Love, Joy And Profound Gratitude
CEO of Quill Capita Management, Mr Chan Say Yeong, shares how life's lessons have helped him remain grateful.
Issue: Jun 2010
Armed with a heart of gratitude, Mr Chan Say Yeong meets life's challenges head to head and in his own stride
Always count your blessings – that’s what Mr Chan Say Yeong, CEO of Quill Capita Management Sdn Bhd and MD of CapitaLand Commercial Malaysia, tells himself everyday.
But the 47-year-old proud father of two had very little to begin life with. He was born to a pair of humble rattan weavers in Penang, Malaysia.
“My parents were living from hand to mouth to support us. I was the youngest of five children. I used to follow my mother to the factory backyards, scavenging for plastic box straps to be recycled and woven into baskets and bags to sell at night markets. Those were hard times as we lived way below the poverty line,” recalls Mr Chan.
But Mr Chan’s parents knew the value of education and encouraged their young son to study hard. And he did. Mr Chan did so well that he was granted the ASEAN Scholarship by the Singapore government. He ventured out of his hometown for the first time when he came to Singapore to study at Hwa Chong Junior College. Later, he earned an Accountancy degree from the National University of Singapore.
“My life would have taken a different course without this scholarship,” Mr Chan says gratefully.
He ain’t Heavy
This sense of gratitude, stemmed from his humble beginnings, has helped Mr Chan through much of his personal challenges.
“I’m thankful for what life has dealt me. Whether it’s a good or a bad hand, the choices I make always reflect the appreciation of what I receive,” he shares.
A devoted father, Mr Chan celebrates every milestone reached by six-year-old Jasper, who is autistic
This rang especially true when he discovered that one of his sons was born with special needs. Six-year-old Jasper, the younger of two, struggles with speech and language processing delays, typical of children with autism.
“Every milestone Jasper reaches is a cause for celebration in our home. With the support of my wife who is a fulltime homemaker, we have helped him to overcome many developmental hurdles. I believe that the greatest gift you can give a child is the essence of your true self. For Jasper, acceptance is key. How many times do we miss God's blessings because they are not packaged as we expected?” explains Mr Chan.
Indeed he counts his every blessing. “I am always grateful to be blessed with two healthy children who bring me endless joy and teach me many lessons in humility.”
Learning the Ropes
His humility and willingness to learn has helped him transit from banking to the real estate industry. Mr Chan spent six years working in the Corporate Finance Department of Citibank Malaysia before joining CapitaLand in 2002.
He held the position of Managing Director of CapitaLand Financial Limited based in Malaysia before heading CapitaLand's first overseas REIT.
“Much of my time is spent immersing myself in the local property market while learning the ropes from my mentors at CapitaLand. Learning to recognize a good property to invest when it comes along is what I like most about working in real estate. Observing key industry players, determining the perfect timing to invest in and expanding my product knowledge in dynamic markets are some of the real estate concerns that I enjoy exploring during the course of my work. I view each day as an opportunity to discover something new about my industry, my company and myself,” he lets in.
He soon discovers his most challenging period in his eight years with the Group, in 2007.
“The most trying period for me was during the IPO of Quill Capita Trust, having had to deal with listing rules and capital market issues. The fact that we emerged unscathed made this experience one of the highlights of my job,” he recalls.
Investing in Malaysian Properties
Since he joined CapitaLand over eight years ago, Mr Chan has become a keen observer of the property market in Malaysia. He observes that the quality of Malaysian properties has improved significantly, largely influenced by the benchmarks set in Singapore.
Mr Chan has grown to be a keen observer of the Malaysian property market, steering and helping CapitaLand set trends and standards in the industry
"CapitaLand is the frontrunner of innovative property development and the real estate capital market. We are also affectionately known as the 'Big Brother' of property players in the region. Since establishing its Malaysian presence, it has been consistently setting trends that are immediately followed by other developers. For example, back in 2006, CapitaLand was the first to launch a project fitted with air-conditioning, wardrobes, and a kitchen fully equipped with appliances and cabinets. Today, this practice has become an industry standard and the minimum standard requirement expected by more sophisticated purchasers," he observes.
