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Thread: Not born developers

  1. #1
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    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Not born developers

    Published May 22, 2007

    Not born developers

    CapitaLand CEO sees that as the group's strength. KALPANA RASHIWALA reports

    THE old thinking may be that for property developers, it helps if you have property blood running through your veins, but CapitaLand Group president and CEO Liew Mun Leong says the group has been successful precisely because it is not run by 'true-blooded real estate people'.

    'If you look at our senior people, none are born into real estate companies. (We are) not owners, not born with inherited landbanks. We're professional engineers, financial consultants, builders, but not true-blooded real estate people. When there's a problem . . . we will think of a solution to overcome it with a very innovative angle. We do not have a fixed model,' Mr Liew, a civil engineer by training, said in a recent interview with BT.

    He also wishes he could clone himself and his top brass to man the various businesses he hopes to expand into.

    Biggest challenge

    'Finding good enough people is my biggest challenge now.

    'I wish I can be cloned four times, five times, because I want to go to so many places. And I need to find people. I need to find regional managers, I need to find country heads, product heads.

    'Take the top 20 people in the group, I wish I can have all of them cloned to double - 40 of them. Then I (can) send some here and there. I really mean it.'

    The group achieved net earnings of $1.02 billion last year and $608.1 million in Q1 2007. It had a headcount of about 6,500 as at end-2006, inclusive of 3,500 at its serviced residences arm The Ascott Group.

    The group's total staffing costs last year amounted to $442.4 million, including director fees.

    'We're so short of people, if I can take (another) $30 million - it's 3 per cent (of last year's net profit) - I can employ a lot of top talent for a few years. Each one of them will be able to help us find profitable ventures. Each one of them can say: 'Boss, I can find another project that can make you $50 million, $100 million.' So the question is where do I find these people,' as Mr Liew puts it.

    Among the new initiatives within the group to encourage creativity to meet the competition is ICE, which stands for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

    Each quarter, an 'iceberg competition' will be held where all ideas from staff are put into an 'ice bucket'.

    The company contributes $25 for each idea, and the ideas are ranked and prizes given accordingly.

    'We've just started this. (Entries can come from all business units.) Anybody can participate, worldwide, even the tea lady and chambermaids. Participation is entirely voluntary. It's trying to get people to be more creative and entrepreneurial,' Mr Liew explains.

    The 60-year-old keeps trim by jogging, going to the gym, and following a regime of jumping into a cold-water pool and then into a hot-water pool in the morning.

    At night, he drinks the Chinese tea pu'er, which was once 'a poor man's drink that my father introduced to me when I was young. Today it has become more expensive'.

    The avid fan of Cantonese soap operas and martial arts series is also very serious about succession planning.

    'I am not just interested in building buildings; I am interested in building people.

    'If you don't have succession plans at all senior levels, then your company cannot last. Simple as that. It is our preoccupation to make sure we have succession planning, not just at my level, but three levels down. That is, president level, president minus 1, president minus 2, president minus 3. (Up to) three levels down, we've already got people who are able to fill in that position immediately. In fact, the matrix is: Today if I depart, somebody can walk into my office to take over.'

    The first line of succession candidates are from within the organisation. 'Firstly, this is a very complex company. This is not a normal real estate company. This is a real estate company that operates in 90 cities and with a wide range of products which is more than real estate,' as Mr Liew puts it.

    Another reason for his preference for succession candidates from within the organisation is that they are more likely to gain their peers' acceptance.

    'There is no question that they will be able to hold the fort, because they have been with us all the time.'

    Mr Liew declines to name just who will succeed him as president and CEO, but adds: 'We all know who the number twos are but we don't put names. That's all.'

    'They're all accepted, recognised. They're there by their own competency.'

    In any case, he stresses that 'different situations require different personalities'.


    His top brass are all well-groomed. 'I would dare say each of them is better than I am. This is gene pool theory: everybody you recruit must be better than you.

    'You look at every one of my colleagues. They're better qualified than I am, at least academically. I think they're definitely more intelligent, they're more exposed to new things in the world, new globalisation forces. I come from the old school, from a time when I had to use a slide rule, not even calculators.'

    A slide rule, Mr Liew explains, was used to do mathematical calculations like addition and multiplication in a quick way before the calculator was invented.

    'I came from a time when desktop computers were not in existence and when there was no email. We used carbon paper.

    'I have never gone to business school. I've never had a single day of financial training. I learned from the university of life. My successors are well-equipped.

    'If I take a longer time to understand what is a balance sheet, they take a much shorter time.'

    'But having said that, knowledge is one thing, experience and wisdom are another,' Mr Liew added.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Default Re: Not born developers

    This CEO is so "hao lian".

  3. #3
    Registered Guest

    Default Re: Not born developers

    Quote Originally Posted by Madeira
    This CEO is so "hao lian".
    What can you do?
    People got link with and backing from a CEO of a very big investment company - one that is not afraid of losing billions in Thailand.

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