FROM THE GROUND UP

Shann Sok

GROUP CEO

KINGSLAND DEVELOPMENT PTE LTD

(Nova Category Winner 2017)

"Integrity, trust and creating value are the pillars of success"

Shann Sok was 24 years old when she joined her father’s business, Kingsland Development, commencing her entrepreneurial journey after a few years spent at an accountancy firm. The decision to join the family business came following a health scare involving her father. “I wanted to come back and assist him with the business as well as learn what he’s doing. He’s in very good health now,” says Sok, whose background is in accountancy and business.

Since joining the company in 2004, Sok, now 36, has helped grow the family business in various areas. From the construction company that it was at its founding, Kingsland is now a leading integrated real estate player across different asset classes, ranging from data centres and commercial properties to industrial park developments. In 2015, it also completed a six-storey Tier 3 plus data centre which builds, owns and provides data services for numerous sectors and enterprises such as technology companies, banks and e-commerce entities.

Joining the business entailed a steep learning curve. “It was difficult initially and because this is a male-dominated industry, people were sceptical of me because I was a young girl with no relevant experience or technical knowledge in engineering, construction or real estate,” recalls Sok, who is a certified public accountant. It took her two years to overcome the hurdles, during which she put herself through an intensive learning and training process. “I brushed up on what I was weak in and got people in to help me, so I could focus on my strengths and on other areas like business development, consultancy and sales, I also created new deals and opportunities,” she adds, citing the new data centre as an example of her business diversification. “My years in university gave me a strong foundation but the beauty of business entrepreneurship is in learning something new every day. Even today, I learn about things I never knew before, especially in emerging markets. The cup must be empty. For things that we don’t know or are unfamiliar with, we stay hungry.”

In that short time, Sok proved her mettle and gained the recognition of her peers, clients and most importantly, her father. Today, she oversees the strategy and vision of the company, making sure that the business is right on track for growth. New opportunities in different markets and countries are also on her radar, as well as the need to scout for strategic business partners and collaborations.

Commenting on the upcoming plans for the business, Sok says the strategic direction now is to continue their growth in Asia within the next five years. “We currently have two projects in Phnom Penh — Hotel Lumiere which is opening in March 2017, and a block of serviced apartments called One 18 Residences.”

Kingsland’s data centre is a move by the company to diversify across asset classes and yet focus on the core of the business, which is real estate. “We want to have something that can offer high value-add,” she explains. “It’s a different product in a different industry altogether and yet very aligned to our vision.”

Sok runs a tight ship with about 60 employees. She aims to keep the team lean, saying that the number of employees is not necessarily indicative of a company’s operational scale in their industry, and keeping lean with a flat hierarchy allows for greater efficiency.

The growth and continued success of the company is due to its core values of integrity, trust, and creating real value for everybody, says Sok. “This allows us to be sustainable in the long run. You can have the best business model in the world but if you don’t have the correct values, you wouldn’t enjoy success for a very long time,” she offers. “In this sense, we are still quite a traditional Chinese business, and this is an extension of my father’s value system grounded in Confucian ethics.” Similarly, the company hires and retains staff based not only on KPIs but also on a person’s traits, loyalty and integrity. Sok’s team includes staff members who have been with the company for more than a decade. “For these invaluable team members, we offer our appreciation by giving shares or stock options,” she says.

While the company has its presence in Malaysia, Cambodia, China and Australia in different asset classes, the focus within the next two to three years would be on commercial developments, especially in emerging markets such as Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, where there is potential for growth.

In countries where Kingsland has a footprint, the company endeavours to give back to society. Last year, the company organised a blood donation drive in Cambodia in partnership with local authorities, and in Singapore, the company has several welfare programmes for underprivileged children as part of its CSR initiatives. This year, Sok and nine other founding members of LadiesFirst aim to organise programmes in collaboration with Arc Children’s Centre, a day-care centre for children diagnosed with cancer, as well as other initiatives aimed at empowering and helping fellow women.

Sok herself dedicates a portion of her time to spiritual growth, which she says is crucial in being a well-balanced and fulfilled person. “I meditate regularly, and I go for classes and retreats at Oneness University in India. Life is a constant learning curve, filled with new challenges every day. I just want to be the best version of myself at any one time and to play all my different roles well, to the best of my ability. With life experiences come inner strength, courage, correct beliefs and mindsets to fully engage in life and all that it offers. Spiritual cultivation gives me the inner peace, divine grace and sense of surrendering, knowing that I have done my best, without being too attached to the outcome, and hence going with the flow of life with acceptance, and knowing that life is all about experiencing everything, good or bad.”

Reflecting on the past 12 years of working alongside her father, Sok says there have been some missed opportunities but there is nothing that she truly regrets. As an entrepreneur, she is guided by the belief that true success lies in creating real value for those who invest in you, from stakeholders to customers. “Once you have a cycle that first benefits those around you, the universe will naturally guide and see you through.”

AWARD JUDGE

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai

Director

Seed Global Investment

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai spent 29 years in the Singapore Armed Forces as a military officer. He rose up to the Army’s top leadership and held numerous key appointments.

The years in the Armed Forces provided him a strong foundation in leadership, human capital management, operational planning, training development and critical diplomatic skills.

He retired from active military service in 2016 and is currently a Director with SEED Global Investment, a real estate investment firm. He oversees the company’s portfolio and business development in the US and UK. He holds a MSc in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University, and is no stranger to corporate finance, portfolio management, equities, bonds and derivatives.