The retail sector in Malaysia has also seen significant changes. There are now a wider selection of upscale businesses, which includes international brands for merchandises and F&B, catering to savvy shoppers who demand better services at the shopping malls. In turn, vast improvements have been made to the maintenance, cleanliness, quality of management and mall events and promotions over the last few years.
So, with rapid urbanization, the long term outlook for property investment in Malaysia is a positive.
“Investing in Malaysia’s property is akin to investing in its economy. For example, if palm oil demand and prices go up, consumers would be enjoying higher disposable incomes. When that happens, residential properties perform better across the board and there would be a higher demand for retail and commercial developments for investment purpose. In the long term, a growing economy with a young population will ensure a continuous demand for residential properties. There will inevitably be periods when supply outstrips demand, affecting the rental market but the situations usually ease over time,” Mr Chan advises.
Paying it Forward
Much of how Mr Chan has developed, professionally and personally, has largely been credited to working with so many talented people in CapitaLand. It continues to be a humbling experience for him.
“Strength of character is a true indication of the drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, willpower and courage of a person. Where I lacked in each of these areas, I caught up over the past eight years in CapitaLand,” he reflects.
Mr Chan capturing a moment with his mentors: Mr Kee Teck Koon, (former Chief Investment Officer of CapitaLand Limited) and Mr Wen Khai Meng (Chief Investment Officer, CapitaLand Limited
Mr Chan enjoys the camaraderie he shares with his colleagues
Two people within the organisation, in particular, have significantly inspired him: Mr Kee Teck Koon, former Chief Investment Officer, CapitaLand Limited and Wen Khai Meng, Chief Investment Officer, CapitaLand Limited.
“These gentlemen are willing to impart their knowledge and experience. They manage their leadership style as appropriate to facilitate personal or organizational growth. I regard them as my adviser, guide, counselor, teacher and initiator because they are interested in helping others acquire the awareness and confidence necessary to fulfill their potential,” says Mr Chan.
It’s precisely this core focus on developing its people that drives CapitaLand to stratospheric heights. Mr Chan feels privileged to be one of the many beneficiaries of this policy and wants to pay it forward.
“One of the most important things I’ve gained from working in CapitaLand is a profound sense of unity among my colleagues; like-minded individuals who strive to make the world a better place, one innovation at a time. Working together to solve common problems ensures a greater chance of success and CapitaLand recognizes the principle of strength in numbers. So, I will always go the extra mile to pay it forward for someone within the organization who is in need of my assistance,” he humbly adds.
A fun-loving father who doesn’t mind watching Toy Story for the 100th time with his two boys, eight-year-old Jaden and six-year-old Jasper
Lessons in Love, Life and Sacrifice
Fiercely dedicated to his work and family, Mr Chan has learnt to selflessly set aside his own needs in pursuit of others’.
“Sacrifice is a commitment to love. Love for family, friends and colleagues. This means putting the needs of others before my own, something Jasper has taught me to be very good at. Most of my leisure pursuits have been put on the back burner but I feel a lot of contentment and satisfaction when I reflect in quiet contemplation,” he says.
Devoted to his wife and two sons, he says they keep his feet firmly on the ground so that he never loses focus of his priorities. Despite his busy schedule he finds time to help out with Jasper.
“Dedication is a devotion to a cause or an individual regardless of failure or setbacks. I have never stopped trying to find ways to help my son achieve the next milestone, however small it may be. A simple scrawl or overcoming the fear of water, are giant leaps in Jasper’s development. Things that other parents take for granted are nothing short of miracles for us,” he explains.
Indeed, Mr Chan takes nothing for granted. He’s not burdened by cares, he says. Instead, he continues to count his blessings everyday.