2022 New Year Message: Building Strength from Within to Build a Global Company that Lasts
Mr Lee Chee Koon, Group CEO of CapitaLand Investment believes that building a truly successful and lasting global company begins with challenging our limits and making 'No Apologies, No Excuses'. He shares his thoughts in an email to staff.
I have an over-worn, over-washed Under Armour teeshirt that I love. Bought many years ago, it was originally a deep grey in colour but has now faded to a washed light grey. Its smooth cotton texture has now turned bobbly. The once sharp-looking V-neck now dives too deep. My wife keeps telling me I should retire it soon. But I am reluctant to, because its slogan carries great significance for me: “No Apologies, No Excuses”. No Apologies – we must never be afraid, embarrassed or feel apologetic to challenge the status quo or propose new or alternative views, if this is done in the best interests of the company. After all, real change starts with us. No Excuses – real change means taking risks, rolling up our sleeves to get things done, and most importantly, we must always be accountable and take responsibility for decisions we make.
When I look back at the past few years of CapitaLand’s journey, I see the truth of these words. One pivotal milestone was CapitaLand’s merger with Ascendas-Singbridge in 2019, which significantly upscaled our business and expanded our capability to build a global platform. We didn’t stop there. Last September, we successfully restructured to privatise our development arm and listed CapitaLand Investment (CLI) as a real estate investment manager (REIM). All this was done despite pandemic woes and uncertainties in our markets worldwide. Were we absolutely confident that the restructuring exercise would be a success? Definitely not. Were there risks involved? Absolutely! Unlike typical IPOs, there was no price discovery process for the listing of CLI. But the Board and Management Team knew this was the best way to sharpen our business focus and unlock shareholder value. Right up to the listing moment on 20 September 2021, we had no idea how the share price would perform. But one thing was for sure: We had a thesis, we had conviction, we took accountability, and we pushed forward.
I am very pleased to report that since CLI made its debut on the Singapore Exchange on 20 September 2021, our share price has traded well above expectation. It is clear the market has endorsed our business model. We are as determined as ever to go all out and make strides across all our business areas.
These past few years have not been easy. The COVID-19 pandemic put everyone to the test. Each of you has made countless sacrifices and worked tirelessly to keep our company moving forward in the midst of this global health crisis. I would like to express my deep appreciation to each and every one of you for embracing CapitaLand’s restructuring process, for persevering through the challenges we faced due to COVID-19, and for going the distance to serve the CapitaLand family, while caring for your own families and loved ones. It is because of your resilience and dedication that the Group did not let this crisis go to waste. Instead, we adapted and grew through our trials.
We had a thesis, we had conviction, we took accountability, and we pushed forward. “No Apologies, No Excuses”.
Building Strength from Within
To be sure, the macroeconomic environment we operate in remains volatile and uncertain. There continue to be geopolitical tensions, global supply chain imbalances, higher energy prices and inflation, and concerns over real estate leveraging in China. And the cold hard truth is that our planet is in real jeopardy. We cannot afford to delay our attention on ensuring sustainability any longer. No more apologies, no more excuses. CapitaLand will continue to keep sustainability at the core of everything we do. We have to do the right thing for our children, and for the generations of children after them.
In such uncertain and trying times, companies will work hard to enhance their competitiveness by acquiring new capabilities and raising more capital – just as CapitaLand continues to do. But if everyone who can do it is now doing it, how do we differentiate ourselves and stay ahead of the curve?
I recall the story of China’s Emperor Kangxi who ruled the Qing Dynasty from 1661 to 1722. When a part of the Great Wall collapsed, he chose not to repair it. Instead, he remarked that the way to defend the Chinese empire is to support the people. If the people were in solidarity with the same purpose, the “borders” would self-consolidate and be a unified whole. There would be no need to build physical walls to protect the empire.
I have said many times that an organisation is only as good as the people and culture we have. Ultimately, it is our people and what we stand for as a company that will truly bind us and distinguish us from the competition. I strongly believe that we can only build enduring strength when we build from the inside out.
We must continue to foster a culture of mutual trust, respect, feedback and open-mindedness. Do not shy away from speaking up and challenging the popular opinion if you have the company’s best interest at heart. In turn, we must be okay with being challenged by our colleagues. We must internalise and harness the virtues of healthy debate. I am very encouraged to see more disagreements in my meetings with some of you in recent months, and I see this as a positive step forward toward a mature, confident organisation. It shows that people are comfortable in voicing different points of view and playing devil’s advocate. There are no personal biases and there is no single authority that should decide on everything. We agree to disagree, and we can all learn from one another’s experiences and insights. It is only when we set aside our differences that we can make sound decisions that will benefit the whole organisation. Diversity in counsel, Unity in execution.
Just as I urge each one of you to step up and take ownership of your views and contributions, I hold our CapitaLand leaders to even higher standards. Set the example by taking charge. Don’t be apologetic about challenging the status quo as a member of the CapitaLand team. Take time to understand what is going on and engage your team to push the boundaries of your business. Be accountable for your decisions. Even if you know you may not be able to attain the perfect outcome, that should never be the excuse for not committing to get as close as you can. We cannot expect ourselves to make the absolute right decisions all the time, but we can expect ourselves to take the best possible decision and then give our best to make it right.
An organisation is only as good as the people and culture we have. Ultimately, it is our people and what we stand for as a company that will truly bind us and distinguish us from the competition. I strongly believe we can only build enduring strength when we build from the inside out.
Looking Ahead to 2022
2022 will mark our first year of being a transformed CapitaLand Group with a listed REIM and privatised development arm, sharing a common purpose of: Enriching Lives, Building Communities and Growing Sustainably. I am excited about the new frontiers we will conquer in the year ahead, including the strides forward we expect to make in our private equity business, both in real estate and alternative assets, as well as expansion into new geographies and business areas.
We are CapitaLand. We must aim high and build a truly successful and lasting global company headquartered in Singapore, and not simply a Singapore company trying to go global. I want to assure you that the leadership team and I are committed to doing our best for the Group, and I invite you to actively participate in our journey, contribute your talents, and share your perspectives and ideas. Venturing into new ground takes a whole lot of grit, willingness to adapt and innovate, and courage to challenge the status quo. Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits.
On this note, I wish all of you and your families good health, and a fruitful and wonderful 2022!