Five Lessons from Successful Leaders 

We sat down with Hicham Raissi, CEO of Allianz Insurance Singapore, and Rahul Banerjee, CEO of BondEvalue, both tenants at 79 Robinson Road to gain insight into how their leadership styles have undergone transformation in these uncertain times, and how they’ve adapted to various curveballs. 

Over coffee, Marcus (left), Head of Flexible Workspace, spoke to Hicham Raissi (centre), CEO of Allianz Insurance, and Rahul Banerjee (right), CEO of BondEvalue about leading their teams in these uncertain times.

In the past year alone, apart from the unpredictable business landscape, the pandemic also brought an element of chaos to everyone’s professional and personal lives. How do leaders maintain the health and well-being of their teams while keeping business goals in mind?

Two leaders who have had to navigate such uncertain times are Hicham Raissi, CEO of Allianz Insurance Singapore, and Rahul Banerjee, CEO of BondEvalue, both based  at 79 Robinson Road, one of CapitaLand’s latest developments. Here, they met at the building's co-working space Bridge+ for the very first time, brought together by Marcus Lim, now Head of Flexible Workspace . 

Hicham leads Allianz Insurance Singapore, the Allianz family’s newest addition to the Singapore market. The team had to have an entrepreneurial mindset as they were starting from scratch in Singapore, something which Hicham says really brought his team together as they all strived to make something of the new company. Similarly, Rahul has big dreams for BondEvalue, which  has launched Bondblox, the world’s first fractional bond exchange. With a headcount of 42 people and clients in over 72 countries, Rahul felt that he and his team could be the cause for change, since every bank and boardroom were asking for new ideas.

Over coffee and a casual conversation, Hicham and Rahul shared insights on how they grow their companies while finding balance.

1. Instill a sense of ownership

A team is only as strong as its weakest player—this refers beyond an employee’s capability to their commitment level. Hicham believes being a leader isn’t just about the ability to lead a group, but also the ability to make them feel equally invested in the company’s progress and growth. “One of the things I do on a daily basis is to ensure that everyone feels like the owner of the company,” he shares.

“Creating this culture of entrepreneurship and ownership starts at the recruitment process where we identify these attributes in the candidates,” Hicham adds. When every member feels like they’re an equal stakeholder, not only do they feel included, but are also more motivated to help the company achieve its goals.

This culture of investment forms as leaders continually inspire their team with the bigger picture. “It takes consistent communication and transparency on your vision, strategy, and objectives, and more importantly, having everyone contribute to building all of that in a ground-up, inclusive manner,” says Hicham.

Hicham believes that being a leader is about having the ability to make everyone feel invested in the company that they’re a part of.

2. Open communication is key

A part of effective corporate communications is dialogue—opening up a conversation between leaders and employees to troubleshoot matters. “We believe in engaging colleagues in our meetings where the objective is not only to update on matters, but also to identify pain points, blockers, and act on resolutions collaboratively. This mode of collaboration focuses on problem-solving and developing things together, and brings about cohesion within the team,” Hicham says. “The power of a motivated and engaged team is tremendous.”

In times of uncertainty and as employees work from home, Rahul wanted to maintain openness within his team. “I told them that we can figure out how to [work from home]. We all agreed on a schedule to work from 9 to 5, and after that we won’t work anymore so we have time for recreation,” Rahul says. Open communication is often the best policy—the frank conversation brought everyone onto the same page in terms of work expectations, and drew a boundary between work and home while keeping up the morale of the team.

3. Adapt to different forms of leadership

It can be easy to forget that everyone has personal lives and stressors outside of work, and the lack of face-to-face interaction makes this even more pronounced. Hicham realised the need to care for his team’s mental health, despite the physical distance. “During this period, we started developing a close form of leadership, by listening more closely to the team and bringing them closer to the resources. It was about trying to understand what matters to each one.” 

Ultimately, leadership has to be flexible. “We’re creating a new work order,” Hicham noted. “We’re learning how to work in new and different ways, and we’ll be keeping what we gained from the pandemic.” Learning how to adapt to difficult situations while establishing strong ties with your team sets you apart as a personable and reliable leader. 

Rahul recognises that a co-working space like Bridge+ 79 Robinson Road allows for flexibility to co-create.
While he wasn’t able to meet with his team every day, Hicham believes it’s possible to form new habits with the technology available.

4. Create avenues for bonding

The physical environment shapes the way we interact with each other. At Bridge+ 79 Robinson Road where Rahul and his team operates in, they uncovered business partnerships organically. “You have the flexibility to co-create and meet different people within the same space,” Rahul says, noting how the unique structure allowed for a flow of business that a regular office space might not have been able to facilitate.

Yet when work moves to an online realm, our interactions with each other transform too. “At first, did you find it difficult to communicate?” Hicham asked. “Yes, nothing substitutes face-to-face interaction,” Rahul concurred. “When you’re on Zoom, you’re more focused on work; you don’t talk about your kids or your family. So the chance for discovery is lost.”

The two swapped stories on how their unique improvisations helped with the loss of small talk. For Rahul, it was as simple as a quiz. “We had onboarding done online, so for new colleagues, we had a quiz with everyone about how tall they were, because it’s actually hard to judge size and build through a screen.” Hicham opted to liven up things through virtual celebrations, and made sure everyone participated. “Since it’s virtual, we had to make it a little stricter, so we asked everyone to switch on their cameras and participate.”

Whether virtual or in-person, what mattered was the consistency and quality of the interactions. “Just because we can’t see each other every day, doesn’t mean we can’t form new habits with the technology available,” Hicham summarised.

5. Look forward

Leaders are visionaries who work towards positive growth. The discussion ended with both of them remarking how there was light at the end of the tunnel. “We’re progressively getting out of this stronger,” Hicham adds. “We need to remember that resilience is key.” Their aim for the immediate future? Keep everyone safe and work towards a brighter tomorrow. “I want everyone and their families to be safe,” Rahul adds. “I also wish that all of us will be able to invest and buy bonds—but that’s a different type of objective we're aiming for!”

During challenging times, Rahul and Hicham have banded together with their teams to support each other. While they’ve not been able to work from the office for a while, they're looking forward to coming back. “Never give up, never stay or work alone,” says Hicham. “Something I’m looking forward to the most about returning to the office is having more in-person interactions, ideation, and working sessions; there is so much energy we get out of it.” 

Although he’s looking forward to coming back to the office, Rahul’s hope for the immediate future is for everyone and their families to stay safe.

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