Rolling Stone Gathers Moss with Paradigm Shift, Maurice Tan




He opened McDonald’s first restaurant in China just one year after graduating from NUS. Embracing that challenge is a hallmark of the way Maurice Tan has carved his career in developing innovative marketing and business solutions for MNCs in China; he has been with Pepsi, Mars, Goodyear and Nokia in China. 19 years on, Maurice is acknowledged as an expert on business in China. Professor Ho Yew Kee, Deputy Dean of NUS Business School, met him in China recently for an update on what’s going on there.

What makes you take up the challenge of opening McDonald’s first restaurant in China?

I was inspired by what I had studied in NUS about companies and brands that played big roles in defining markets. I thought that if that’s the future I wanted to pursue, then there is no bigger market than China. So that attracted me there. I had also heard, in school, about how McDonald’s had broken all records in its first restaurant in Russia, in Moscow. Since Beijing is a bigger market than that, the opening in Beijing would be a historical event and I would be privileged to be a part of that. When I came, I saw a bustling capitalist market at work, consumers were hungry for global brands, and people were hungry for knowledge and growth. There is so much energy here.

Many people stay in the same industry as a specialist. You have traversed different industries. What allows you to be versatile and cross the different industry platforms?

There are career paths that are vertically integrated; you grow through it and become a specialist in the industry. I see my specialization in terms of the market, and that market is China. So that would be my geographical anchor or foundation. The other aspect would be sales and marketing; the common thread across my career, one thing that is consistent, has to do with the consumer – the thought process, framework, discipline in dealing with them is similar. But you need to understand what to apply from one industry to another, and not copy wholesale. That way you would have the right recipe, despite being in different kitchens or using different ingredients.

My first big crossover was from Pepsi to Nokia; it was the first test of what I call “cross-pollination of ideas”. It proved to be workable, broke new barriers and changed assumptions in terms of industries and what drives businesses.

What were the lessons you’ve learnt from your experiences in China?

I have learnt a lot over the years, but if I were to distill it, I’d call up three points.

Firstly, there is no single path to success. Over the years here, I’ve seen amazing things. I’ve seen subordinates who’ve become bosses and entrepreneurs by taking on roles that were seemingly small, and then their company went for IPO, and they become very successful. I’ve seen people who’ve left agencies to start their own small business and, through partnerships, relationships, reputation and hard work, they were able to establish a very good business. So there are many paths and I would encourage a very good business. So there are many paths and I would encourage anyone to explore what fits them. But timing is critical.

Secondly, despite the size of the market, the relevant circle is quite small, so reputation matters. This is not a place where you can make a mistake and run away to hide. I’ve seen people whose past have caught up with them. This happens when I am hiring and do reference checks.

Thirdly, it’s about immersing yourself in the environment. Don’t come to China with a foreign perspective. Of course you’ll have that, but be very open-minded in terms of what and where you can learn, and whomever you can learn from. I learnt a lot from the local customers that I deal with, as much as the Western senior executives that I worked for. These people are able to provide different perspectives, and your ability to bridge those paradigms will make you successful.

Name two things we should not do in China?

One is the tendency to be overly critical. Singapore is a different society, things are well run, very structured. If your mindset is “How come things here are not like this, or that?” you will not succeed. Always check if you are doing this, even unconsciously, because people around you will pick it up.

Two, have an open mind. The big rewarding part about being here is the learning, and it’s a different kind of learning from what you get in Singapore. It is a big country and the spotlight of the world falls here. As part of an MNC in China, you’ll get the direct attention of your main headquarters and the CEO there. Step up and take risks, and you’ll be successful.

Personal Evolution within Industry, Ian Wong




Ian Wong has been a banker for 20 years, since joining Development Bank of Singapore after graduating from NUS Business School in 1989. Ian continues to play an active role as an alumnus by participating as a member of the Eastern China Alumni Network (ECAN) Advisory Board. His journey has taken him into Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank and now, Bank of America (BOA). He is currently Managing Director, China, for BOA. The fact that he has stayed in the same industry does not mean he is averse to adventure. In 2003, Ian asked BOA for a transfer to China, and uprooted his entire family to a new country. Six years have flown by, and Professor Ho Yew Kee, Vice-Dean of NUS Business School, dropped in on this far-flung alumnus to find out what his China stint has been like.

What was your motivation for choosing to work in China?

China was accepted into the World Trade Organization in 2001. So I felt that the political, economical and cultural landscape of China was going to change materially, and I wanted to be a part of that scene. I came here in 2003; since then, it has been a blast – the China market is very exciting and always changing and developing. I am proud to be a part of it.

You have managed to increase BOA’s revenue in China 6-fold after you went in there. What is the secret of your success?

I wouldn’t call it the secret of my success, but more the result of surrounding circumstances. Firstly, foreign banks only contribute to 4% of the entire banking assets in China. Secondly, if you were to look at the rise in GDP growth – and assuming that banking grows in tandem with GDP – we see that China had double-digit growth in the last five years. So it makes it relatively easy for us to deliver. Also, China has a large pool of talent for us to tap. Our challenge is to find the right people who are dedicated and prepared to learn how to do banking in China. We have been successful in that regard, and that helped us to deliver too. Last, but not least, I have participated and grown in the banking sector of a premier financial hub like Singapore. I was lucky enough to leverage off that experience to address the market potential in China – with my associates in China, of course.

How has your job as a banker in Singapore prepared you for the banking industry in China?

The banking market in China is still in the developmental stage, so a lot of the things I have learnt in Singapore and the region have helped me to prepare for China’s journey in developing its banking industry. The two major challenges in China are: Firstly, how to attract, retain and grow the best talents; Secondly, the need to address corporate governance in certain areas.

What keeps you in banking, even after 20 years in it? What excites you about coming to work everyday?

Although I have been in the same industry all this while, technically I have not held the same job – in terms of roles and responsibilities – for more than three years. I have been privileged that the organizations I have worked for have given me the exposure and opportunities. So it doesn’t feel like I have been doing the same job.

The financial landscape in China is different from Singapore. What are the key differences?

I actually see quite a few similarities among differences. One similarity is that both governments have the same ambition – to position their respective states as the world’s premier financial center. And one difference is that the Singapore government is fortunate to have had the opportunity to build that reputation over time – and they have done a very good job. So Singapore’s standing in the financial community is good. The main concern for the Chinese government in this objective is in establishing stability and creating jobs for its population. That means they would have to lean on the side of over-regulation, which will protract Shanghai’s development into an international financial center. So they have the same ambitions, but one is slightly ahead, yet, the potential in China is huge.

How has the NUS Business School prepared you to be a banker?

They have a strong curriculum that updates its students on how the business world is evolving. They invite good practitioners to share opinions. They have a good network among and beyond alumni whom you can leverage on for business and personal issues. I still meet my classmates; you can talk about things you can’t discuss with your colleagues. I’d strongly encourage people to join the NUS Business School.

NUS-SPRING-SBF Business Advisors Program Update


The Business Advisors Program is jointly-initiated by NUS Business School Alumni Association and Singapore Business Federation. It helps SMEs engage and capitalize on the expertise of Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) to achieve growth. It achieves this by matching and deploying NUS alumni PMETs as Business Advisors to NUS Alumni-run SMEs on short-term consulting assignments averaging six months. The PMETs exercise their expertise, experience and market knowledge to help the SMEs in their business strategies and operations.


Launch date:

31 July 2009 (Friday)

Latest count:

29 October 2009 (Monday)
139 alumni PMETs
59 SMEs
39 project proposals
(Target: 30 projects 14 months into launch)
35 PMET-SME matches


PMET Participants Speak

Ong Chun Teck (MBA 2008, MA 2006 & BBA (Hons) 1994), Business Consultant:
The NUS BAP provides an excellent opportunity for PMETs to both give and take. PMETs get to give of their expertise to help local SMEs, and take away invaluable experience in the process. More PMETs should take this up for individual growth and challenge.

More Information

Find out more about BAP
NUS-SPRING-SBF Business Advisors Program
Sign up as Business Advisor (English eFlyer / Chinese eFlyer)

IMBA 10th Anniversary Symposium & Dinner in Beijing


Date: 26 September 2009, Saturday

Time: 1.30pm – 6.00pm (Symposium) | 6.30pm – 9.00pm (Dinner)

Peking University, Alibaba Auditorium, Guanghua School of Management (Symposium)
The Lakeview Hotel*, Haidian District, Beijing, China (Dinner)

*less than 5 minutes walk from Alibaba Auditorium

NUS Business School
Peking University

Photo Gallery (Symposium) | Photo Gallery (Dinner)



The National University of Singapore Business and Guanghua School of Management, Peking University has affirmed 10 years of partnership with the signing of a third Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Beijing, China on 26 September.

With this, the two schools will continue to offer the NUS-PKU Double Degree MBA program. It is a full-time program which provides a unique platform for studying business and management in the two top China and Singapore universities.

Strengthening Ties

The occasion saw another MOU being signed between both schools. This seals the strategic alliance between both parties to foster international understanding, developing and friendship, by stimulating and supporting educational, professional and cross-cultural activities and projects in the field of management research and education, among the students, faculty, staff and business communities of the two institutions.

Celebrating with Symposium

To celebrate this special occasion, a symposium entitled “Towards an Asian Renaissance: The Rise of China” was organized to discuss China’s growing economic prowess. It covered China’s measures to navigate through the international financial crisis, and how it contributed to global recovery.

Two leading business titans were speakers at the event – Mr Liew Mun Leong, President & CEO of CapitaLand Group; and Captain Wei Jiafu, Executive President & CEO of COSCO. This was followed by an interactive panel discussion, moderated by Professor Bernard Yeung, Dean of NUS Business School and Professor Zhang Weiying, Dean of Guanghua School of Management.

300 attended the symposium.

Celebrating Over Dinner

The same night, 130 NUS Business School alumni and distinguished guests, including representatives from government agencies, descended on The Lake View Hotel in Beijing for a celebratory dinner. Among the milestones being celebrated were the 10 years of partnership between NUS Business School and Guanghua School of Management; NUS Business School’s 45th Anniversary; and the installation of the NUS Business School Northern China Alumni Network Executive Committee.

About the Programme

The International Master of Business Administration (IMBA) program is one of the world’s first MBAs conducted in both English and China. The signing of the MOU to continue the program beyond its first 10 years is truly a proud moment for NUS Business School which prides itself on the internationalization of its students and programs. NUS Business School is passionately dedicated to its motto of being Asia’s Global Business School.

Explore Singapore

Date: 5 September 2009, Saturday

Time: 7.00pm – 9.30pm

Venue: NUSS Suntec City Guild House

MBA Alumni – NUS

Photo Gallery



Foreigners make up a significant number among our MBA students. To help them get acquainted with their new home, the MBA Alumni – NUS organized Explore Singapore. After all, it makes perfect sense to assimilate one’s future members, not only into the local scene, but also among current alumni members.

And so, 23 were whisked away on a intimate tour of Singapore after a welcome by Suanny Gouw (APEX-E 2007), Honorary Treasurer of MBA Alumni – NUS. Among these were 14 MBA freshmen and 7 alumni – the perfect ratio for more meaningful personal interactions. Further assistance were provided by two staff members of the Global Alumni Network Office.

After the highly-successful event based on participants’ feedback, MBA Alumni-NUS is looking into collaborating with the Student Development Unit under Graduate Studies Office to conduct Exploring Singapore annually. Earlier too, to steer clear of critical academic dates on students’ calendar.

Participants Speak

Rituraj Singh (MBA 2011), from India:
For us freshmen from overseas, it was really nice to go around Singapore and locate the best places to visit. Thanks for being our guide. Also, it was really nice to meet our seniors, that is the alumni; have dinner with them in a very cozy and relaxed environment; and hear their experience. Events like this certainly do go a long way in engaging students.

Choi Han-Na (S3 Asia MBA 2010), from South Korea:
I appreciate having the chance to meet my predecessors among alumni. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, so I’m thankful I signed up for it. The entire event was organised to perfections; I can’t wait for future event updates – by email.

Working Across Borders

It is no surprise that a great number of one’s peers and colleagues today are foreigners. With vast improvements in technology making travel much more convenient, and the modern market place bringing in expanded opportunities, working abroad has become almost a way of life for many graduates chasing their dreams. You need only look right here in Singapore for a prime example of this.

What exactly is involved in the process of venturing overseas for one’s career? Is it as simple or as stressful as one would imagine? Thirteen alumni share their thoughts on making the move.

Advantages: Ultimate Journey of Self-discoverygano-nov09-BVworkoverseas

Having come from Australia, I already possessed the so-called Western perspective. By venturing abroad from there, I was not only better able to complete my picture of the world, especially in terms of business, I was also able to learn how to deal with Asians and make friends with people from the local community, giving me valuable business contacts.
– Andrew Graham (MBA 2008), Guest Booker, Guest Assignment Desk, CNBC Asia (Australian based in Singapore)

I came here because NUS Business School has a really good reputation, and allows me to remain near my homeland, India. Venturing overseas has broadened my vision, giving me greater exposure and opportunities, allowing me to better appreciate life.
– Harsh Rajpal (MBA 2006), Managing Director, i3 Consulting Pte Ltd (Indian based in Singapore)

Things are different overseas. For example, I’m glad that business relationships here are not as complicated as back in China!
– Lina Kong (MBA 2006), Consultant, Asia Now Pte Ltd (Chinese based in Singapore)

Choosing to work overseas has changed my world perspective completely. It has allowed me to see how I am viewed by others; given me a better understanding of Asia; increased my general knowledge, especially in the business sense; and helped me become a more mature, all-rounded individual.
– Piyush Deshmukh (MBA 2008), Business Analyst, Barclays Capital (Indian based in Singapore)

Nothing can compare to gaining an international experience! It’s indescribable!
– Japna (MBA 2008), Manager, AXA Asia Regional Centre (Indian based in Singapore)


Challenges: Courage to Venture, Determination to Adapt

Working overseas almost always requires working with people of different ages, nationalities and very different working styles. You often have to put aside things you are accustomed to, and adapt a great deal.
– Carlo Custodio (MBA 2006), Manager, Strategic Account Management, Asia-Pacific, Emerson Network Power (Filipino based in Singapore)

You have to be brave and keep an open mind when encountering an entirely new culture, people, things and perspective in a foreign land.
– Gerhard Schick (MBA 2007), Business Development Manager, Carl Zeiss (German based in Singapore)

Besides cultural differences, expectations also differ across countries. For instance, in Singapore, I find that you are expected to work much longer hours!
– Anupam Saha (MBA 2008), Senior Analyst Global Markets, Standard Chartered Bank (Indian based in Singapore)

Singaporeans on the whole are just not global enough, preferring to keep within their own space. Being too sheltered here makes it difficult for them to sacrifice all the comforts and convenience for uncertainty. There is also the fear of having to overcome a language barrier that deters many from venturing abroad.
– Edwin Chong (MBA 2007), Assistant Vice President, Hong Leong Finance (Singaporean based in Singapore)



Tips: Successful Move – Know its Value, Be Optimistic, Manage Smart

It is critical to get a diverse range of experience by working in different environments – cultural or geographical. This creates opportunities for career growth and personal enrichment. So, search for overseas opportunities. You can do this by expanding your network of friends and colleagues, and by articulating your skills and aspirations.
– Manash Dasgupta (APEX MBA 2003), Director, Regional Sales, Treasury and Trade Services, Citi (Indian based in Hong Kong)

Get excited about a career abroad. Learn as much as possible. Aim as high as you can . But don’t forget to adopt a “giving” attitude. Everything has obstacles, but obstacles bring challenges, and challenges can be fun. It’s all about the joy of overcoming them, and growing from it. It’s important to just enjoy the experience.
– Professor Bernard Yeung, Dean, NUS Business School (Hong Konger based in Singapore)

The most important factor is to psyche yourself up to be adaptive. Singapore, and even NUS itself, are great training grounds for learning to work in a multicultural setting. Singaporeans are naturally advantaged when it comes to taking up overseas assignments because of our fluency in English, and our strong multicultural living environment which equips us with open-mindedness. Coupled with sincerity and hard work, there’s little doubt that NUS graduates can succeed in foreign settings.
– Ng Chonhong (BBA 2002), Manager, Brand Strategy team, Global Marketing Operations, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (Malaysian based in Seoul, Korea)

If you’re gearing up to work in an overseas branch, don’t wait till last minute to ask head office for preparatory assistance. Once there, managing your head office is as important as managing the local operation. Don’t let pressures from your home office adversely affect your dealings with your local staff and associates. Keep your boss back home updated of your overseas operations without too many details; the more he knows, the more he will unnecessarily interfere. But always remember, you are ultimately accountable to the head office for the overseas assignment’s success or failure.
– Ng Jiak Hong (MBA 1991), President, Nexgen Mobile Limited (Singaporean based in Bangkok, Thailand)

Annual Alumni Get-together


Date: 3 October 2009

Venue: Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium and Alumni Terrace

E-Flyer | Photo Gallery  gano-nov09-Cover


If you’d ever had so much that even the rain couldn’t throw cold water on it, you can understand what it was like at the NUS Business School’s Oktoberfest feast on Saturday, 3 October.

The Alumni Conference and Oktoberfest 2009

A new tradition was created as The Alumni Conference, an idea conceived by Professor Bernard Yeung, Dean of the NUS Business School, rode on the back of the School’s traditional Oktoberfest celebration.

The Alumni Conference

It all began with a stimulating discussion in the Auditorium regarding the economic outlook following last year’s global financial meltdown. About 100 people attended the conference.

With Professor Duan Jin-Chuan, Director of NUS Risk Management Institute as moderator, the panel, comprising four luminaries in Singapore’s business landscape, threw up valuable insights from their respective business perspectives, and while their general outlook was cautious, it was certainly far from the gloom that overshadowed us last year.

Philip Overmyer, CEO, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, sounded the first bright note when he opened the discussion with his observations from the manufacturing industry’s conclusions on the events of 2009. In a nutshell, he said that “they found Q1 of 2009 a disaster, Q2 was better, and were cautiously optimistic about Q3“. He said, “companies like the government’s stimulus packages“, which helped blunt the full brunt of the global economic crisis. His cautionary point was not to overly depend on the perception of China’s ability to offset the economic handicap of the Americans, because the US is the fifth largest consumer in the world and is, thereby, largely “a consumer of goods whereas China is a producer of goods.

Kee Poir Mok, former Manager Director for Private Wealth Management, Goldman Sachs (Singapore) stated that the US was officially out of the recession in June 2009, which should have positive ripple effects on the rest of the world. He pointed out a few factors indicating that the worst is over. For instance, most economic indicators are pointing up, the US housing market has bottomed out, investors’ appetite for debt has returned, and more.

Teresa Lim, Manager Director, IBM Singapore, drew lessons from IBM’s past experienced which brought it back from the brink of bankruptcy. She said, “In the early 90s, IBM lost sight of business prudency and was about to go bankrupt. But in the midst of all that, its value system did not change – namely, trust, personal responsibility and integrity. So the company rebuilt itself based on that.” The IBM credo, as expressed by Ms Lim, is a testament of its dedication to clients’ success, and has allowed the company to withstand the storms buffeting its business and to remain strong even today. It’s a lesson that should resonate with floundering companies.

Charles Yong, Senior Client Partner, Korn/Ferry International sounded a word of concern that the short duration of the crisis might “mean that lessons were not learnt“. But he, too, was heartened by the observation that “companies are going back to basics and looking at talent, to find and groom them.

Mr Overmyer added to the debate during the Question & Answer session, lamenting that “too many people are saying they want to start at the top“. He advised that people need to invest time and effort to understand the business and company – and most of all, the customers in the sector they are serving – before they can aspire to advance in their careers.


After two years of holding the function off-campus, this year’s buffet was brought back to alumni’s home ground. A lot of thought went into the preparation – traditional Afro-Asian style firlights to set the mood for a balmy al fresco dinner, a live band in typical Munchen Oktoberfest fashion to rouse spirits (just in case the beer didn’t do the trick), and a hearty meal compared to previous years’ canapés and light food – making this not just an Oktober Fest, but Feast too!

With the atmosphere so artfully set, the guests were naturally more forgiving of unexpected rain which turned the party indoors, and of some equipment malfunction which delayed the party indoors, and of some equipment malfunction which delayed the proper flow of beer. It was all about taking things in the right spirit. No wonder the crowd grew to well over 200 people, with the last of the crowd leaving at 11 pm. Indeed, we should not be so proud of our strong alumni spirit!

Economic Recovery; The Tell-tale Signs

Kee Poir Mok, former Managing Director for Private Wealth Management, Goldman Sachs (Singapore) stated that the economy was slowly picking up. Some of the tell-tale signs he shared were:

1. Most economic indicators are pointing upwards.

2. The US housing market has bottomed out, and started recovering since 2008 Q3/Q4.

3. The improved housing market, combined with a strong equity market, has resulted in better consumer confidence.

4. The strong economic growth we are witnessing in Brazil, China, India and other emerging markets may offset the decline in the US and European economies.

5. Credit spread has narrowed and investors’ appetite for debt has returned.

6. Steeper yield curve has allowed banks to be more profitable, and any sign of profitability makes it easier for banks to rebuild capital.

7. The market is flushed with liquidity. During the 2009 bull run, most investors were on the sidelines. Those who have been burnt are unlikely to participate for some time, those still burning are unlikely to have the means to participate in the markets, so only those who have not been burnt or affected may have enjoyed the full effect of this bull run.

8. Regulators have more hard data, better market intelligence and co-ordination, and more power to prevent economics from slipping back into recession.

NUS-SPRING-SBF Business Advisors Program Orientation to SMEs

Date: 21 – 22 October 2009 (Wednesday – Thursday)

Time: 8.30am – 5.30pm

Venue: Shaw Foundation Alumni House, Seminar Room 4

Organizers: Office of Executive Education, NUS Business School

Photo Gallery


As part of the NUS-SPRING-SBF Business Advisors Program, some PMETS had earlier been successfully matched with their respective SME companies. Six became the first batch to participate in this engaging and insightful 2-day orientation to SME corporate culture and environment. Dr Mike Teng (MBA 1980), Managing Director of Corporate Turnaround Centre Pte Ltd, conducted the orientation where he also spoke on “Professional Versus Entrepreneurial Management.”

Through role-play segments and case studies, participants were exposed to organization dynamics and other strategic issues that SMEs face. Role-playing further taught participants about the different leadership and communication styles of SMEs, and how SMEs differ from MNCs.

This orientation session has proven itself to be an effective transition, and an exciting start, as these PMETs prepared to join and mentor their respective SMEs.

Participants Speak

Man Mun Leong (NUS Engineering 1984):
The interaction and sharing with other industry professionals were very illuminating and educational. This is an excellent program which I’ll be guide indebted to!

More Information

Find out more about BAP
NUS-SPRING-SBF Business Advisors Program Update
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