Sustaining pay rises for all

Singaporean with 'LKY traits' is Bentley China's top man

Bentley China's managing director Daniel Khoo (pictured with the flagship Bentley Mulsanne) has spent 17 years working overseas for some of the biggest names in the car industry, from Saab to Audi and Bentley. His rise up the ranks came largely as a
Bentley China's managing director Daniel Khoo (pictured with the flagship Bentley Mulsanne) has spent 17 years working overseas for some of the biggest names in the car industry, from Saab to Audi and Bentley. His rise up the ranks came largely as a result of his ability to adapt and move across different countries, with his family in tow, for the right career opportunities.ST PHOTO: TOH YONG CHUAN

BEIJING • After graduating with a business and finance degree from Murdoch University in Australia in 1994, Mr Daniel Khoo spent the better part of the last two decades working for six different employers in five different parts of the world.

"I spent 17 of the last 22 years of my career overseas," the 46-year-old told The Sunday Times from his service apartment at the Ascott Raffles City Beijing last week.

The well-heeled Singaporean has worked for some of the biggest names in the car industry, from Saab to Audi and Bentley.

 

Today, the former Anglo-Chinese School boy is the managing director of Bentley in China, responsible for importing the luxury car marque into China for sale through a network of more than 35 dealers.

He believes that Singaporeans can more than compete in the global arena, as international employers value integrity and loyalty under pressure.

"We play by the rules and we don't bail out, or quit, when the job pressures pile up," he said. "These are Lee Kuan Yew traits."

Mr Khoo got into the car trade almost by chance. "I was working in the internal audit department at Intra Motors when my boss asked me if I was interested in handling the import of cars, like Rovers and Ladas, for the company," he said.

 

VIRTUES OF SINGAPOREAN EMPLOYEES

We play by the rules and we don't bail out, or quit, when the job pressures pile up. These are Lee Kuan Yew traits.

MR DANIEL KHOO, on the qualities he believes international employers value.

"I said yes. My degree was in business and finance, but I had to be adaptable."

In fact, Mr Khoo has stayed adaptable throughout his career, willing to move across different countries for the right opportunities.

Over the course of his career, he moved seven times to pursue job opportunities, with his family in tow.

After Intra Motors, he joined Saab as a regional market planning manager based in Singapore and later moved to Melbourne with his wife Joyce, when Saab relocated the regional office there.

In 1999, the couple returned to Singapore when his contract ended.

They had their first child, Grace, and soon after, Mr Khoo joined businessman Karsono Kwee's dealerships as its general sales manager.

Mr Kwee runs the Rolls-Royce, Porsche, Mini, Mazda and Saab dealerships here.

After about a year with the local dealerships, Mr Khoo joined Audi in a Singapore-based regional sales job. But he took off again in 2001, this time to Changchun, China, where Audi had a factory.

 

The Khoos spent four years in China, where they had their second child, Beth.

At the end of that stint in China, Mr Khoo got his big break - he passed a test which qualified him to be a manager in Audi.

That sent him and his family off to Audi's headquarters at Ingolstadt, Germany, in 2006.

"It was a big break," he said. "The Ingolstadt car factory has more than 40,000 staff and about 1,000 managers. I was the only Singaporean.

"I was hired on a German contract. Besides having to learn the language, I had to prove to my employer that I could handle the German workforce."

After he worked for three years in Germany as a car parts and service manager, the family made the trek back East - to Taiwan, where Mr Khoo ran the Audi import, sales and aftersales operations for six years.

It was only at the end of 2014, after some 13 years working overseas, that the Khoos finally returned to Singapore, with an expatriate package and a housing allowance, to boot.

Mr Khoo took on a new job as Bentley's director of operations for Asia-Pacific, a newly created post.

Both Audi and Bentley are owned by German carmaker Volkswagen.

And earlier this month, Mr Khoo was posted to China by Bentley as its top man there.

His rise up the ranks did not come without sacrifice, as it was difficult to move from country to country and bring his family along, he said.

"My wife is the homemaker and she looks after the two girls."

He also took on the job in China without knowing if his family will join him.

"We are still discussing this. They are very comfortable in Singapore.

"I have not seen my family since (coming here on) April 7," he lamented.

Before taking on the job in China, Mr Khoo vied for a job as the managing director for Audi in Korea, but lost out to a European.

"This is the competition for jobs at the top levels. Nobody owes Singapore or Singaporeans a living, so we just have to be nimble and work on our strengths," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean with 'LKY traits' is Bentley China's top man'. Print Edition | Subscribe