Sunday, 31 May 2015

Singapore honours top business execs

Early backer of Singapore among four senior business executives feted
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 30 May 2015

WHEN global management consultancy McKinsey & Company was first set up here in 1998, Singapore's business landscape was a limited one.

"The mix of businesses was mostly limited to basic manufacturing," recalled the firm's global managing director Dominic Barton in an interview with reporters yesterday.

"People were even laughing at Singapore's ambition to become a financial centre."

But back then, he set store by the country's economic potential, and was an early advocate of its role in creating business and management insights for Asia as a whole.

Mr Barton was conferred national honours by President Tony Tan Keng Yam for his contributions to Singapore at the Istana yesterday, along with three other senior business executives.

He and Mr Michael Splinter, chairman of semiconductor giant Applied Materials, received the Public Service Star (Distinguished Friends of Singapore) award.

Mr Paul Graham, DHL Supply Chain's global chief operating officer and chief executive of mainland Europe, Middle East and Africa, was presented with the Public Service Medal (Friends of Singapore).

Mr Gautam Banerjee, who is senior managing director at Blackstone and co-chairman of its Asia operating committee, as well as chairman of Blackstone Singapore, was awarded the Public Service Medal.

Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman Beh Swan Gin said in a statement that all four award recipients have played "instrumental roles" in the continued growth of Singapore's business landscape.

"Their strong support has led to the development of new capabilities in their respective sectors, and created exciting job opportunities for Singaporeans."

Said Mr Barton, who has been a member of EDB's International Advisory Council since 2011: "It has been a privilege to contribute to... and serve the leading institutions of a city-state as dynamic and diverse as Singapore."

Under his leadership, McKinsey established the McKinsey Innovation Campus in 2011, aimed at helping companies understand new markets, harness technology, build new business models and boost productivity.

It was a first in the professional industry here at that time.

Mr Barton also supported the setting up of McKinsey Solutions' regional hub in Singapore, helping firms leverage on technology and data science.

He launched the McKinsey Development Programme earlier this year to attract and develop future leaders from its Singapore office.

"The ambition Singapore had in building up its economy was staggering," said Mr Barton, who is now based in London, adding that the country's constant push for "the next step" has led to excellence across its business landscape.

"Companies today are asking us, as a firm, how they can apply the 'Singapore model' to their business. Everyone wants to be like that. This is a place where when people agree to do things, it gets done. That is very energising."

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