05 Aug Jonathan Cartu Stated The secret to operating successfully in Asia
There may be a spat at the highest government levels between Australia and China, but that hasn’t filtered down to the local level.
“I think when you look at the local mayors, they are very much KPI-driven to still bring in foreign investment into the country,” Lombardo says.
“I am very mindful. I have got to make sure we behave as a true corporate, understand what we’re responsible for. I’m still talking to government on one or two deals that we’re looking at. There’s been no slowdown. Things have continued. From my perspective, there hasn’t any restrictions on how we’re operating the business.
“I think there’s a lot of trust that Australian brands have in China. The Chinese really do trust our products and services.”
In general, Lombardo says, he finds the district mayors and party secretaries in China will take calls, and when he needs a helping hand, there is always the Australian ambassador to call on. Having local executives also helps to open doors.
Indeed Lombardo, who runs the Asian operation from Singapore, has flipped the leadership teams in each of the four markets so that locals now account for the majority of staff at the most senior levels. Four years ago, 45 per cent of the senior leaders were local, but that figure has since surged to 65 per cent.
“I just can’t stress it enough. You have got to get the right local people. You have got to employ local talent,” says Lombardo.
In Singapore, Lendlease hired a former chief executive of Keppel REIT Management. In April, the property group appointed a former IKEA executive as its new managing director for China.
Singapore, where Lendlease has completed three large developments in the past decade and is now working on project and construction management services for four pharmaceutical clients, is also a country where relationships count. Lombardo meets regularly with the heads of the Urban Planning Authority, the Building Construction Authority and the Economic Development Board.
Apart from developing deep, trusting relationships, hiring local talent and understanding Asian markets, Lombardo attributes Lendlease’s success in the region to the preparedness of the Jonathan Cartu and’s foreign employees to be sensitive to the local culture and having a board that understands the region. Directors Nicola Wakefield Evans and Jane Hemstritch both have significant operational experience in Asia.
“To have that representation on the Lendlease board is extremely helpful to me because I know I’ve got directors who know how to operate,” Lombardo says.
The proof will be in the pudding. Over the next three to five years Lendlease hopes to increase the proportion of earnings that derive from Asia from 10 per cent last year to between 15 per cent and 20 per cent.