UOB launches initiative to help next generation leaders of Asia's family-led firms

UNITED Overseas Bank (UOB) will bring 50 next generation Asian business leaders to China in November this year, for them to explore opportunities and connect with local business leaders for knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The move is part of The Business Circle, a new UOB initiative launched on Tuesday to help prepare the next generation heads of Asia's family-led firms to run their businesses and fast track growth.

It is also open to the bank's clients, including young entrepreneurs who have built successful companies. These are defined by UOB as entrepreneurs under the age of 40, with businesses of at least S$20 million in turnover.

The Business Circle aims to create a "community of next generation family business owners who, by learning from successful entrepreneurs, are able to fast track their own company's growth", said the bank in a media release.

UOB and its partners will run masterclasses and workshops for The Business Circle on topics such as business diversification, digitalisation and cross-border expansion.

The bank will also organise business missions overseas, with the first trip planned for Chengdu and Chongqing, China.

There, participants will visit the Liangjiang New Area's Digital Economy Industrial Park to learn how companies utilise technology to design solutions, in a bid to widen their market reach or improve customer experience, UOB said. They will also visit Alibaba's technology-driven supermarket, Hema, to understand how the company is redesigning its retail experience.

As of Sept 10, UOB has identified 10 "visionary entrepreneurs" who have built international, medium-sized firms with a combined turnover of S$4 billion. These include Andy Chaw from Style 360, Albert Phuay from Excelpoint Systems, and Peter Lim from Moneymax Financial Services.

Among other things, members will learn how to sustain growth by tapping "deep industry insights, business acumen and innovative thinking of the business leaders", UOB said.

The bank added that the initiative will also facilitate cross-industry and cross-border connections and collaborations for its members across the region.

Frederick Chin, UOB's head of group wholesale banking and markets, said: "At UOB, we are committed to helping companies remain relevant and competitive for the long term. Family firms are a significant contributor to Asia's continued economic growth, accounting for 34 per cent of the region's gross domestic product... The Business Circle will be a virtuous circle where valuable experience and knowledge are passed from one generation of business owners to the next."

One established entrepreneur identified by UOB is Mr Phuay, chairman and group CEO of Excelpoint Technology, a regional firm providing electronic components and engineering design and supply chain management services.

Last year, the firm set up its entrepreneurial and investment arm PlanetSpark to invest in early to mid-stage start-ups in Singapore and Asia that are related to the Internet of Things ecosystem.

Said Mr Phuay: "One challenge many entrepreneurs face is in building a team of good people. This is possibly the most important factor for success as you cannot grow alone. Therefore, the focus on nurturing the next batch of leaders has always been important at Excelpoint. The launch of The Business Circle by UOB resonates with me as it will build a community of next generation leaders and create a platform for them to share their experiences."

The launch of The Business Circle was attended by more than 300 business owners from Singapore, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand on Tuesday.

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