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Australian Roadshow (March 2014) Harnessing Asia's economic boom for Australia's benefit

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, 12 March 2014

This video contains market insights on Singapore from the key speakers of the Australian Roadshow 2014 'Harnessing Asia's economic boom for Australia's benefit', being held this week in Australia (March 2014).

Mr Philip Green OAM, Australia's High Commissioner in Singapore (DFAT)
Mr Guy Scott, President, AustCham Singapore

Mr Christopher Rees, Senior Trade Commissioner, Singapore (Austrade)

For more stories about 'The Singapore Story', click here 

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our coming events, click here

Tags:  Asialink  Asian Business Engagement  Austrade  Business  Chris Rees  Guy Scott  Philip Green  Singapore 

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Starting up in Singapore

Posted By Administration, Sunday, 2 March 2014
Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Lessons from business leaders about growing your business in Singapore. What you can expect and key considerations for your business. 

For more stories about 'The Singapore Story', click here 

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our coming events, click here

Tags:  Adam Lyle  Derek MacKenzie  Guy Scott  Philip Forrest  Singapore Strategy 

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Face to Face with Ian Macdonald

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

In this new series, AustCham President Guy Scott invites a prominent Australian or Singaporean to share their story.

First to be interviewed in this new series is Ian Macdonald, the Australian President of Hong Leong Finance. Guy sat down with Ian to find out more about his business success, his role as Honorary Treasurer at the Singapore Turf Club and his recent receipt of The Public Service medal from the Singapore Government.

Guy:Thanks for your time today Ian and congratulations on being awarded The Public Service medal, it is something you should be very proud of. Let’s come back to that later because I want to talk a little about who Ian Macdonald is and what he does in Singapore.

Let’s start with what was the catalyst that brought you to Singapore?

Ian: Totally unforgettable. I was invited up here for an interview in September 2001 and when I flew back to Australia I was told about the 9-11 disaster. It was a very momentous day for me.

Not long after, I was offered the job and I remember arriving at the start of the week expecting to start the following Monday. I soon got my first dose of Chinese culture. The company rang me and said it would be bad luck to start on the Monday so could I start on the Friday instead? I was keen to get going so I said "of course” and ended my first day attending a gala reception for a client and singing karaoke. At the end of the night, I said to my colleagues, "See you on Monday”. They said "No you won’t, you’ll see us tomorrow” because of course back then we worked on Saturdays too but I was not aware of this at the time.

Guy: You have a big role as President of Hong Leong Finance. For someone with a high profile, you also seem to have flown under the radar as well. Is there a reason for this?

Ian: If you look at our Chairman Mr Kwek Leng Beng, he’s one of the most successful businessmen in Singapore and he’s well-known for putting great focus on his work and his business. I prefer to take a similar stance when it comes to my profile, and let my work speak for me. My relationships have centred on this ethos, with the Singapore business community receiving much of my attention. I haven’t had much interaction with the Australian community because my business involves dealing mainly with Singaporeans. Although that being said, I have close ties with the Australians in the banking community. My son also attended Avondale Grammar and it was through this association that I first got to know other Australian families and Australian business people.

Guy:What makes you call Singapore home?

Ian: The job and the people I work with. Hong Leong Finance really is like a family. There is an incredible sense of loyalty and I can honestly say it is a joy to come to work. I’ve done some really interesting things. One event that stands out for me would be going to Kuala Lumpur with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce for the World Chinese Entrepreneur Convention. Around 3,000 participants turned up for the event and I was the only one who wasn’t Chinese. I also went to the 40th anniversary of the People’s Action Party and I think I was the only non-Singaporean at that event.

When I arrived in Singapore 12 years ago, I did not know anyone and I am fortunate to have made many friends since then - with colleagues and with clients. Hong Leong Finance is really focused on the SME community in Singapore and as a lender, we have to understand the psyche of the leaders of the companies we support. This has enabled me to cross paths with many interesting people and I’ve subsequently developed friendships with them.

Guy: How do you stay connected with Australia?

Ian: I start every day by reading the Sydney Morning Herald online. I like to keep up with the news so that I can converse with friends back home and know what they are talking about. You can’t expect them to keep in touch – it’s up to you. I was the one who moved away so I see it as my responsibility to make the effort to maintain the relationships with them.

Ian Macdonald (Left) at the presentation of the Victoria Racing Club Trophy with the Australian High Commissioner Philip Green (second from left), Australian trainer, Cliff Brown (third from left) and Australian jockey, Danny Beasley (third from right)

Guy:Tell us a little about your role on the committee of the Singapore Turf Club and as a steward.

Ian:Racing is a passion for me and I spend a lot of time at the Club. My role there is a weekend thing, hosting events and acting as a race day steward. I got lots of feedback that the AustCham event recently was very successful. It’s what I think we need to be promoting more of at the club. It’s an exciting sport and they are magnificent animals, it’s a great night out and there’s so much more to it than gambling.

Guy: We certainly hope we can make it an annual event. I didn’t realise there were so many linkages between the Australian and Singaporean horse racing fraternities until that evening.

Ian:Yes it goes back some 20 or 30 years. Australia is a source for many of the horses, the trainers, the jockeys and the owners too. Many great characters.

Guy:It was recently announced that you had been awarded a Public Service medal for your work as a Board member and Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Media Development Authority. How did you react when you learned you would be the award recipient?

Ian:Actually I was shocked. I didn’t realise a non-Singaporean could even be awarded one. My involvement with the Media Development Authority was extremely interesting. Serangoon Road, the joint Australian-Singaporean production, is one example of the collaboration between Australia and Singapore and it will soon be shown here.

Guy:Do you think there is anything Australian business could be doing differently?

Ian: I’d like to see them borrow more from Hong Leong Finance! I think what is not emphasised is the connection between Australian and Singaporean businesses, and the links they share with their counterparts within the region. The number of Australian businesses here and in the region is huge. If Australian business could organise themselves together to make inroads into the region, in a similar way that International Enterprise Singapore has helped Singaporean business, with the view to hunt in packs, share insights, share resources in setting up in other countries then I think that would help.

Guy: What do you think makes Singapore stand out as a place to do business?

Ian: Singapore is unique in how it is governed. With a long-term viewpoint the Government can plan for infrastructure and programs years down the track. It’s the planning and realisations of those plans that sets Singapore apart. It really is a great place to live.

Guy:Ian, thanks for your time today, but more importantly for being a wonderful ambassador for both Australia and Singapore

For more stories about 'The Singapore Story', click here 

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our coming events, click here


Tags:  Face to Face with Ian Macdonald  Guy Scott  Hong Leong Finance  Ian Macdonald  The Singapore Story 

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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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