Simon Phua (BBA Hons 1976)
We continue this issue’s commencement theme with a closer look at the NUS Business School Alumni Association (NUSBSA) committee’s newly elected president, Mr Simon Phua (BBA Hons 1976), to understand what makes the man tick and what he has in store for the Alumni Committee during his tenure as president.
Simon is no stranger to the committee, having been on the NUSBSA Board of Directors in 2006 and 2007. He was brought in by a fellow alumnus he had stayed in contact with since his NUS days, and he made his presence felt by leading a successful fundraising drive that contributed towards the Building Excellence Fund for the Mochtar Riady building. By organizing golf competitions in 2007 and 2008, the committee raised $400,000, before government matching.
The right time
Now that Simon as more time to spare since his three children have grown up and his business more or less runs itself, he decided to stand for election as president. While he is able to pace his time and devote about 30% of it to committee matters, he is determined that it is to be time well spent. “It is easy to stand aside and criticize and do nothing,” Simon explains of his motivation to serve in the alumni committee again. “But when you are involved, you understand the challenges that the committee faces and there is a desire to make a change.”
Strategy for growth
So what plans does Simon have? “There are many things that need to be done,” he explains. “We need to look at ways to bring people to become active alumni members.” He recognizes the challenge of competing for people’s already limited time. “If we just offer social events alone, we are competing with so many other similar societies and we have to then ask ourselves why our alumni should spend time with us over their other interests.”
Something needs to change, so Simon is thinking of how to get NUSBSA’s message across that every alumnus has a role to play. “We are looking for our fellow alumni to contribute towards financial sponsorship and giving their time back to their alma mater.” Simon believes that the support of alumni is necessary for the university to progress and that their involvement should start while they are still students. “If we can create that mindset in the present students of the school, I think this will be easier than trying to reconnect with older alumni and tring to change their mindset.”
To this aim, the committee has been formed with some young directors who are already engaging present students, spreading the message that their association with the school does not end upon graduation. “We want them to take ownership in the school and have a sense of pride in NUS Business School,” Simon adds.
This ambitious new president is looking for people with passion, and not just in the young. He wants to reach out to all age groups. His multi-pronged strategy for alumni recruitment is in part aimed at attracting dynamic older alumni as well as the young. The committee plans to do this partly through attendance at reunion gatherings, where like-minded people who share the same vision are sought. Another two prongs in the strategy are the formation of a women’s group and bringing back alumni to share their expertise.\
Bringing leadership skills to the fore
While Simon has many ideas and is eager to implement them with the help and support of his fellow committee members, he expects challenges ahead. “As with any business, you are dealing with people and that requires a great deal of tact and sensitivity,” he explains. Simon intends to draw from their ideas, experiences and strengths, but also seeks their support with the changes he intends to make, changes he wouldn’t be able to implement without his team’s input. The management and leadership skills Simon has accumulated over the years will stand him in good stead as he gets prepared to lead the NUSBSA committee into a new era of growth.