Member since: October 2016
Current directorships: Simble Solutions Limited (SIS) – Chairman and Independent Director; HSBC Institutional Trust Services Asia Limited; the Alternative Investment Management Association Limited; Hong Kong Securities and Investment Institute; various hedge fund directorships
1. Which governance or board issues are currently keeping you awake at night?
Although I am not sure it keeps me awake at night, cybercrime is a risk management issue that can have drastic effects on an organisation and therefore requires significant board oversight. Organisations of all kinds are regularly targeted for attack and keeping up with cybersecurity is often a considerable challenge in the complex and continually evolving IT space. I would be surprised if the majority of boards are confident that their cybersecurity is well under control. While some directors might shy away from the subject due to a lack of technical expertise, it is essential that all board members engage in discussions on the policies and practices that are in place and ensure they are followed. This is the challenge for me - I realise that understanding the threats is not sufficient in this context: as a director, I need to ensure the company through the board has taken appropriate action.
The second issue I have strong views on is board diversity, and I have a particular focus on this subject as a part of my role on the Listing Committee. While I believe most market participants acknowledge the rationale that board diversity improves an organisations performance by more effective decision making, improvements in investor perception and better corporate governance, etc. it is very often difficult to effect change. This manifests itself in the Hong Kong market for instance where women account for less than 15% of listed company board directorships. Improvements in this regard require an enormous amount of education and lobbying and I intend to continue to play my part.
2. Can you share some highlights or the most rewarding part of your career to date?
I have been fortunate to have experienced many highs (with just a few lows) in my career to date, but without a doubt, the biggest thrill has been to see Simble achieve a successful IPO earlier this year. It was an honour to be asked to lead the company as non-executive chair behind a fantastic management team lead by Fadi Geha, our CEO. Simble is a SaaS company focused on energy, mobility and business agility solutions underpinned by IoT. To be part of the team involved in bringing a small company to the market and helping oversee the implementation of a growth plan in the coming years is very exciting. As Chair, I hope to be able to offer the appropriate supervision and guidance to help the executive team to grow and manage the business. This will be a large part of my focus going forward.
3. What are some of the challenges you have faced working overseas, and are there any unique challenges in your current country?
Working in Asia has presented me with enormous opportunities to learn about and experience a diverse range of cultures. My roles in both banking and hedge funds have required me to manage businesses and teams in a variety of locations and dealing with the intricacies of local cultures, laws and regulatory regimes have been fascinating, albeit challenging at times. I think the biggest challenge, however, was learning how to deal with people in different locations. This was not just a matter of understanding and managing staff effectively but also in dealing with local customers, suppliers, policymakers and regulators. We are all tempted to approach tasks in the same way where we have achieved success in the past, but this is a dangerous assumption to make as the behaviours and motivations of people are often drastically different amongst the various locations I have dealt with in Asia. Taking appropriate counsel and taking the time to learn about cultural sensitivities was key to ensuring I got the best out of my relationships in each location.
4. Is there a chair or director that you admire or have learnt from?
Not a Chairman but a different leader. As a cricket fan, I was impressed at an early stage by Mike Brearley, the ex-Captain of Middlesex and England. Mike wrote “The Art of Captaincy’ which discusses the challenges a team captain must overcome. It was perhaps the first book that influenced my view on the traits of effective leadership – strong man management and technical comprehension. In particular, Brierley mentions concerning man management that you need to get the whole group playing as a team, and you need to get the best out of individuals. While you cannot achieve this with everyone, you hope to have some in the team performing better than they otherwise would. This sounds straightforward, but the combination in the right balance is very rarely observed. Although written more than 30 years ago, it is still worth reading for insights into how strong leaders approach and achieve team success.