Yes, Ng Teng-Fong was perhaps one of the most demanding clients I had in my early career but through him I learned well to serve the tycoons of Hong Kong and rest of Asia.  




Philip Ng, CEO of Far East Organization

Father's tough love that shaped a leader
Father's mentorship guided him in his early days: Far East Organization CEO

Escaping a leadership role in property developer Far East Organization was never an option for chief executive Philip Ng because of the 'conditioning' that he and his brother had received from their father and Singapore's richest man, Ng Teng Fong.

We were born into that role and from very young, we were conditioned,' said Mr Philip Ng during the Global Leadership Congress.

'I must say he did a very good job in conditioning us because I never felt I had an option,' he added to laughter from the crowd.

Mr Ng, who became chief executive in the 1990s, said that he had wanted to pursue a PhD after his Masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

'I actually wanted to do a PhD because that would have meant three years away from having to immerse myself in work because I know that my father is a slave driver,' he said in jest.

And having his father as a constant mentor helped to raise his level of discernment which he needed as a leader.

'My father is a mentor but a tough one. As you know the term, tough love. When I was younger, he'd always tell me, 'I have to tell you, even if it hurts because only I can tell you. When you're at the position where you're in, everybody's going to say nice things to you',' said Mr Ng.

'I take it to heart because I know he means well. I also then sieve out what people are saying, good or bad' while remaining open to different views, he added.

He also told reporters on the sidelines of the event that the completion of its new mall Orchard Central will be delayed until the first quarter of next year. The project was expected to be completed by the end of this year.

'Unfortunately, there are construction delays,' said Mr Ng. 'It's just a feature of the very tight market right now. But I think we've explained the situation to the prospective tenants and most of them understand.'

Earlier in the day, Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping spoke on the role of education today in shaping future leaders during a question-and-answer session.

Mr Ho, who is also chairman of the Singapore Management University, said that primary and secondary schools today focus too much on technical education, and not enough on character development.

'The role of schools in developing a student's character is very important. Because a good character will lead to the development of personality, which is the foundation of leadership,' he said.

Chiming in with her views, Mr Ho's wife, Banyan Tree senior vice-president Claire Chiang, had some advice for corporates when hunting for candidates to become their future leader.

'Perhaps you should not only look for those with high or technical qualifications, but, instead, those with philosophy or creative arts background . . . (They) have the vision, the spirit and character,' she said.     2008 August 5    BUSINESS TIMES

Far East to pay attention to high-end homes  
Influx of overseas players has raised the bar in prices and quality: CEO

Far East Organization will pay more attention to the high-end property market, which has grown too big to ignore, says CEO Philip Ng.

'In the past, we concentrated our efforts on the mass market serving entry-level private home buyers as well as buyers of mid-market condominiums and landed homes.

'Today, this very wealthy segment of the market has grown too significant to ignore. We must therefore augment our organisational machinery, in terms of our product development and sales and marketing capabilities, to address this,' Mr Ng says in the group's in-house publication Landmark.

Mr Ng also stressed that as Singapore shapes up as a vibrant international city, it is seeing new players from overseas with 'high standards and deep expertise' and 'flush with cash and hungry for projects'.

'They have raised the bar in prices and quality and changed the nature of the game.' Mr Ng observed.

'We need the right frame of mind and resolve to compete in this new league,' he said, stressing that it was imperative for the group to lift its level of performance as the 'stakes have become much higher now, with the heat in the market and soaring replacement costs'.

'For if we do not sell at the right prices, when we go back into the market, we are actually topping up more equity. We would be doing what is uneconomic, that is, selling low and buying high,' he said.

At the other pole, income-driven demand also looks more promising. Mr Ng said that sustained robust economic growth and a strong job market will translate to rising incomes.

'There will be more purchasing power to support the domestic segment of the property market - the mass-market, entry-level, and mid-market condominiums and landed properties which have remained subdued thus far.

'In the next few years, we expect the middle market to play catch-up with the international market in terms of transaction activity with some price upswing,' he said.

Far East sold 869 residential, commercial and industrial units worth $725 million last year. But while the group's business showed improvements across all fronts, 'we were not able to meet our targets in property sales and in the leasing of our portfolio of residential, retail and industrial assets'.

Far East, set up by Mr Ng's father, property magnate Ng Teng Fong, last year bought nine sites costing about $1.6 billion in Singapore. They will yield in total 3.1 million square feet of buildable area. This is the largest land bank investment Far East has made in a single year, exceeding the total of $1.54 billion invested in land and property acquisitions in the preceding six years from 2000 to 2005. Besides the nine sites, Far East's Hong Kong-based sister company Sino Land bought the Collyer Quay site last year for $165.8 million. - 2007 March 14    BUSINESS TIMES