■ What does receiving the Real Estate Personality of the Year award mean to you and CapitaLand Vietnam?
The award marks a personal milestone in my career with CapitaLand. My deepest thanks go to those who I work with closely, especially to my staff, colleagues and business partners. They have supported me and taught me to be a better leader over the years in good times and in bad times too. If not for them, I would not have received the award.
As a CEO, while I try to manage the company to the best of my ability, sometimes I wonder what my staff think of my leadership. When they come to me and say “Mr. Chen, I work at CapitaLand Vietnam because of your leadership”, I feel confident about my position. Indeed, the support of my staff is one of the reasons why I have stayed here in Vietnam for many years! So I think this award is further affirmation that my leadership is not too bad.
■ What can people know about your leadership style?
My leadership is akin to a balance between Yin and Yang. Sometimes I have to be tough, and sometimes I have to be “soft” to empathize with staff when they face difficulties. Our CapitaLand Group’s credo is “Building People”, which is something I firmly believe in. To me, a good leader must start by managing people and focus on building his staff.
During my career I have had the opportunity to work with staff from different countries with different working styles, including staff from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and China, among others. At our current CapitaLand Vietnam office the staff are very energetic, hungry, and eager to learn. It is a continuous process where I guide them and train them, and in return they contribute effectively to our company and excel in their own careers.
■ What is your key success factor in management?
People. My management style is focusing on people. Each person has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, so I try to manage each person individually according to their personality. Sometimes I will personally speak to them to motivate and guide them in their careers.
Even though I am an introvert by nature, as a CEO I try to be more sociable. I make an effort to interview every single staff member at CapitaLand Vietnam to select the best staff for the company. I believe that a good staff member may not necessarily be one that possesses the highest IQ or the highest education qualifications. Instead, I look for those who possess the right attitude and mindset to grow in the long term.
■ CapitaLand Vietnam has eight residential projects in Vietnam to date, in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Which project do you love the most?
To me, every one of CapitaLand’s projects is different and I love them equally.
For example, Vista Verde, The Vista and Seasons Avenue are projects in the mid to high-end segment and have been well-received by local and foreign investors alike. Through these developments we have introduced to the Vietnam market quality standards in apartment living, including state-of-the-art facilities and lush landscaping that create sustainable value for both homebuyers and investors in the long term.
The Krista, Kris Vue, PARCSpring and Mulberry Lane are projects catered towards Vietnam’s growing middle class. In these projects we aim to provide apartments that are within the reach of families with children and that are designed with facilities that create a living environment for children to grow up in. For a significant number of buyers these are their first homes to raise their children in, which is testament to our belief in Vietnam’s growth and positive demographic fundamentals.
In addition, one of the key performance indicators for my team is that every project should have new innovation. We cannot always replicate previous ideas to have success in new projects. So we brainstorm new concepts in every new project.
■ In July 2015 a slew of legislative changes were announced to permit foreign ownership of real estate in Vietnam. Have you had more foreign customers since then?
We held the maiden launch in Singapore of our best-selling residential developments in Vietnam: Vista Verde, The Vista, Mulberry Lane, and Seasons Avenue. We are very encouraged by sales of more than 120 units to date, which shows that Singaporean buyers see the value of our Vietnam projects and CapitaLand’s established 22-year track record in the country.
Apart from buyers in Singapore, we also see a growing community of South Koreans in Hanoi. There is a rising trend towards home purchases in Hanoi by expatriates from South Korea working at industrial zones. Our Seasons Avenue project is suitable for them and they have come to visit and recommended the project to their friends as well.
Going forward, we hope that more foreigners across more nationalities will be comfortable with investing in Vietnam in the long term.
■ What is your strategy for CapitaLand Vietnam in the second half of this year?
Vista Verde, our prime residential development in Ho Chi Minh City, will celebrate its Topping Out event in July 2016. This is an important milestone for the project, which we launched in 2014 and where we have sold more than 80 per cent to date.
We are also preparing for the launch of a new project in District 2 in Ho Chi Minh City. We continue to aim to be the leading developer in terms of design, facilities, and quality of development. CapitaLand is not just growing in size but also in innovation.
■ What about your strategy for 2017?
Apart from building residential projects we hope to also diversify into the commercial segment, with office buildings and integrated developments.
Internationally, CapitaLand Group’s “Raffles City” branded integrated developments are designed to be urban icons within business or cultural districts in global gateway cities. The “Raffles” name is synonymous with Singapore and the term “City” alludes to the central location and integrated nature of these CapitaLand developments. Each of the Raffles City developments varies in composition but they are consistent in offering quality in design, finish and facilities. Designed by internationally acclaimed architects, the Raffles City brand has garnered international recognition as a mark of excellence.
So far CapitaLand Group has built nine Raffles City developments internationally and hopefully we will see the next one in Vietnam, either in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.