AWARDS: Kwek on CDL’s journey of renewal and transformation

Sherman Kwek’s first 10 months as group CEO of City Developments Ltd (CDL) has been full of ups and downs, “akin to a roller-coaster ride”. He adds: “You never know what’s around each corner and just when you think the ride is smooth, there is a sharp curve or stomach-twisting loop when you least expect it!”
This was despite the mental preparation since August last year when it was announced that he would be taking over as CEO from Jan 1, 2018. He had even come up with a roadmap to hit the ground running.
Kwek: Change is something that people are very resistant to and many would rather stay in their comfort zone (Credit: CDL)
On Oct 3, CDL won in the Top Developer category at the EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards 2018. As a third-generation chief of a sprawling real estate business with an illustrious history spanning more than 55 years and a market capitalisation of close to $9 billion, the 42-year-old Kwek is determined to prove himself.
“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he says. “A lot needs to be done, especially in this day and age of disruption and innovation. We must constantly strengthen, transform and even re- invent ourselves to stay relevant.”
At the start of his tenure in January, Kwek declared to the entire organisation his manifesto: “A journey of renewal and transformation.” He even crafted a three-pronged strategy with the acronym GET: Growth, Enhancement and Transformation.
CDL’s Singapore corporate office has 392 staff today, according to the company’s 2018 integrated sustainability report. “As a company becomes bigger in size, there are bound to be some growing pains,” Kwek admits. “These three elements — good teamwork, execution and innovation — start to really suffer. Consistent with human nature, change is something that people are very resistant to and many would rather stay in their comfort zone, hence stifling the innovation that is urgently required in the face of such rapid evolution and disruption.”

Replenishing landbank

Artist's impression of the upcoming commercial and residential project site at Sengkang Central that CDL and CapitaLand had won in August this year (Credit: CapitaLand)