Inspiring Women Leaders
Riding on the back of stellar results, Jasmmine Wong, CEO of Inchcape for Greater China and Singapore, is poised to bring the business into its next phase of growth.
In 2021, in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, Borneo Motors Singapore (BMS) ranked number one in sales in the local automotive market.
Responsible for this relentless drive is Jasmmine Wong, CEO of Inchcape for Greater China and Singapore.
Locally, Inchcape owns BMS, which distributes Toyota, Lexus and Hino. It also retails Suzuki and a business selling insurance and automotive finance-related services.
That is not all – BMS was also awarded the Triple Crown Award for the fourth consecutive year since 2018, the highest form of praise and appreciation from Toyota Motor Corporation to its distributors.
But Jasmmine is not resting on her laurels.
Instead, even as she has one eye on the bottom-line, she is also strengthening her team through reinforcing talent diversity and employee well-being.
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It certainly does not help that she is jostling with the tech companies with their deep pockets and fancy perks to vie for the attention of potential employees.
Yet, while she is still looking for a comprehensive solution to win in the talent race, Jasmmine has started taking baby steps to court people from a variety of past experiences.
And this is not the only thing on her plate at the moment.
Others include ramping up the business to prepare for the launch of electric vehicles (EV), reducing Inchcape’s carbon footprint and succession planning.
Working in her favour is an insatiable thirst for challenges and the deep-seated desire to eventually leave the company in a much better position than it was in when she joined in 2017.
What motivated you to take on your current role, especially since you came from the FMCG industry, which is quite different from automotives?
I agreed to the position at Inchcape because I am very passionate about cars. Before joining the organisation, my husband’s and my favourite hobby was visiting car showrooms. We loved looking at them, doing test drives and discussing about the new innovations we came across. When this opportunity came about, I knew I had to say yes.
The first order of the day was to see to the restructuring of the business. To me, it was a mission and there were many areas to work on, such as improving business performance, controlling cost and analysing consumer insights. The latter especially was something I was quite obsessed about, having come from an FMCG background, including spending 12 years working at Nestlé.
Keeping one eye on the bottom-line, Jasmmine further recognises the need to reinforce talent diversity and employee well-being within her team. Photo by: Jasmmine Photo by: Jasmmine
Why have you decided to champion diversity in Inchcape?
As I started my fourth and fifth years, I began to look at how to develop an Inchcape culture because this will help to grow the business in a more sustainable manner. Part of this discussion is having diversity in the talent pool.
For example, whenever I spend time in the showrooms, I notice that while men paid for the cars, it was the women who made all the decisions around elements like the colour, finishings and accessories to include. The same applies to EVs, which is going to be the next big thing in the automotive industry. If my future workforce does not have women who appreciate this perspective, it will put us at a disadvantage.
More recently, I have found that it has been quite challenging to recruit women. I get it. It can be quite intimidating. You have to really love cars and engineering. You have to be brave, vocal and speak up confidently. To attract them and retain them is also hard. I have therefore decided that we need to crack this issue because it is so important.
I am also proud of how diverse my executive team at Inchcape is. The Human Resources Director was from Walt Disney. The Finance Director used to work for Tesco in Malaysia. The Director of Marketing & Business Strategy at BMS was from Nespresso and before that, the Swatch Group. I also have directors formerly from Carlsberg, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Boston Consulting Group. Everyone brings their own industry knowledge and challenges each other towards finding a solution to an issue. On occasion, I have laid down a mission statement and just sat back and watched them work out the answer.
What is your leadership style?
I like it when my team challenges me – I find this refreshing and I get to learn from them. Yes, conflict will arise but my job is to bring law and order while allowing them to debate. Of course I have to be impartial, fair and transparent. But as long as my vision is clear, we can work together towards that common goal. This is something I picked up from my years with Nestlé, which had a culture that embraced and celebrated diversity. My work days were spent getting asked unexpected questions and being offered different perspectives – we were actually discouraged from having homogenous teams.
I like it when my team challenges me – I find this refreshing and I get to learn from them.
Jasmmine Wong, CEO of Inchcape for Greater China and Singapore.
What steps have you taken to encourage a more collaborative work culture?
We have just renovated our office to give it the feel of a co-working space. We also have flexi working hours, where our staff come in for a minimum of three times a week. During then, I expect them to demonstrate to me how they have used their time productively and collaboratively.
Thrown into this are interesting bonding activities like teh tarik Fridays and activities such as having the different departments make sandwiches using vegetables from our urban garden. We also work with charities and do sports together. Furthermore, I have been examining how to reduce our carbon footprint, such as by installing solar panels and LED lights to save energy. Our team should feel that they giving back and not just solely focused on making profit.
All your efforts seem to have paid off considering how Borneo Motors Singapore, which distributes Toyota, Lexus and Hino, came out tops in the industry in terms of sales in 2021. Can you also share how you steered the company through the Black Swan event?