AWARD JUDGE

TIN PEI LING

Member of Parliament
CEO

Business China

Ms Tin Pei Ling is the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organisation that harnesses the support of the public sector & private enterprises to strengthen the ties between Singapore and China. Prior to joining Business China, Pei Ling was the Group Director of Corporate Strategy for Jing King Group.

Pei Ling is an elected Member of Parliament in Singapore since 2011 and currently serves on the Public Accounts Committee. She also serves on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications & Information (from 2018, Dy Chairperson) and Health (2011 – present) and previously for Law/Home Affairs (2011-2015) and Social & Family Development (2015 – 2018, Dy Chairperson).

AWARD JUDGE

RYAN CHIOH

Managing Director

Faseastflora.com

Mr Ryan Chioh joined FEF.com in 1998 as Executive Director of Far East Flora Holdings Pte Ltd.

Always a firm advocator for technology, Ryan identified the direction for e-commerce development and saw a business opportunity to offer FEF.com’s extensive range of flowers and gifts online in 2001. Ryan blended his IT savviness and prudent business sense to steer the company’s website to become the leading portal for flowers and gifts. Ryan also brought the company to another level by spearheading the development of a CRM and ERP business solution, integrating the front-end and back-end operations so that there would be easier identification of customer base.

AWARD JUDGE

NEO SING HWEE

Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore Internal Audit Leader, Risk Advisory Services

Ernst & Young

Mr Neo Sing Hwee sits in the EY Asean Partner Governance Council and leads the Advisory (Risk) Internal Audit Practice in Ernst & Young Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore.

He has more than 20 years of experience in providing risk management, performance improvement, internal controls and business advisory services to clients in various industries, including organisations in the government and public sector such as ministries and statutory boards. He provides advice to Boards and Management on leading practices, insights as well as issues relating to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

AWARD JUDGE

DR LIM WEE KIAK, PBM

Member of Parliament
CEO

Eagle Eye Centre

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, is an elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC since 2015 and serves as chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth. An Ophthalmologist, Dr Lim is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Eagle Eye Centre.

Dr Lim joined the Singapore Armed Forces as a medical officer in 1994 and completed subspecialty training in Ophthalmology in 1998, with a Master’s degree in Medicine and two post-graduate specialist qualifications in Ophthalmology. During his service in SAF, he led numerous humanitarian missions to neighbouring countries. He joined Singapore National Eye Centre and was awarded the MOH HMDP fellowship in 2003, doing one year of clinical and research Fellowship at the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Dr Lim had been an active grassroots leader since 1998 before joining politics in 2006. For his active community involvement, he was awarded the Young Executive of the Year in 2000 and Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2003.

AWARD JUDGE

Chew Mok Lee

Assistant Chief Executive
ICM & Digitalisation
Enterprise Services & New Industries

Enterprise Singapore

Ms Chew Mok Lee is the Assistant Chief Executive in charge of ICM & Digitalisation, Enterprise Services & New Industries in Enterprise Singapore, a government agency spearheading enterprise and industry development, reporting to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Enterprise Singapore is also the national Standards body in Singapore.

Prior to Enterprise Singapore, Mok Lee was with National Productivity Board (NPB), PSB and SPRING Singapore. She graduated from National University of Singapore, majoring in Economics and Statistics. She has a double Masters and is well versed in the area of enterprise promotion, industry development and partnership building, having been involved in various aspects of capability development, support for local enterprises, enabling a viable enterprise eco-system and entrepreneurship for 29 years. She also served as Secretariat to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for working with the Minister in Charge of Entrepreneurship and private sector members to foster entrepreneurship and support start-ups in Singapore.

AWARD JUDGE

CHIA KIM HUAT

Regional Head
Corporate and Transactional Practice

Rajah & Tann Singapore

Mr Chia Kim Huat has extensive experience in capital market, public and private mergers and acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures and private equity investments, both in Singapore and the region. He travels regularly in the Asia-Pacific region advising clients on a wide range of matters, including direct investments and infrastructure projects in China, major acquisitions in Korea, joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kim Huat also advises foreign investors on their investments in Singapore, including listings on the Singapore Exchange, privatisations, secondary and dual listings.

He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in his field by International Financial Law Review 1000, Chambers Global “Leaders in their Field”, Asia Pacific Legal 500, “Eminent Practitioner” in Chambers Asia Pacific, Who’s Who Legal: Corporate – Merger & Acquisition/Capital Markets – Debt and Equity and Merger & Acquisition, ‘Leading Lawyer’ in Asialaw Profiles and Best Lawyers, 2017 Edition.

AWARD JUDGE

TAN WEE BENG

Deputy Chief Executive (Operations)
SkillsFuture Singapore

Wee Beng is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). He leads the Business Technology Group (Operations Planning Division, Capability Development Division, Operations & Support Division, Security & Infrastructure Division), the Training, Manpower & Infrastructure Group (Manpower & Infrastructure Planning Division, Office of Lifelong Learning, and Institute of Adult Learning which comprises Learning and Professional Development Division, Research and Innovation Division, Learning Services and Support Division ) as well as the Business Services Group (Shared Services Management, Integrated Business Services Division &, Corporate Services Division).

Prior to joining SSG, Wee Beng was an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, leading both large and small teams. His last appointment was Chief-of-Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy, overseeing a range of staff departments and ground commands. Other key appointments held were Head Naval Operations, Commander of Maritime Security Task Force and Commander, Naval Diving Unit. Wee Beng holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Physics from Oxford University, UK, and a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.