truth be told, when I was first approached by the Talent Acquisition team in Philips, my interest was minimal. Since I was a kid, my impression of the Philips brand was of good quality household products like kettles, irons and toothbrushes. Philips has a good brand, yes, but not a brand you would normally associate with trendy IT and digital solutions.


However, when the TA team started to share more about the business vision and strategy of Philips, I felt like the stars had aligned. It was an intriguing value proposition and I felt that getting onboard would be a “right time right place” kind of situation. It felt like the right move to be part of a market differentiator and step out of my comfort zone.


Innovating and Evolving


Something I really admire about here in Philips is the efficiency of execution. In the course of my work, I have seen decisions made at the executive committee level in Netherlands followed up by systematic execution. We've gradually divested our lighting business and used the funds to reinvest in start-ups, new ventures, M&As, and so on to widen our portfolio of products and solutions. These are necessary moves when you talk about being at the forefront of innovation. I can say that I have seen first-hand how Philips lives and breathes innovation.


Philips is a company that has this innate ability to evolve and adapt to all the paradigm shifts occurring in the market. I mean, we have been around for 125 years! It is a company that is in the optimum position to address changes occurring, and work towards prevention and solutions in healthcare. The way Philips does business, the way we engage customers and meet their needs – it is invariably being challenged by digital disruption. Since I have been here, there has not been a single dull moment.