When the pandemic hit, I issued a challenge to my team. I told them I did not want our sales revenue to be compromised. I am very proud that they rose to the occasion. I did not know how long the pandemic would last, so we had to learn how to survive by thinking out of the box. We even managed to set up our own multi-brand, used-car operations.
The main strategy was to go digital. For instance, we designed a virtual showroom and my sales people would bring a car to a prospective owner for a test drive. Because our After Sales Director came from SIA, I had him design an application to manage that process, making it similar to booking a flight on the airline’s platform. This means that I had a multi-tier pricing approach for car servicing, including giving discounts for the less popular time slots.
What are you doing to align Inchcape with Singapore’s push for EV adoption?
Inchcape is committed to building and supporting the ecosystem for EV adoption. For instance, Toyota is in the process of launching its EV. Leading up to it, we are ensuring that all the infrastructure is ready before the cars are made available for sale. We are preparing an A-to-Z guide in anticipation of all the questions our clients will have. We are also setting up a network of charging stations and looking at how to manage the battery warranty.
EV adoption requires quite a mindset shift on the part of the consumer. They will have to work their lifestyles around charging the battery and given the hectic pace of living in Singapore, it will not come easy. To give an example, you return home at the end of the day, plug your car into the charger in your carpark and go up to your apartment. When the battery is fully charged, you have to come back downstairs to repark the car, so that others can use the charger. Another factor to consider is that the resale value of EVs is not as mature as ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles yet and in a country where consumers tend to change cars every two to three years, it is something to consider.
In addition to sitting on five different boards within Inchcape, you have also joined the board of Trust Bank, one of Singapore’s digital banks. Why did you agree to it?
I was asked to be a board member probably because they could see that I can offer different perspectives, especially from a consumer’s point of view and this is very useful for a digital bank. The most unique thing about it, I feel, is that they wanted to have people with different backgrounds. To me, it is very exciting to be a part of this because not only can I learn about running a digital bank, I can also bring some of that knowledge back into Inchcape as well.
To me, it is very exciting to be a part of this because not only can I learn about running a digital bank, I can also bring some of that knowledge back into Inchcape as well.
Jasmmine Wong, CEO of Inchcape for Greater China and Singapore.
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Based in Singapore, Jasmmine Wong is Chief Executive Officer of Inchcape Greater China & Singapore. She joined Borneo Motors as Managing Director in July 2017 and has taken up the role of CEO of Greater China and Singapore in January 2020. She was previously the Business Executive Officer for Nestlé Professional, covering the Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei region. During her 12-year tenure at Nestlé, Jasmmine has held multiple senior leadership roles. Prior to Nestlé, Jasmmine held positions at multinationals such as Fonterra and Unilever.
Under her leadership, both Inchcape Singapore and Greater China have been successful growing market share; digitising key parts of our customer experience; opening new revenue streams in aftersales and developing our commercial vehicles and truck businesses. She has developed some key employee-centric programmes to encourage and provide continuous trainings to upskill the employees.
In Singapore, she has led the business into a new phase of growth, most noticeably with the GRAB initiatives and autonomous vehicle project. This led to the formation of strong relationships with business stakeholders as well as a robust platform for the business to evolve and grow. Her leadership has seen Inchcape Singapore obtained the Triple Crown Award for four consecutive years since she joined, which is the highest accolade from Toyota Motor Corporation. We achieved #1 for sales in the passenger car, commercial vehicles as well as for the overall automotive market.
In Hong Kong, Crown Motors, a member of Inchcape Greater China has also achieved Triple Crown Award for 29 consecutive years out of the 56 years of partnership with Toyota, maintaining leading position in the market since 1992. Crown Motors currently accounts for more than 99% of the taxi and public light bus market share in Hong Kong.
Besides her leadership in business, Jasmmine is a strong advocate on sustainability, and she seizes opportunities to share her support on sustainable mobility and green initiatives which is part of the Singapore Green Plan. She participated the panel discussion on the future of electric vehicles at the Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) webinars. She is also heavily involved in Corporate Social Responsibility and how we can do our part for the society. Besides partnering with the Community Chest, Inchcape Singapore has also developed its own InchcapeCARES StudentAssist Programme, where it provides employees the opportunities to serve our communities and those less privileged.
Jasmmine graduated from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore with a Bachelor of Business and holds a dual MBA from INSEAD and Tsinghua University.
The Council for Board Diversity (CBD) believes that board diversity catalyses robust governance and responsible stewardship, and is a valuable driver for growth.
Having diversity in the board brings together the diversity of judgement to chart the best course through uncertainty, challenge, opportunities and risks – applicable to both for-profit and non-profit organisations. The mix of knowledge, skills, experience, gender, age and other relevant features is harnessed to devise strategy and manage its execution. Against this backdrop we believe that including women on boards, in particular, adds a powerful lead-in to the other forms of diversity that bring value to the board’s role in the company.
CBD, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, endeavours to promote a sustained increase in the number of women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards and non-profit organisations as a stepping stone to broader diversity.