“I am not going to talk about tax” was how Mr Tham Sai Choy, Managing Partner of KPMG, began his introduction, to the mixed reaction of laughter and groans from the audience. In self-deprecating style, he apologised for standing between the audience and their dinner. “I haven’t got all day. Lucky for you!”
Mr Tham spoke to an estimated 150 Singaporeans in Melbourne about how the workplace in KPMG’s Singapore office had changed drastically. The changes that have happened over the last 12 months have been more profound than ever before. There has been a sense of empowerment and confidence emerging in the workplace, especially among his younger colleagues, that everyone could make a difference.
Mr Tham shared how KMPG Singapore had employees of over 30 different nationalities. About a third of its two and a half thousand employees are Singaporean, while another third integrate so seamlessly you can’t tell if they aren’t. As a result of the dynamic mix of people, there is great cultural diversity.
As to Singaporeans being portrayed by the media as being anti-competitive and xenophobic, Mr Tham is of the view that it is a misunderstanding, and that most Singaporeans were not unhappy about foreigners in our midst but concerned over infrastructure not developing in tandem with population growth.
Singapore: Career Capital
Mr Tham said that Singapore was becoming an increasingly attractive place to work in. Many people often thought that Singaporeans want to go overseas to work but now Australians, Americans and Europeans want to come over. A member in the audience queried if Singapore’s attractive tax rates was a big reason, however Mr Tham said in his experience, this was a very minor consideration in people deciding to come to Singapore to work. They came to Singapore for the career progression and opportunities that were available.
A lady in the audience was concerned about female representation in senior company positions. Everyone was surprised when they found out that in KPMG Singapore, there were as many women in senior positions as there were men. It had developed unconsciously, not a result of engineered affirmative action. Elsewhere, other offices were looking at 20% female representation at the most. Singapore’s emphasis on education ensured that any ‘minority’ groups had an equal chance.
With this, the Distinguished Business Leaders Series ended, but the conversation flowed freely during dinner and Mr Tham stayed to chat with the attendees until the very last Singaporean left two hours later.
Happy Singaporeans mingling after the event. Glad they managed to get an evening out of our Distinguished Business Leader.
By Jean Tan
Next Distinguished Business Leaders Series is flying to Beijing, China! Don’t miss your chance to catch Mr Choe Peng Sum, CEO of Frasers Hospitality. Register here.