In the Hot Seat

CapitaLand China’s Deputy CEO & Chief Investment Officer, Mr Lucas Loh, shares insights on career-management, investments in China and his oasis amidst the heat

Issue: Jun 2013

Mr Loh is known for his humour but maintains he is an introvert at heart
Mr Loh is known for his humour but maintains he is an introvert at heart

Deputy Chief Executive Officer & Chief Investment Officer, CapitaLand China, Mr Lucas Loh, breezes into the room with a big smile and brings with him a warmth that emanates from his very being. His reputation for being humorous precedes him although he reveals right at the start that he is, in fact, quiet by nature.

“I did one of those personality tests once and it revealed that I was an introvert. In truth, given a choice, I prefer to be quiet. I’m a simple person,” he shared. “But when my colleagues found out about the results, they accused me of getting my secretary to fill in my profile. They didn’t believe that I was an introvert.”

Mr Loh admits that often, his extroversion is a function of his job, one that he has been doing since 2007. He is responsible for the company's real estate investment and asset management in China and also its real estate development business in South China.

For six years before that, he was the Managing Director for The Ascott Limited in China and the man under whose tenure the business nearly tripled, expanding from just eight to twenty-two properties.

When asked about the secret of his success, Mr Loh was modest.

“It was the right time,” he demurred. “The market was ready to recognise and endorse the products. I won’t claim a single credit for this. It was the timing, us capitalising on Ascott’s well-known brand name and the team’s hard work in securing contracts and investments.”

Advice Hot Off the Press

Mr Loh worked at The Ascott Limited for six years, a move he attributes to sound advice given to him at the start of his career
Mr Loh worked at The Ascott Limited for six years, a move he attributes to sound advice given to him at the start of his career

Mr Loh’s tenure of six years in The Ascott Limited was the result of a piece of advice that was given to him early in his career.

“Get out of Singapore,” said Mr Loh when asked about the hottest piece of advice he ever got. “Globalisation was the hot topic at that time. To grow, one had to be able to tap into opportunities outside of Singapore or deal with things that get you outside of the country. The advice got me thinking about my career.”

So, in 1996, after four years on his first job as a real estate appraiser with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), Mr Loh took up a position at Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd as its Associate Director for Private Equity Investment, covering North Asia.

“Going to Temasek was an important period in my career because it gave me the foundation I needed to do what I do today,” reflected Mr Loh. “I was given the chance to evaluate a wide array of companies from real estate to hotel, manufacturing and technology. I got exposed to the different fundamentals of each industry.”

Mr Loh was also to privy to many board meetings and got to see how the who’s who in the business world worked.

“I was being exposed to strategic matters that I otherwise would not have the chance to be involved in had I worked elsewhere.”

After five years of that, Mr Loh was ready for another challenge that would take him “out of Singapore”.

“I realise I had not run a company on my own. I was assessing other people’s company with no real experience even of managing a group of people or operating a business. It wasn’t right,” said Mr Loh.

That was why he took up the challenge to join The Ascott Limited when the opportunity came, first as their business development head for North Asia and subsequently as the Managing Director in China between 2001 and 2007.

The savvy investor has, in turn, passed on some good advice to his kids.

“I tell them to invest wisely in their studies because it is going to make a difference in their lives,” he smiled.

His 19-year-old daughter is a first-year student at National University of Singapore’s Business School and his 12-year-old son is in an American school in Guangzhou where Mr Loh and his family are based.

Mr Loh himself was a conscientious student. In Bedok View Primary School, he did so well in his PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) that he was selected to go to a SAP (Special Assistance Plan) School designed to nurture bilingual students. However, Mr Loh chose not to pursue the SAP track of education at that time. After secondary school, he went on to one of the top junior colleges, Temasek Junior College and then to the National University of Singapore where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Estate Management.

Hot Investment Tips

Mr Loh with his staff – He has been in China for the last decade, attending to the Group’s assets and growing them
Mr Loh with his staff – He has been in China for the last decade, attending to the Group’s assets and growing them

That Mr Loh is good at what he does is evident in the numbers.

When asked about the hottest sectors in China to invest in, the astute market-watcher considered his options and said, “The energy sector, the medical sector and, of course, the real estate sector.”

He went on to explain that as China expands, its energy needs would increase, making the sector a lucrative one particularly for new sources of energy that goes beyond coal. The medical sector was a natural choice given the sheer number of people in China. Finally, the real estate sector is a result of economic growth.

“Other than housing needs, the rest are derived demands – people need offices to run business, factories to produce things, hospitals for medical care, malls to buy their necessities,” he reasoned. “With increased urbanisation comes an increase in demand in the real estate sector.”

Other hot developments in China to look out for, says Mr Loh, are the rising number of Raffles City developments which stand at four now but will double in number in the next few years.

“As the city matures, their need for integrated development will increase. We have an edge in not just developing mixed development but also running it. This is where we can differentiate ourselves in China,” said Mr Loh.

Keeping Cool under Heat

Mr and Mrs Loh and family
Mr and Mrs Loh and family

When things get heated at work, it is his family that helps Mr Loh keep his cool.

“Looking at my wife and kids helps me to see the important things in life,” he confided. “My home is my oasis.”

He also relaxes by watching his wife cook and eating her food.

“She makes very good curry, especially fish head curry. In fact, she makes all the Singapore food that I can’t get in China. So whenever I am not travelling, I make it a point to go home for dinner. She cooks so well, that is why I look like this,” he laughs, gesturing at his figure. “I was very skinny in school.”

Whether dispensing advice, investment tips or life lessons, this man whose warm personality endears himself to all certainly knows how to keep his cool in the hot seat.

Mr Loh considers his family his oasis and credits them with helping him keep his perspective and his cool
Mr Loh considers his family his oasis and credits them with helping him keep his perspective and his cool
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