Cheng will overhaul Chow Tai Fook over the next five years to “elevate the brand”, improve customer experience, establish distinctive products and collections and ensure it remains a market leader.

A Chow Tai Fook shop in Central. Photo: May Tse

“I see a lot of similarities between Rosewood and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery,” she said. “Both are heritage brands, with a very strong, loyal customer base.

“Both also share a very strong dedication and commitment to connecting cultures and tradition.”

Cheng is the only daughter of tycoon Henry Cheng Kar-shun, 77, chairman of Chow Tai Fook and property giant New World Development.

He and the family were ranked Hong Kong’s third richest this year by Forbes, with a net worth of US$22.1 billion.

Her older brother, Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, 44, is executive vice-chairman and CEO of New World Development, where she is an executive director and younger brother Brian Cheng Chi-ming, 41, is a non-executive director.

Sonia Cheng said, as a fourth-generation member of the family dynasty, she viewed her mission to transform the jewellery arm as an effort to pass on its legacy and traditions to her daughters and their children too.

Cheng was decked out in an array of glittering earrings, bracelets and a gold and diamond ring designed with a motif of fook, the Chinese word for good fortune, all part of a collection to mark the group’s 95th anniversary this year.

Chow Tai Fook was founded in Guangzhou in 1929 by entrepreneur Chow Chi-yuen, who grew the business and expanded to Hong Kong.

Cheng Yu-tung – Chow’s son-in-law and Sonia Cheng’s paternal grandfather – took over from him, and phenomenal success followed.

The jewellery chain now has almost 8,000 stores, 98 per cent of them in mainland China and the rest in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Chow Tai Fook aims to revamp brand and its 8,000 mainland and Hong Kong stores

Revenue hit HK$49.52 billion (US$6.32 billion), with a net profit of HK$4.55 billion, in the first half of the financial year that ended last September 30.

The group last week announced its overhaul, including a new logo, store renovations, an emphasis on technology-led shopping and the creation of a flagship branch in Shanghai.

Shoppers will be able to use a tablet to try on different jewellery at stores through augmented reality, a technology designed to create interactive experiences.

“The younger generation really appreciates a personalised experience,” Cheng said.

Her cousin Conroy Cheng Chi-heng, 46, is also a vice-chairman at the jewellery firm and they will work together to transform the jewellery business and pursue growth in the Asean group of nations.

The Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group’s Conroy Cheng and Sonia Cheng. Photo: May Tse

Sonia Cheng said Southeast Asia had a strong Chinese community and the brand was well known there.

“We see the opportunity to grow in overseas markets, particularly in Asean countries, where we currently have a presence in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and also in Japan and Korea,” she added.

Conroy Cheng said the 400 craftsmen at the group’s factory in Shunde, Guangdong province, had embraced technology, with artificial intelligence used in production to help boost efficiency.

He added that his and his cousin’s different styles came together and that they worked well as a team.

Conroy explained he chose to remain behind the scenes and focus on logistics and production, leaving brand management and the spotlight to Sonia.

“We always work in harmony,” he said. “It was our grandfather’s motto that we as a family work harmoniously.”

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Sonia Cheng added: “Even if there are difficult decisions or disagreements, we are able to discuss openly and understand the pros and cons and come to decisions together.”

She declined to discuss the family’s succession plans, or comment on an unexpected remark her father made last year about the possibility of bringing in outsiders to manage the business empire.

“My father is chairman and oversees the entire family business,” she said. “We are all here to support the family to deliver the company’s goals.

“That’s what we are focusing on. We don’t want anything to distract us.”

She said she did not see any major decline in confidence in Hong Kong as a global business hub after the domestic national security law came into force in March.

“Hong Kong will take some time to move on from the impact of the 2019 social unrest and the pandemic,” she said.

She added that the government should bring in more visitors from overseas to see that the city had not changed, despite the turmoil.

One of a minority of women leaders of Hong Kong blue chip companies, she is married to Ocean Park Corporation chairman and wine trader Paulo Pong Kin-yee and they are careful to guard the privacy of their five children.

Cheng said she did not believe her father had assigned her to the jewellery side of the business and hospitality because she was a woman, while older brother Adrian was placed in the group’s core property arena.

“I don’t think my assignment was related to gender,” Cheng said. “My interest has always been building brands and I am passionate about building brands.”