JT 8.2016This article by Jennifer Tan (left, Director, Research & Products,  Equities & Fixed Income, at the Singapore Exchange) was published in SGX's kopi-C: the Company brew series on 28 August 2015. The article is republished with permission.

ArthurLangCapitaland CFO, Arthur Lang, will join Singtel as CEO International with effect from 1 April 2017.  (Photo: Company)

Arthur Lang’s key aphorisms on life revolve around the quotidian – the gut, one’s consciousness, and a game of chance.

The Group Chief Financial Officer of CapitaLand Ltd, one of Asia’s largest real estate developers, strives to stoke fire in the bellies of his son, 15, and two daughters, aged 10 and eight.

“Many Singaporeans, including myself, like to be in our comfort zones, and as a result, I fear many do not have that fire in the belly, so this is something I teach my kids,” said Lang, who was appointed Group CFO in June 2011, after 16 years as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley.

LQM000066We cannot be all things to all people. Our core markets are still China and Singapore, and both comprise 80% to 85% of our total assets. Three to five years from now, that proportion will remain the same.

- Arthur Lang
CFO

Capitaland

“We tend to be less driven from within, compared to those I’ve encountered in the US, Hong Kong and China. We are inclined to do what others, including our parents, expect of us, rather than what we personally believe in,” he added.

“This is worrying, because only passion and drive from within is sustainable.”

Developing the right mindset is also critical.

“You need to have both paranoia and a global perspective. Paranoia was very much a part of the psyche of our forefathers – the LKY generation – who were consistently afraid Singapore would become irrelevant,” Lang added, referring to the city-state’s founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

“We need that sense of paranoia, or one day, we will wake up and realise someone has eaten our lunch.”


Play to Win

gurney plaza penang malaysiaGurney Plaza is a CapitaLand retail development in Penang.
(Photo: Company)
Lang also highlights the importance of a grateful heart. This is encapsulated in the adage 饮水思源 (yin shui si yuan) – remembering the source when you drink.

“Life is like a card game – you play based on the cards you are dealt. Rather than complain, with the hand that you have, play to win,” said the affable Masters of Business Administration graduate from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics (magna cum laude) from Harvard University.

“I always tell my kids to be grateful for what they have, and to develop a sense of gratitude, not of entitlement.”

Looking back, the straight-talking 43-year-old remembers a source of inspiration at virtually every major milestone in his life.

 

LQM000066

I always tell my kids to be grateful for what they have, and to develop a sense of gratitude, not of entitlement.


- Arthur Lang
CFO

Capitaland

His father, who passed away unexpectedly when Lang was 16, consistently offered good advice, and was the role model for bringing up children. His mother was a pillar of strength during those difficult times.

“Both my parents were the only non-graduates in their families, so I made it a point not to disappoint them. Dad taught me a lot about values. He had big dreams for me, and he always told me to study hard,” Lang recalled.

“When I was in primary school, he talked to me like I was a teenager, and when I became a teen, he spoke to me as an adult. I talk to my kids the same way now."

As a young adult, Lang learnt a key management principle from his colonel in the army. He told me, ‘When I give you a problem, don't come back to me with three other problems – come back to me with the solution’,” Lang recollected with a laugh.

“So now, when my boss gives me a problem, I make sure I go back to him with a solution, or, if there's no solution, I will at least give him alternatives.”

♦ Play for the Team

Lang's leadership style – both at home and in the office – revolves around building people.

“Today’s leadership model has changed. Ten to 20 years ago, leaders were the most knowledgeable and capable – it was leadership from the front, just like a general leading troops into war,” he said.

“Today, knowledge is no longer concentrated in a small group due to better education and the Internet, which is a big social leveller. Leaders must lead from behind – they should inspire and galvanise.”

Capitaland

Stock Price

$3.12

Market Cap

$13.2 bn

52-week High Low

$2.82 -$3.26

Dividend Yield

2.88%

PE Ratio

13.88

Source: SGX StockFacts
(data as of 19 Jan 2017)

Managers need to support their staff and remove obstacles, ensuring that members of the team perform to the best of their abilities and achieve their objectives, he added.

“We cannot be there all the time, solving problems for them. This is the case for my team, and it's the same for my kids as well.”

A good leader is also defined by his refusal to compromise on key principles, a maxim Lang learnt from his Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen.

