Corporate chiefs ride wave of digital disruptions

(From left) CapitaLand Commercial Trust Management (CCTM) Chief Executive Lynette Leong, City Developments (CDL) Chief Executive Grant Kelley, and Singtel Group Chief Executive Chua Sock Koong.
(From left) CapitaLand Commercial Trust Management (CCTM) Chief Executive Lynette Leong, City Developments (CDL) Chief Executive Grant Kelley, and Singtel Group Chief Executive Chua Sock Koong.PHOTO: CCTM, ST FILE, SINGTEL
Mr Kelley says CDL remains focused on its diversification strategy and is actively seeking strategic investments and partnerships for entry into fast- growing, new economy sectors that complement the business. Ms Chua says Singtel is readying its net
Ms Leong says one of her top priorities is to create an "office of the future" in CCTM's portfolio of office buildings, based on the idea of work-life integration, and to enable staff to be skills future-ready and aspirational.PHOTO: CCTM
Mr Kelley says CDL remains focused on its diversification strategy and is actively seeking strategic investments and partnerships for entry into fast- growing, new economy sectors that complement the business. Ms Chua says Singtel is readying its net
Mr Kelley says CDL remains focused on its diversification strategy and is actively seeking strategic investments and partnerships for entry into fast- growing, new economy sectors that complement the business.ST FILE PHOTO
Mr Kelley says CDL remains focused on its diversification strategy and is actively seeking strategic investments and partnerships for entry into fast- growing, new economy sectors that complement the business. Ms Chua says Singtel is readying its net
Ms Chua says Singtel is readying its networks for the Internet of Things and the growth of connected devices, with the aim of becoming a front runner to deploy 5G and to support Singapore's Smart Nation ambitions.PHOTO: SINGTEL

If there was a buzzword to sum up 2016, disruption would probably be it - whether in the political arena or among traditional industries. The rise of digital technology has transformed the way companies engage tech-enabled customers across various sectors. In the second part of a series on the business outlook for 2017, property firms tell Wong Siew Ying how they are gearing up for the 'future of work', while Singtel seeks to be a front runner to deploy 5G here.

CAPITALAND COMMERCIAL TRUST MANAGEMENT (CCTM) CHIEF EXECUTIVE LYNETTE LEONG

Key lessons in 2016: "They can be summed up by the acronym, FUN:

•Flexible: Adopt a flexible attitude and approaches to the uncertain economic environment and changing customers' needs, yet stay on the course of our value system.

•Undeterred: Do not be overwhelmed by challenges, but look for bright spots.

•Nimble: Understand customers' needs and their behaviours and be agile, creative and decisive to transform and renew."

Top business priorities in 2017: "The way people work is changing rapidly, largely influenced by globalisation, mobility and digital technology. I think it is important that our office buildings be not only smart but also flexible in accommodating the 'future of work', and provide an environment where ecosystems and communities of businesses and employees thrive and succeed. Our business model may also have to be tweaked to cater to our tenants' changing needs.

 

One of my priorities is to create the 'office of the future' in our portfolio of office buildings, based on the idea of work-life integration.

I would also want our staff to be skills future-ready and be aspirational in their approaches to work so as to continue to innovate and push boundaries."

Opportunities and challenges this year: "Despite the cautious economic outlook for this year, we remain confident of the long-term demand for quality office space in Singapore. This year, CapitaLand Commercial Trust's portfolio has remained resilient with occupancy rates consistently above Central Business District market occupancy rates.

As at the third quarter of last year, the portfolio has seen 17 quarters of consecutive growth in average office rent.

Market headwinds notwithstanding, we are seeing leasing demand from business sectors such as technology and new media, financial services and business consultancy services.

Considered by some as the sharing economy's version of office space, co-working is fast becoming a buzzword, especially among millennials. Co-working can even complement our traditional leasing business where tenants of our regular office space can house their innovation teams or temporary project teams.

While remaining disciplined in our approach, we are always open to exploring potential acquisitions in the Singapore market, provided they are accretive."


CITY DEVELOPMENTS (CDL) CHIEF EXECUTIVE GRANT KELLEY

Key lessons in 2016: "2016 was a year marked by a growing wave of populism across multiple geographies, and 'new norms' are evolving that will impact the economic and social fabric of many nations. World events last year have reminded us yet again that, first, nothing is ever predictable; second, one should never assume nor take things for granted; and third, our response to these changes is even more important than the changes themselves.

The global economy will need time to grapple with the challenges and uncertainty in the near term as both markets and industry continue to adapt to a post-Brexit world and new United States administration. Amid these headwinds lie opportunities, and economies that are agile will be more resilient."

Top business priorities in 2017: "Organisations must stay nimble and swift to implement defensive strategies outside their playbooks. I believe that prudent capital management, strong stewardship, cost control and discipline in investments will be key drivers for businesses in this new economy."

Opportunities and challenges this year: "Over the past few years, we have been fortifying our balance sheet through various initiatives, including our profit participation securities programme, through which we have raised over $3.5 billion and grown our funds management business.

CDL is very well poised with a strong cash position of over $3 billion to capitalise on acquisitive opportunities this year at the right price, especially during this period of market dislocation. We will remain strictly disciplined in our investment approach.

We remain focused on our diversification strategy, building value in new geographies and products.

Multi-dimensional disruption is the future of work and, to remain relevant, businesses must embrace the spirit of 'creative destruction' and reinvent themselves.

We are thus actively seeking strategic investments and partnerships for immediate entry into fast-growing, new economy sectors that complement our business and enhance our recurring income streams. An example of this is our strategic investment in mamahome, one of China's fastest-growing online apartment rental platforms."


SINGTEL GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE CHUA SOCK KOONG

Key lessons in 2016: "The key takeaway would be to always be ready for the unexpected. Never be complacent or the unexpected could well sneak up on you and catch you unaware. Contingency planning and managing risks in the face of the unexpected will ensure that we can overcome surprises and challenges.

Second, the Brexit and US election outcomes also warn of the dangers of groupthink and the importance of truly listening to and engaging with stakeholders - or risk a profound disconnect.

Third, the influence and impact of social media on public opinion cannot be ignored, now that it has become an important platform for daily news."

Top business priorities in 2017: "2016 has been another year of digital disruption and convergence. This means that we have to run even faster to keep pace with ever-changing technologies and accelerate our transformation from a traditional telecoms company into a communications enterprise that's relevant to the new digital economy.

We have to make sure all our employees and colleagues see themselves as change agents.

Our top priorities are to continue focusing on what is important to both our consumer and enterprise customers - extensive and reliable connectivity, high speeds, robust cyber security, good customer service and innovative products and services.

Beyond this, we are readying our networks for the Internet of Things and the growth of connected devices. We want to be one of the front runners to deploy 5G and to support Singapore's Smart Nation ambitions.

We are also initiating a cost-management programme across our core business to review and ensure appropriate cost structures are in place to enhance our competitiveness and maintain revenue growth."

Opportunities and challenges this year: "The digital era offers big opportunities in areas such as data, digitisation and cyber security as consumers and businesses become more connected than ever in a world dominated by the Internet and social media.

By investing ahead in future- ready networks, providing innovative data plans, compelling digital content and bolstering our cloud capabilities, we continue to ride this strong wave of growth across our consumer and enterprise businesses in Australia and Singapore, as well as in India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Africa - markets where our regional mobile associates operate.

Our investments in cyber security are also starting to pay off and it is an area which we intend to scale globally.

We are invested primarily in Asia, Australia and Africa. Our foreign currency borrowings are hedged into functional currencies, and this helps limit the impact of a rising US dollar. As for our investments in (cyber security provider) Trustwave and (digital advertising firm) Amobee, we remain committed to growing these businesses in the US and globally."

SEE Growth strategies to tackle change and thrive

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Corporate chiefs ride wave of digital disruptions'. Print Edition | Subscribe