6 OCTOBER 2018
INTERVIEW WITH OUR CEO
We ask our CEO Stanley Tan about the Company’s transition, his experience in real estate and how he sees the future of our business.
Q. The final Yellow Pages print edition marked the end of an era for the Group. What are your key learnings from this transformation?
Discontinuing the Yellow Pages print directories and saying goodbye to our staff, many of them long-serving, was very tough for us. Unfortunately, it was made necessary by shifts in culture and technology and we held it off for as long as we could as livelihoods were at stake. I was positively surprised and grateful for everyone’s support last year; it seems the market understood the challenges we faced.
It is without doubt that trying to ride out a sunset industry is painful and ultimately futile so my key learnings would be that: 1. It is extremely important to continue to innovate and not be afraid to try new ways of doing things – only when we challenge the status quo can we get a different outcome. 2. Do not discount the importance of having a dedicated team – a high functioning team makes the world of difference in turning a vision into reality. And 3. Yes, there’s a need to have a stable long-term plan, but we also need to be nimble to seize golden opportunities which are few and far between.
Q. You are not new to real estate. How long have you been in the industry and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’ve been investing and developing property for the last 30 years, predominantly in Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. Property, to me, is an invigorating space as every project is unique and the feasibility of each site depends on where you are in the market cycle and the unique features of each country which you’re operating in.
The deal making stage for me is extremely important which is why we spend a lot of our effort at acquisition – purchase price is one of the factors that underpins the ability to ride out any market downturn so you always have to be ready to walk away and not be emotional. The stamina to hold in the event of a down market is another factor which requires foresight and no matter how great your project delivery is, cash flow is still always key.
I also respect the patience needed to unlock the value of each project; whether it be an existing building or a greenfield site. Exploring multiple strategies is challenging yet exhilarating as there are some that perform better than others but still, there is never just one “right answer”. Each project is unique but the ability for real estate to create value and uplift the surrounding communities makes it all worth the effort.
Q. Do you have a favourite project that you developed in the past?
My favourite project to date is probably Heritage Queenstown, one of the hotels in the Heritage chain that I co-founded. It was particularly challenging. We’d endeavoured to build the hotel to meet the deadline of The Williamsburg Conference in the late 90s and we managed to deliver the project in just nine months – ambitious but made possible through having the right team, which was led by Chris Minty, our current Project Director. Queenstown in New Zealand is such a beautiful place and it’s exciting to be back with our project Remarkables Residences which we are now marketing.
Q. What is GYPL’s investment strategy?
A diversified portfolio is key for risk management so our investment strategy is very much focused around building a portfolio of projects, at different stages of the development cycle. We also assess various markets at different stages of development maturity but we need to be patient before entering a new territory as it all comes down to timing. As mentioned earlier, it is vital that while we look at financial performance and long-term growth, it is still important for us to stay nimble so that we can react when an opportunity presents itself. It has been quite a journey of transformation for us and we are committed to delivering value for our stakeholders.
Q. What do you look for when you evaluate each new project opportunity?
Buying at the right price, right time and with the right payment structure is key! Whether it’s a refurbishment, rebuild, a fresh start or adding built areas, room for value enhancement is something we always look for. Each project presents opportunities and constraints and an area that should always be considered is zoning use as this can present unseen appreciation opportunities or depreciation risks.
Value enhancement comes from being patient and able to see a project differently. We ask ourselves questions like: How do we find value where others haven’t or where they don’t? And how do we turn a problem or loss-making business into an opportunity and profit?
Structuring “the deal” to maximise the return on invested capital is another area that is extremely important during project evaluation. And last but definitely not least, the due diligence phase is key to providing assurance and verification that we are getting what we’ve been told we are buying.
Q. You mentioned earlier that a dedicated team is important. What do you look for when you’re building a team?
Definitely inner strength and resilience – I think it’s important that team members adopt the attitude that no problem is too big to be solved. Being self-driven is extremely important – we run a lean, flat organisation where everyone is accountable so ensuring that we have team players on board who support each other is crucial. And of course, a diverse team of personalities and skills; being able to leverage skills across different projects is a useful strength.
Q. Where do you see the Company in five years?
GYPL currently has a growing pipeline of projects that we are steadily adding to, so I’m very excited about our future and creating a strong stable portfolio that we can be proud of.
In five years’ time, I see us successfully completing Bellfield Estate and Remarkables Residences in New Zealand, while searching for projects in Asia and Australia, and collaborating with partners so that we can continuously generate value for our stakeholders.
There is a lot of hard work ahead of us but I believe the team is up to the challenge and ready to embody the new vision of this 51-year-old Company.