4 key work habits of successful Singapore finance leaders

By Robert Half on 26 February 2017

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state and is one of the world's leading hubs for commerce, finance, and technology. It's rapidly becoming much more than just a stopover destination, and for those considering a career in finance, it’s certainly not a location to dismiss.

Singapore ranks 3rd on the global financial centre's index, jumping in front of Hong Kong and nipping at the heels of London and New York. It’s also staying ahead of the times, with The World Economic Forum 2016 ranking Singapore as the most tech-ready nation.

With so many opportunities, it’s no surprise that some of the richest people in the world live here. But which of these entrepreneurs should you aspire to? In this article, we look at Forbes list of Singapore’s 50 Richest and take a closer look at 4 of the most successful leaders in finance, along with the key work habits behind their accomplishments:

1. Khoo Family

At the age of 17, Khoo Teck Puat went to work for Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) as a clerk. Working his way up the business, he became Chairman of the Board of the Central Provident Fund (CPF). However, in 1959, Khoo saw a gap in the Malay banking market and set up Maybank. By 2003, he was the richest individual in Singapore. Khoo sadly passed away in 2004, but his family continues to be one of the wealthiest in Singapore, with a net worth of US$6.3 billion.

One of Khoo’s many work habits was fearlessness. At OCBC, he challenged views and often found himself at odds with managing director, Tan Chin Tuan, who took a much more conservative approach to business. According to Hotel & Resort Insider, Khoo also thought OCBC was growing much too slowly and therefore made the bold decision to walk away from the business for a fresh start. He bravely set up his own business, Maybank (now Malayan Banking Berhad), where he injected US$4 million of his own money and developed it into the fastest growing bank in the world. Throughout his career, Khoo continued to make large investment decisions worth millions of dollars and even diversified into new areas, such as financing and acquiring properties, particularly hotels, building the largest hotel group in Singapore.

2. Wee Cho Yaw

Wee Cho Yaw started work at his family business, Kheng Leong, learning from his father. He later became the youngest director of United Chinese Bank (UCB) before heading off to London to study the operations of a British bank. He returned to UCB, expanding the business in Singapore as well as internationally. He is now the 7th richest person in Singapore, with a net worth of US$4.9 billion.

At the heart of Wee Cho Yaw’s success is his drive. After taking over from his father in July 1960, Wee Cho Yaw drove the company forward, expanding from a local business to international financing, and diversifying into other areas, including property, insurance, realty and more.

3. Richard Chandler

New Zealand-born businessman, Richard Chandler, relocated to Singapore in 2006 and started Clermont Group, a private investment group. He has since been named as the 10th richest person in Singapore, with a net worth of US$2.45 billion.

Richard Chandler’s work habits have helped him achieve the success he has today. One key trait that was instilled in him by his mother was being a hard worker, according to the International Business Times. At the age of 24, Richard took over his father's business and expanded into fashion design, retail, and manufacturing, with 200 employees across four offices. Since then, Richard has grown his own business, Clermont Group, investing in both public and private equity across a range of industries, including energy, finance, and health care.

4. Peter Lim

At the age of 20, Peter Lim began dabbling in stocks. Despite losing some money initially, Lim honed his skills to become the 11th richest individual in Singapore, with a net worth of US$2.4 billion. He has a diverse investment portfolio, ranging from property and security to health care and sports. He even has a joint venture with former Manchester United football players, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes.

Lim’s success can be credited to his many work habits, but one in particular, is patience. In an interview for “The Way of the VC: Having Top Venture Capitalists on Your Board” book, Lim explains that “You may not have a lot of money, but you have a lot of time”. Lim goes on to explain that investments can take five to six years, or usually ten to 12 years before you see a good return.

What work habits do you really need for success?

All of these finance professionals from Singapore have worked extremely hard to achieve what they lead today or the legacy they have left behind. Their drive and determination has kept them moving forward, through finance industry trends and business challenges.

But being a leader isn’t always about following the norm. It also requires courage to question the standards and to make your own career path in the world. In addition to these work habits, it’s important to remember that success doesn’t happen overnight - leaders need to be patient and wait for the right opportunities.

Do you possess any of these work habits? If you’re interested in a career in the finance industry, you can use the traits of these successful leaders in Singapore as inspiration, to help shape your own work habits and lead you onto your very own career successes.

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