Singapore’s 50 th anniversary or SG50 is particularly poignant for Mr Lim Soo Gee, Head of Corporate Security at CapitaLand because Singapore’s 50-year transformation from third world country to first world nation markedly mirrors his five-decade career in law enforcement and, now, corporate security. His journey began in 1965 when Mr Lim was just 18 and fresh out of school.
“I had always wanted to do something that would allow me to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Being a policeman was a natural choice,” he says.
Soon after Singapore gained its independence in 1965, Mr Lim joined the Singapore Police Force’s riot squad.
“Back then, there were a lot of issues with illegal immigrants and frequent demonstrations over trade union representation. That was what we were called to look into,” he recalls.
Mr Lim did so well in his job that within three years, he was promoted to Inspector. In the 35 years that followed, he would continue to excel in his job and be promoted again and again to become Assistant Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force.
The Business of Securing Corporate Singapore
Now, at 68 and looking a good ten years younger, Mr Lim is the man CapitaLand has tasked to ensure the security of all its properties in Singapore, from offices to malls, serviced residences and integrated developments.
“I was excited at the prospect of being able to take my 38 years of experience with the Singapore Police Force and use it to benefit the corporate world,” he says of his decision to join CapitaLand when he was headhunted in 2003.
Mr Lim certainly has much to offer. Not only does he bring with him a wealth of law-enforcement experience, he comes with plenty of professional training as well.
In the eighties, he was one of a few handpicked by the Singapore Police Force to attend the West Yorkshire Detective Training Academy before being attached to the Leeds police station. During that period, he spent some time at Scotland Yard, the police force responsible for policing London, where he deepened his knowledge on crime prevention and community policing.
As an alumnus of the prestigious Police Staff College in Bramshill, he is among an elite few from Singapore who have passed through the halls of the principal police staff training establishment for England and Wales. During that period, he visited the German Police Training establishment at Münster in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany for a study visit. Following the hijacking of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117 in 1991, Mr Lim also went on a study tour of major airports to learn about airport security. His stint with the Emergency Planning College in York has equipped him with expertise to manage emergency evacuations as well.
“I even went to visit the SWAT teams in the US, Hong Kong and neighbouring countries to study their hostage rescue units when I was setting up Singapore’s own SWAT team in the early nineties which we call the Special Tactics and Rescue unit or STAR,” says Mr Lim.
“Hong Kong was particularly relevant because, like us, they have several high-rise buildings. Now, the knowledge has come in handy when managing CapitaLand’s properties, including many skyscrapers.”
Every audit Mr Lim conducts at CapitaLand properties takes at least a month of checks, monitoring and interviews with the security staff. His team looks into everything from evacuation routes to traffic management, security camera placement, safeguarding of office equipment, conducting security awareness classes for employees, improving drill procedures and even crime prevention.
“In a previous job as a police officer, I once investigated a case which involved a serial molester who dragged women into an area that housed the AHU (Air Handling Unit). Now, I make sure that in every property, these plant rooms are locked.”
“We do our rounds in the properties and conduct surprise checks as well. Sometimes, I even check on the buildings at nights or on weekends. I go so far as to monitor cars parked outside the building for too long.”
Once the audit is done, Mr Lim makes recommendations for improvements and conducts training if necessary.
The chairman of the Security Industry Training Council has two principles when it comes to security.
“Permanent vigilance and re-examination of old assumptions. You always have to be on the lookout and you have to keep abreast of situations here and abroad so you can constantly evaluate if your processes are vigorous enough.”
The Highlights of Securing Singapore
Though Mr Lim has been working with CapitaLand for 12 years, his fortunes were inexplicably tied to the property giant’s long before that since many of the Group’s developments are icons of the country.
Mr Lim worked with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) from 1972. For nine years, he looked into secret societies and organised crimes and worked to “break up gangs”.
“Capital Tower used to be the CID headquarters. My old office then is now my office again,” he muses.
Mr Lim considers his “most enjoyable” period in his law-enforcing career to be the eighties when he was appointed CBD City Police Chief. The area where Raffles City Singapore, Clarke Quay and Funan DigitaLife Mall now stand all came under his jurisdiction.
“It helps that I have all this history and experience in this area. Because of my experience, I know the surrounding buildings very well and it helps me to better respond to perceived security threats now. In a way, I have been keeping this area safe for a long time.”
The Joys of a Secure Future
Security is never far from Mr Lim’s mind, even when he is on holiday.
“In any place I go to, the first thing I look out for are the exit points. I am always thinking of how to evacuate a place in case of emergencies,” he smiles.
To relax, he also golfs and has made a hole in one twice, an impressive achievement given how remarkably difficult it is to score an ace.
Mr Lim also goes for volunteer expeditions with CapitaLand as an extension of his life mission to do good where he goes. In 2008, he spent a week in Bo Kleau in northern Thailand building a dormitory sponsored by CapitaLand Hope Foundation in Baan Sawa School.
“It is another way for me to give back to society,” he explains.
When asked what has kept him going these 50 years, Mr Lim says, “After a day’s work, knowing that everything is in order and that I have done my part for the good and safety of Singapore.”