This 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.
Arthur Lang’s key aphorisms on life revolve around the quotidian – the gut, one’s consciousness, and a game of chance.
“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.
Play to Win
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.
I always tell my kids to be grateful for what they have, and to develop a sense of gratitude, not of entitlement.
- Arthur Lang
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.
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.
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$1 billion and above at this year’s Singapore Corporate Awards.
The company’s balance sheet strength must be “beyond question”, given the cyclical and capital-intensive nature of the real estate industry, he said.
We should raise capital when we can, rather than when we need it. I have seen two very bad cycles in the banking and real estate industries – things can take a turn for the worse very quickly, and it's vital to make sure our balance sheet is rock-solid in these kinds of environments.
- Arthur Lang
“We should raise capital when we can, rather than when we need it. I have seen two very bad cycles in the banking and real estate industries – things can take a turn for the worse very quickly, and it's vital to make sure our balance sheet is rock-solid in these kinds of environments.”
Another priority is making sure the company has the right scale. “Scale creates opportunities and gives you economies of scale. We can do a lot more with scale, and if our cost structure is lowered, that will help us withstand challenges in the industry,” he added.
CapitaLand's strategy remains two-pronged – focusing on geographies and products.
“We cannot be all things to all people. Our core markets are still China and Singapore, and both comprise 80 to 85 per cent of our total assets. Three to five years from now, that proportion will remain the same.”
|♦ Morph and Evolve|
The company will look selectively at Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia to grow its footprint, he said. Expansion into the US and Europe will be carried out through its service residences platform, The Ascott Ltd, with the aim of building a global network.
|Year ended 31 Dec
|Profit attributable to shareholders||1,065.7||1,160.8||840.2||908.9|
|Quarter ended 30 Sep (S$ m)||3QFY2016||3QFY2015||yoy chg|
|Profit attributable to shareholders||247.5||192.7||28%|
Source: Company data
|Outlook & Risks|
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.