“One thing he said that stuck with me was ‘It's easier to stick to your values 100 per cent of the time than 90 per cent of the time’. If you start compromising, giving in a little at a time, one day, you will find that you do not know what you stand for any more,” he said.

“This is important for today's leaders, who face many temptations and factors that can steer them off-course.”


Rock-Solid


Lang, who sees himself as “a very boring guy” with family and friends as his only passions apart from work, often obsesses about CapitaLand’s finances.

He was named Best CFO of the Year for listed companies with market capitalisation of S$1 billion and above at this year’s Singapore Corporate Awards.

The company’s balance sheet strength must be “beyond question”, given the cyclical and capital-intensive nature of the real estate industry, he said.

LQM000066We should raise capital when we can, rather than when we need it. I have seen two very bad cycles in the banking and real estate industries – things can take a turn for the worse very quickly, and it's vital to make sure our balance sheet is rock-solid in these kinds of environments.

- Arthur Lang
CFO

Capitaland

“We should raise capital when we can, rather than when we need it. I have seen two very bad cycles in the banking and real estate industries – things can take a turn for the worse very quickly, and it's vital to make sure our balance sheet is rock-solid in these kinds of environments.”

Another priority is making sure the company has the right scale. “Scale creates opportunities and gives you economies of scale. We can do a lot more with scale, and if our cost structure is lowered, that will help us withstand challenges in the industry,” he added.

CapitaLand's strategy remains two-pronged – focusing on geographies and products.

“We cannot be all things to all people. Our core markets are still China and Singapore, and both comprise 80 to 85 per cent of our total assets. Three to five years from now, that proportion will remain the same.”

 

♦ Morph and Evolve

The company will look selectively at Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia to grow its footprint, he said. Expansion into the US and Europe will be carried out through its service residences platform, The Ascott Ltd, with the aim of building a global network.

Sometimes, restlessness sets in during the wee hours, with Lang fretting over how CapitaLand can remain relevant amidst rapidly evolving markets, technologies and trends.

Capitaland Shanghai NWCapitaLand China is one of Asia's largest real estate companies with core businesses in homes, commercial developments, integrated developments and 8 real estate funds in China. Above: its residential development in Shanghai. (Photo: Company) “Technology can be daunting,” he said. “You can wake up one day and find that your company has become irrelevant.”

“It's also happening in banking, and real estate has to wake up to this phenomenon. It's not just dealing with the known unknowns – we need to be aware of unknown unknowns as well.”

Real estate, as a product, could also morph over time, Lang noted.

“Five years from now, real estate may no longer just be a product, but more so than now, a service, one that we can use to capture the minds, and hopefully, the hearts, of shoppers, retailers and customers. So, the company needs to be thinking, evolving, and leveraging technology to stay ahead.”


Financial results

Year ended 31 Dec
(S$ m)
FY2015 FY2014 FY2013* FY2012*
Revenue 4,761.9 3,924.6 3,511.0 2,648.3
EBIT 2,316.0 2,436.9 2,258.6 2,190.8
Profit attributable to shareholders 1,065.7 1,160.8 840.2 908.9

*restated

Quarter ended 30 Sep (S$ m) 3QFY2016 3QFY2015 yoy chg
Revenue 1,373.7 1,076.0 28%
Operating Profit 345.0 318.9 8%
Profit attributable to shareholders 247.5 192.7 28%

Source: Company data




Outlook & Risks
    • A well-balanced portfolio of investment properties and residential projects continue to generate recurring income and trading profits.
    • Grow assets under management (AUM) through the use of funds, joint ventures, listed real estate investment trusts and various capital management platforms.
    • Capital recycling continues to be an integral part of CapitaLand’s overall strategy.
    • Well-positioned for future growth by leveraging its significant scale and strong expertise in integrated developments, shopping malls, serviced residences and capital management


Capitaland Ltd

CapitaLand Ltd engages in real estate development, invests in real estate financial products and assets, and provides investment advisory and management services. It also manages serviced residences in Singapore, China, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia. Its real estate portfolio includes integrated developments, shopping malls, serviced residences, offices, and homes. CapitaLand was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in Singapore.

The company website is: www.capitaland.com.

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For its results for the 4th quarter ended 31 Dec 2016, click here.


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