Fresh out of his A-level examinations, Mr Koh Boon Hwee got a part-time job to earn him pocket money, as any regular student would. Hired as a computer card puncher, Mr Koh found that he could do more with his time at his company, and decided to pick up programming over a weekend by himself.
His bosses, impressed, transferred him to the programming department shortly after. In a matter of months into his new role, Mr Koh found himself posted to the bustling financial metropolis of Hong Kong. He was appointed a project leader of Hong Kong’s first - and at that time the world’s largest - private housing development, the Mei Fu Sun Chuen (美孚新邨. Mr Koh was only a 17 year old teenager then.
Three decades later, Mr Koh is a veteran businessman with a remarkable portfolio. As the current Chairman of Credence Partners Pte Ltd, Mr Koh’s illustrious career includes stints as Chairman of some of Singapore’s foremost corporations – Singtel, Singapore Airlines, and DBS Bank. Even with the many sterling achievements under his belt, Mr Koh remains approachable, down-to-earth, and warm. He modestly and gently brushes aside any mention of his “legacy”. “I just respond to what comes along next,” he says, simply.
As a leader, Mr Koh recognises the responsibility of understanding and managing people. Mr Koh feels that it is important to acknowledge strengths rather than penalise weaknesses. “I may have a salesman who is good at bringing in sales, but he may not be so numerate. So, I will put him in a team with someone who is good with numbers to complement his abilities.”
Mr Koh maintains that the key to success lies in capitalising on the strengths of every teammate. “It’s like building a soccer team,” he explains. “Not everyone can play centre-forward or be the goalkeeper. And you certainly don’t make the centre-forward the goalkeeper.” He further adds that the success of an organisation is not about hiring the best talents, but also finding the best fit for the team.
Sharing earnestly on his leadership philosophy, Mr Koh speaks of his passion for developing organisations and its people. With the privilege of having many mentors in his earlier years, Mr Koh strongly believes that a healthy and sustainable organisation can only be built upon a solid foundation of mentorship.
Today, Mr Koh continues to impart his rich experiences and vast knowledge to the next generation of business leaders. Referring to his capacity as an investor, and his current work with Credence Partners Pte Ltd, he said, “In fact, this is why I currently pursue venture capitalism, as it allows me to mentor younger businessmen.”
“I feel very happy when I see a younger businessman [I mentored] become successful,” he enthused.
Come and hear first-hand insights from Mr Koh Boon Hwee at the Singapore Speakers Series on 15 May at Conrad Hong Kong. This would be a great opportunity to pose questions to Mr Koh, and to network with fellow overseas Singaporeans in Hong Kong.
Seats are limited so RSVP now!