Characterised by her signature cheongsam and delicately coiffed hair, Chew Gek Khim sits on the listing of Singapore’s strongest tycoons.
She is the 29th richest particular person in Singapore with a web value of no less than US$1.26 billion.
The billionaire was additionally the primary girl in over a decade to win Singapore’s Businessman Of The 12 months 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 one in every of Singapore’s high monetary leaders, Tan Chin Tuan.
Tan was finest identified for his instrumental position in turning the Abroad-Chinese language Banking Company (OCBC) into one in every 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 turn into the director of OCBC, enjoying a pivotal position within the growth of the agency for over 50 years.
He was additionally a widely known philanthropist identified for supporting lifelong training, donating over S$250,000 annually to the engineering alternate programme at Nanyang Technological College.
Rising up in her household mansion on Cairnhill Street, Chew recounts a cheerful childhood spent residing in abundance.
Regardless of her grandfather’s standing as one in every 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 regulation and labored at Drew and Napier for 3 years earlier than leaving to affix 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 Journal.
Chew by no means anticipated to proceed her grandfather’s legacy. However she fondly remembers Tan as a broad-minded man identified 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 Struggle
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 one in every of Singapore’s most excessive profile buying and selling wars over the Straits Buying and selling firm.
Based on Chew, it had all the time been her grandfather’s want that the household would acquire possession over no less than one of many corporations he had managed underneath OCBC’s portfolio.
On the time, the press additionally reported that the Tans have been allegedly sad with OCBC’s strikes to dump what they noticed as key elements 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 immediately, the Lees proceed to personal the biggest shares in OCBC and sit on Forbes listing because the 23rd richest household in Singapore, with a web value of US$1.41 billion.
The Lees’ founding father, Lee Kong Chian, a rich Singaporean businessman as soon as often known as 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 property, together with a 43.33 per cent stake in Raffles Lodge, 29.9 per cent stake in Robinson & Co, and its total stake in Raffles Investments restricted for S$52.eight million, which Chew tried, unsuccessfully, to amass.
The turning level got here when the Tans put in a bid for Straits Buying and selling Firm (STC) underneath 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 Japanese. The Lees counterbid twice earlier than Tecity issued its last worth 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 133-12 months-Previous Tin Smelting Agency
Since Chew assumed chairmanship of STC, the 133-year-old agency has developed into a contemporary funding agency with diversified property in actual property, hospitality, assets and investments within the Asia Pacific.
Initially a tin-smelting firm, STC was included in 1887. The agency was well-known for its manufacturing of “Straits Tin,” the purest high quality tin on the earth, and was chargeable for two-thirds of Malaya’s tin output.
When the British exited Singapore after World Struggle II, possession of STC handed over to native Malayan Chinese language traders, with Tan Chin Tuan as its main shareholder. Below 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 trade within the late 1980s and 1990s pushed STC to put money into different companies, sometimes in the actual property and hospitality trade.
Since 2008, Chew has launched into a spirit of speedy reforms that turned STC into one in every of Singapore’s top-performing funding holdings.
Low performing property have been divested into new ventures in actual property, hospitality, and commodities termed the STC Actual Property Ecosystem.
At this time, STC owns an 89.5 per cent stake in Straits Actual Property, an funding firm with over S$1.7 billion in property property spanning China, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
Inside its actual property 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 international locations.
The conglomerate additionally holds 3.eight per cent curiosity in Suntec REITs and a portfolio of various residential properties in Singapore.
Below its hospitality arm, STC owns 30 per cent of Far East Hospitality Holdings as a three way partnership with Far East Orchard Restricted, one in every of Singapore’s largest property builders. Presently, the agency has 10 manufacturers with 14,000 rooms underneath administration throughout seven international locations.
In its assets 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 one in every of Singapore’s most prolific funding corporations.
Regardless of the setbacks Covid-19 has wrought on the actual property panorama, STC introduced in August that it simply bought the Bourne Enterprise Park close to London for over 76.7 million kilos in money to chase “doubtlessly increased charges of return.”
Because it stands, Straits Buying and selling at present has a market cap of S$630.571 million. The agency is flush with money and property, and the last decade since Chew’s takeover is earmarked with speedy overhauls to its structural integrity.
Chew, who held 36 management positions eventually depend, is understood for her unconventional strategy 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 folks 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