CapitaLand to focus on people, sustainability, digitalisation in next 20 years: CEO

Janet Ong
·Finance Editor
·3-min read

SINGAPORE— The one thing that CapitaLand Group chief Lee Chee Koon worried about the most during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping the jobs of the people who work for the group.

“The thing that I worried the most was about the jobs of all the people who work for the company because it not only affects them but also their families,” Lee, group chief executive officer of CapitaLand, said in a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the group’s listing on the Singapore exchange.

During the pandemic, it was the “all-for-one, one-for-all” team spirit that kept him going, Lee added.

“We needed to make sure we have a strong balance sheet, cash flow, make sure that we could protect as many jobs as possible, and keep capacity for us to take different counter cyclical investment opportunities,” Lee said.

His comment was in response to a question by Yahoo Finance Singapore, which was one of the 20 questions from the media and members of the public presented in the video. These questions, ranging from his leadership philosophy to lessons learnt from COVID-19, helped in shaping the new business transformation framework – “The Next 20” (TN20).

The framework supports CapitaLand’s vision of becoming a global real estate player as the Group continues to invest in its strategic growth businesses: development across asset classes in its core markets, and global expansion.

TN20 will focus on the three core tenets of People, Sustainability and Digitalisation, to “enable the Group to prevail and thrive in this time of dramatic changes”, according to a statement on Friday (20 November).

The impact of COVID-19 is expected to adversely impact CapitaLand’s financial performance for 2020, but the group’s fundamentals remain strong and its financial position continues to be resilient, Lee said.

“Notwithstanding short-term challenges, we expect CapitaLand to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. ‘The Next 20’ will provide the framework for growth and progress through innovation and renewal within the group,” Lee said.

The group has committed to 90 job positions for fresh graduates and mid-career joiners under the SGUnited Traineeships Programme and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme. CapitaLand also seeks to accelerate sustainability, innovation and collaboration to meet its goals set out in its 2030 Sustainability Master Plan that was unveiled last month.

Future of work, retail

The post-COVID work environment itself will also likely change, according to Lee. In response to a questions in the video, he said that “for many companies, we need to accept a more flexible work arrangement”.

“My own view is that offices will need to be redesigned going forward, but personally, I feel that the office setting is still important. It is a place where people build up social capital, trust, team spirit, camaraderie.”

As for his thoughts on the local retail scene, Lee said in the video that he was initially a bit concerned because of the pressure of e-commerce, but over the last few years the company has seen successful entrepreneurs taking their business into the physical malls and he is “very optimistic”.

When asked to describe 2020 in a tweet in the video, Lee said, “The challenges and struggles we are facing in 2020 will develop the strengths we need for years to come”.

Related stories:

CapitaLand to offset mall tenants' March rent with 1 month of security deposit

CapitaLand becomes latest company in Singapore to freeze wages

7 Key Things to Know About the CapitaLand Mall Trust and CapitaLand Commercial Trust Merger