While the rest of the world ushered in a brand new year, 1 January 2013 was meaningful for Mr Lim Ming Yan for a more significant reason. That was the day he relinquished his position as CapitaLand’s Group Chief Operating Officer and officially took over the reins from the Group’s founding CEO, Mr Liew Mun Leong.
Stepping into the shoes of the man who had been at the helm of the Group even before CapitaLand was formed in 2000 is a task Mr Lim is well-suited for. After all, he has been part of CapitaLand’s management team for more than decade and has had a stellar track record.
Until his appointment as the President and Group CEO and Director of CapitaLand Board, Mr Lim was also the Deputy Chairman of CapitaLand China Executive Committee. He was CEO of CapitaLand China Holdings from 2000 to 2009 and grew it into a leading foreign real estate developer in China. He helmed The Ascott Limited upon his return to Singapore in 2009 and, as its CEO, successfully operated and implemented projects in Southeast Asia, China, India, the Middle East and Europe.
He certainly has a vision for the CapitaLand of the Future, as was clear when he shared his plans for the Group to work as a more integrated company.
“The company belongs to everyone. In terms of strategy, the most immediate task for my management team and I is to develop strategies for the Group so that everyone can move in the same direction. In terms of organisation, I want to relook systems, processes and functions to minimise duplication and to reduce the time needed for approvals. Another aspect is to make our processes more exportable to other countries for ease of adoption by Strategic Business Units (SBUs).”
Clearer roadmap for a more aligned CapitaLand
For a leaner, more efficient and competitive CapitaLand, Mr Lim began the year with a new, simplified structure. The four key business units: CapitaLand Singapore, CapitaLand China, CapitaMalls Asia and The Ascott Limited underscore the Group’s focus on its key markets, Singapore and China, as well as its core expertise in shopping malls and serviced residence.
“This will allow us to better leverage resources and be more nimble when responding to market dynamics,” Mr Lim explained.
But the new leader was also mindful of the concerns of the staff.
“CapitaLand is still a growing company. I would rather have the same number of people and more revenue, rather than same revenue but fewer people,” he assured.
CapitaLand Singapore is responsible for the residential and commercial businesses in Singapore, which include the former CapitaLand Residential Singapore and CapitaLand Commercial Limited, as well as operations in Malaysia. Mr Wen Khai Meng is the CEO of CapitaLand Singapore.
“A larger sum of capital can be allocated to the combined unit enabling it to bid for bigger projects,” said Mr Lim when explaining the benefits of the merger. “Besides, land is a constraint for Singapore hence limiting our opportunities. Introducing Malaysia will equip our people with the skills to operate in a larger geography.”
CapitaLand China, under CEO Mr Jason Leow, streamlines all the various SBUs in charge of residential projects such as CapitaValue Homes China and CapitaLand China Holdings in China under its umbrella.
CapitaMalls Asia and The Ascott Limited under the leadership of Mr Lim Beng Chee and Mr Chong Kee Hiong respectively, remain unchanged.
In his new capacity as Group Deputy CEO, former Group Chief Investment Officer, Mr Olivier Lim looks after CapitaLand’s businesses Australand, Surbana Corporation and StorHub as well as the Vietnam, Japan, India, Gulf Corporation Council and United Kingdom markets. In addition, he also oversees the financial services business which includes fund management, financial products, and mergers & acquisitions for the Group. Corporate planning and organisation performance also come under Mr Lim’s purview.
To chart the direction, develop strategies and set policies for the Group within this management structure, Mr Lim formed an executive team, the Executive Management Council, comprising the corporate management, and all the CEOs.
“My management team and I will work with the respective SBUs to develop strategies and review processes in the next three to six months.”
Reflecting this greater cohesion, CapitaLand Group and CapitaLand Limited also changed their Chinese names to 凯德集团 (kǎi dé jī tuán).
“Prior to the change, the Chinese brand names for some CapitaLand businesses differ. This change allows us to align the branding so the Group is known by the same name regardless of geography,” said Mr Lim.
In December 2012, the 凯德 (kǎi dé) trademark was recognised as a ‘Chinese Well-known Mark’ (中国驰名商标) by the State Administration for Industry & Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (中国工商总局). CapitaLand is the first foreign real estate company and one of fewer than 10 real estate companies nation-wide to be conferred this honorary certification. This attests to the wide public awareness and strong reputation of the brand in China. In addition, the certification affords CapitaLand privileged legal protection in China not accorded to companies with common registered marks.
A more open and inclusive organisation
Asked of his management style, Mr Lim shared, “I aspire to be a leader who is inclusive, thoughtful and decisive. I do not like filtering. I value honest feedback and I am open to diverse viewpoints which I believe will strengthen a person’s thought process. I also believe in empowering staff and trusting those who are working at the frontlines.”
That was why, right off the bat, Mr Lim sought the views of his staff with an informal survey and asked what they thought of and hoped for with the changes in CapitaLand. 100 employees with a collective 1,000 years of experience in CapitaLand were approached.
The results were telling. There was a general desire for more openness whether in inviting exchanges of viewpoints and ideas, or in communicating visions, policies and strategies for a more inclusive organisation. Clarity at all levels with the willingness to ‘think big’ and ‘think different’ were also what the employees who were surveyed hope for.
Humbler Industry Leader As Successes Multiply
Along with corporate culture is Mr Lim’s push for a humbler CapitaLand.
“When it comes to our company image, I would like us to be more humble. When you are successful, if you behave even normally, you might be perceived as arrogant. You need to be even more humble once you are successful.”
And CapitaLand has been successful. It has been conferred the Top 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Enterprises Entering China Award (Award) by the China-ASEAN Business Council (CABC). The Award honours model ASEAN enterprises which have achieved business success and contributed positively to the local Chinese communities they operate in. CABC consists of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade; the ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and the national business leaders, well-known enterprises and experts of members of ASEAN.
Separately, CapitaLand has been listed in the 2012 World Finance 100 for the first time. Ascott Residence Trust Management Limited, the manager of Ascott Residence Trust and an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of CapitaLand, has also been listed. In Singapore, only CapitaLand and Ascott Residence Trust Management Limited made it to the listing. The annual World Finance 100 recognises the best global performers on a wide range of criteria including profitability, sustainability, social responsibility, market share, perceived client satisfaction and attitudes to shifting market parameters.
Mr Lim well appreciates the gem that he now leads. CapitaLand is one of the largest real estate players in Asia with a diversified portfolio which includes homes, offices, shopping malls, serviced residences and mixed developments. In the last six years, it has achieved more than S$1 billion in annual net profit and as at end September 2012, the Group’s assets under management amounted to approximately S$63 billion. Mr Lim is determined to build on this firm foundation and work towards building a great CapitaLand of the Future with all employees.