Inchcape picks first female chief for S'pore

Ms Jasmmine Wong, currently at Nestle, will assume her new role in July and report to Inchcape Asia CEO George Ashford.
Ms Jasmmine Wong, currently at Nestle, will assume her new role in July and report to Inchcape Asia CEO George Ashford.PHOTO: INCHCAPE SINGAPORE

She will be in charge of Toyota, Suzuki and Hino franchises here

Motor distribution giant Inchcape has appointed its first woman chief for Singapore.

Ms Jasmmine Wong, 41, business executive officer at food group Nestle Professional, will assume her new role as managing director of Inchcape on July 4.

At Nestle, Ms Wong - a Singaporean stationed in Kuala Lumpur - has been responsible for the Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei markets. She has held various senior positions at Nestle over a 12-year tenure, covering business-to-consumer and business-to-business segments. She holds dual master's degrees from Insead and Tsinghua University. She earned her Bachelor of Business Studies from Nanyang Technological University.

The new Inchcape Singapore MD will be responsible for the Toyota, Suzuki and Hino franchises in Singapore. She will report to Inchcape Asia chief executive George Ashford, who is stationed here now.

Mr Ashford, 49, assumed his post in October last year, following Inchcape's restructure of its Asian operations which saw more than 100 Singapore employees laid off. Several senior employees, including chief executive for South Asia and MD of Toyota agent Borneo Motors Koh Ching Hong, were affected by the downsizing.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Mr Ashford shed light on Inchcape's restructuring exercise.

"We see the market changing enormously," he said. "COE (certificate of entitlement) reduction, penetration of different drivetrains, private- hire - a lot of changes in the Singapore market. All these change the dynamics of the market.

"We need a leaner and more agile organisation to go ahead for what we hope will be another 50 years of relationship with Toyota."

RIGHT FIT

We are bringing in people we think are right for the roles (finance director and head of strategic planning for Asia). We have been here for 50 years. We would never do anything that would jeopardise our future.

INCHCAPE ASIA CHIEF EXECUTIVE GEORGE ASHFORD

Inchcape's Borneo Motors marks its 50th anniversary as Singapore's exclusive authorised Toyota agent on July 6. The milestone will also be remembered for the downsizing, which sparked a number of resignations by key personnel.

Asked why Inchcape had to cut its staff strength by 12 per cent to 14 per cent when the Singapore operations have consistently been its top profit contributor, Mr Ashford said: "It's a judgment call based on experience. It was done with the best intent. It was not a decision we took lightly."

As for the expatriates it brought in just after the cuts, Mr Ashford, who previously headed Inchcape's business in Australia, said: "We are bringing in people we think are right for the roles (finance director and head of strategic planning for Asia). We have been here for 50 years. We would never do anything that would jeopardise our future."

Meanwhile, Ms Wong was not reachable because of what she said was a bad phone connection.

An Inchcape spokesman said she is married, and has a 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Her husband manages his own business in the oil and gas industry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Inchcape picks first female chief for S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe