Date: 3 October 2009
Venue: Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium and Alumni Terrace
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!