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Face to Face with Patrick Imbardelli

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

Patrick Imbardelli led the strategic management and expansion of the Pan Pacific hotels and businesses, including both Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL brands in key markets such as China, Japan, Australia and North America. AustCham President Guy Scott caught up with Patrick to hear his reflections on doing business in Asia.

Guy:What are your memories of your first day in Singapore?

Patrick: On my first day I had wall to wall meetings and signed more forms in the one day than I have ever done or ever did after that. It was a day of high energy – a great feeling. Everyone I met, internally and externally, said to me, "you’re going to love it”. It was a long day that finished with several people insisting I go out to Boat Quay for a bite to eat…a typical first day in Singapore really.

Guy:Being successful working for a local company in Asia is a great accomplishment as there can be more challenges with an unfamiliar culture. Can you tell us more about your story – the achievements and the challenges?

Patrick: Through my work with the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) I developed the reputation of being the bridge between an Anglo-Saxon company to an Asian environment. I formed relationships with many high-net-worth individuals in Asia and I remember one associate said to me, "You look European but you are Asian in the way you think.” When I was approached to assist with the Pan Pacific Group acquisition I had my reservations. This was a Singapore-listed company and a Singaporean high-net-worth family however it was a good match. I respected them on all matters local and provided my expertise when it came to offshore investments. I was able to bring the globalism to them.

The advantage of working for a Singapore family is that decisions can be made quickly. When it came to bidding for the Melbourne Hilton at the airport we had our paperwork finalised while other companies were still thinking about it. In terms of challenges, public governance of a Singaporean company is demanding. It’s realistic but tough. Going through the privatisation period in Singapore was challenging and sometimes frustrating. You need to be able tick all the boxes and in the right order.

In the last five years the Pan Pacific Hotels Group has doubled in size and share price however I have actually got the most satisfaction from developing a single culture. There was this part Singaporean, part Australian and part Japanese company and bringing them together to form a single culture has been a true highlight.

Guy:Where is the next tourism hot spot in Asia?

Patrick: Lombok is now changing. It’s been at the starting line for twenty years and now it’s got its own airport I predict it will be the next hot spot. I think Asian beaches on the whole will continue to do well. In terms of tourism the other aspect to consider is where are the tourists coming from? The answer is increasingly China. China tomorrow is the Japan of yesterday.

Guy:That leads me to my next question – in an article by Korn/Ferry – you discussed the transition from Asia 1.0 to Asia 2.0, where do you now see Asia?

Patrick: Asia moving towards 2.0 was really about Asia for Asia and not Asia for someone else and now we see Asia taking on the rest of the world. From Asia 1.0 to Asia 2.0 we saw a lot of foreign companies arriving and operating in Asia. Asian companies looked outside of Asia for connectivity, technology and expertise. Now we see more Asian companies employing foreign knowledge and not only investing in other parts of the world but taking control of the operations. Asian leadership is far more confident.

Guy:Being in hotels you must have some great stories…

I’d love to write a book one day – without mentioning names of course. Many stories are not appropriate here but I can tell you at a hotel in Melbourne in the early hours of Boxing Day I had one cricketer, who had had a few too many drinks, riding the lifts in a wheelchair while another one ran up and down the stairs trying to meet the lift and catch up with his wayward teammate. A few hours later the cricketers strolled out onto the MCG looking perfectly okay – and they won.

Guy:You have been a strong supporter of AustCham. How have you benefitted from membership?

Patrick:AustCham is filled with down-to-earth people and such a diverse range of industries and professions. It is run by true leaders who know business in Asia and who willingly give up their time with a genuine desire to help others. I have made many great friendships. I often picked up the phone and contacted other AustCham members with a question such as have you done this before? or do you know someone who could help with this? AustCham events have been about three things for me - information, networking and fun. As Australians, coming from our multicultural background, I think we are genuinely comfortable in Singapore with a desire to mix, help and assist others.

Guy:So you are planning to leave Singapore – is this goodbye for now or goodbye for good?

Patrick:This is definitely goodbye for just now. We have been in Singapore nearly 15 years and Michelle and I married during this time, our children were born here and living in Singapore is all our children have ever known. We wanted them to have an Australian experience. Now that the Pan Pacific Hotels Group has been privatised and sold off it gives us the opportunity to spend a year in Sydney helping the children settle into an Australian lifestyle before boarding school. Professionally I am looking forward to being based in Australia for the short term as a lot of things have moved on and I am interested in experiencing that. I have a board position in Boston and an opportunity in Europe therefore I will still have a global outlook. However I love Asia, so as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say - I’ll be back!

Guy: What’s your advice for Australians doing business in Asia?

Patrick:Ask and listen. Don’t think you know it. Just because a trend happened in Australia, doesn’t mean it will occur here. Not everything is written down or openly stated - so ask. Be patient. Time is ok. 

Guy: Thanks for your time today and I wish you all the best for the future.

Tags:  Face to Face with Patrick Imbardelli  Guy Scott  Pan Pacific  PARKROYAL  Patrick Imbardelli  The Singapore Story 

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