Characterised by her signature cheongsam and delicately coiffed hair, Chew Gek Khim sits on the checklist of Singapore’s strongest tycoons.
She is the 29th richest person in Singapore with a internet value of no less than US$1.26 billion.
The billionaire was additionally the primary lady in over a decade to win Singapore’s Businessman Of The Year in 2014.
In 2008, Chew single-handedly orchestrated the takeover and revitalisation of a century-old tin-smelting firm as soon as helmed by her grandfather and OCBC magnate Tan Chin Tuan.
Right here’s how the self-professed “sheltered” youngster construct her billion-dollar fortune.
The Granddaughter Of A Key Monetary Chief
Chew Gek Khim was born because the granddaughter of certainly one of Singapore’s high monetary leaders, Tan Chin Tuan.
Tan was finest recognized for his instrumental position in turning the Abroad-Chinese language Banking Company (OCBC) into certainly one of Asia’s main monetary establishments.
He was among the many key figures concerned in its subsequent merger with Ho Hong Financial institution and Abroad Chinese language Financial institution to kind OCBC in 1932.
Tan quickly rose via the ranks to grow to be the director of OCBC, enjoying a pivotal position within the enlargement of the agency for over 50 years.
He was additionally a widely known philanthropist recognized for supporting lifelong training, donating over S$250,000 every year to the engineering alternate programme at Nanyang Technological College.
Rising up in her family mansion on Cairnhill Road, Chew recounts a cheerful childhood spent dwelling in abundance.
Regardless of her grandfather’s standing as certainly one of Singapore’s elite figures, she noticed Tan as a household man and the “patriarch” of the household.
After graduating from the Nationwide College of Singapore, Chew earned a level in legislation and labored at Drew and Napier for 3 years earlier than leaving to hitch her household’s funding group, Tecity.
Sources state that Chew was groomed from younger to function Tan’s successor — a declare which Chew denied in an interview with The Peak Magazine.
Chew by no means anticipated to proceed her grandfather’s legacy. However she fondly remembers Tan as a broad-minded man recognized for his pragmatism and integrity.
In a Forbes article, Chew recalled how her grandfather reminded her of the distinction between spending for aesthetics versus investments, by telling her throughout a buying journey that “diamonds don’t pay dividends.”
Choosing up the reins of her household’s enterprise, Chew spent a lot of her time at Tecity studying the ropes from her grandfather.
After being admonished for “asking too many questions”, Chew picked up the ins and outs of the enterprise by watching and studying from one of the best.
Main The Straits Buying and selling Battle
When Tan handed away in 2005, Chew turned the de facto head of Tecity as the manager chairman of the group.
She made her debut in certainly one of Singapore’s most excessive profile buying and selling wars over the Straits Buying and selling firm.
In line with Chew, it had at all times been her grandfather’s wish that the household would achieve possession over no less than one of many firms he had managed underneath OCBC’s portfolio.
On the time, the press additionally reported that the Tans were allegedly unhappy with OCBC’s strikes to unload what they noticed as key parts of Tan Chin Tuan’s legacy. The place Tan had acted because the “arms” of the corporate, one other highly effective household, the Lees, sat at its head.
Till right now, the Lees proceed to personal the biggest shares in OCBC and sit on Forbes checklist because the 23rd richest family in Singapore, with a internet value of US$1.41 billion.
The Lees’ founding father, Lee Kong Chian, a rich Singaporean businessman as soon as often called Southeast Asia’s “Rubber and Pineapple King” served as OCBC’s chairman till his demise in 1967. His place was taken over by his son, Lee Seng Wee, who served as chairman till 2015.
Within the late 2000s, OCBC started divesting stakes in non-core belongings, together with a 43.33 per cent stake in Raffles Hotel, 29.9 per cent stake in Robinson & Co, and its total stake in Raffles Investments limited for S$52.eight million, which Chew tried, unsuccessfully, to accumulate.
The turning level got here when the Tans put in a bid for Straits Trading Company (STC) under Tecity in January 2008, prompting a counter-bid from Lee’s funding holding agency, Lee Latex.
On the time, the Lees owned 7 per cent of STC and managed 33 per cent via OCBC and Nice Jap. The Lees counterbid twice earlier than Tecity issued its last value in March 2008, valuing STC at about US$1.7 billion.
Chew walked away with an 89 per cent majority stake within the agency when OCBC agreed to promote its shares to Tecity. By August 2009, Chew was appointed government chairman of the agency.
Revitalising A 133-Yr-Previous Tin Smelting Agency
Since Chew assumed chairmanship of STC, the 133-year-old agency has advanced into a modern investment firm with diversified assets in actual property, hospitality, assets and investments within the Asia Pacific.
Initially a tin-smelting firm, STC was incorporated in 1887. The agency was well-known for its manufacturing of “Straits Tin,” the purest high quality tin on the earth, and was accountable for two-thirds of Malaya’s tin output.
When the British exited Singapore after World Battle II, possession of STC handed over to native Malayan Chinese language traders, with Tan Chin Tuan as its main shareholder. Beneath his management, the worth of STC’s shareholders’ funds had grown by 1,502 per cent.
However by the point Chew took over, STC was in decline. Tin-smelting operations had been largely discontinued, and the tin residue the corporate processed offered at low costs.
The decline of the tin-smelting business within the late 1980s and 1990s pushed STC to spend money on different companies, sometimes in the true property and hospitality business.
Since 2008, Chew has launched into a spirit of fast reforms that turned STC into certainly one of Singapore’s top-performing funding holdings.
Low performing belongings had been divested into new ventures in actual property, hospitality, and commodities termed the STC Real Estate Ecosystem.
Right this moment, STC owns an 89.5 per cent stake in Straits Actual Property, an funding firm with over S$1.7 billion in property belongings spanning China, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Inside its real estate division, STC additionally owns a 21 per cent stake in ARA Asset Administration, with S$88 billion in Gross Belongings unfold throughout 100 cities in 28 nations.
The conglomerate additionally holds 3.eight per cent curiosity in Suntec REITs and a portfolio of varied residential properties in Singapore.
Beneath its hospitality arm, STC owns 30 per cent of Far East Hospitality Holdings as a three way partnership with Far East Orchard Restricted, certainly one of Singapore’s largest property builders. At present, the agency has 10 manufacturers with 14,000 rooms underneath administration throughout seven nations.
In its resources division, STC owns 54.eight per cent of Malaysia Smelting Company (MSC), the world’s largest impartial tin smelter twin listed on Bursa Malaysia and the SGX.
STC On A Roll
The granddaughter of Tan Chin Tuan has singlehandedly reformed an outdated tin smelting agency into certainly one of Singapore’s most prolific funding corporations.
Despite the setbacks Covid-19 has wrought on the true property panorama, STC introduced in August that it simply bought the Bourne Business Park close to London for over 76.7 million kilos in money to chase “doubtlessly larger charges of return.”
Because it stands, Straits Buying and selling at the moment has a market cap of S$630.571 million. The agency is flush with money and belongings, and the last decade since Chew’s takeover is earmarked with fast overhauls to its structural integrity.
Chew, who held 36 leadership positions at last count, is understood for her unconventional method to enterprise. The tycoon approaches her ventures with a sensible, non-nonsense air that calls for that each greenback be multiplied–even in her philanthropic efforts.
To me if it makes cash, it makes excellent sense… Some individuals will say it’s unconventional, however to me, whereas it’s not precisely standard, it’s not illogical.”
– Chew Gek Khim, STC Government Chairman, in an interview with The Peak Journal
Featured Picture Credit score: Picuki / Girls Entrepreneur Awards