Claire Chiang See Ngoh

Senior Vice President

Banyan Tree Holdings Limited

2015

Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year

Claire Chiang See Ngoh

Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year

2015

Senior Vice President

Banyan Tree Holdings Limited

About Claire

A woman can have it all. Maybe not at once, but in a longer timeframe.

Banyan Tree Holdings Limited (Banyan Tree) is a leading manager and developer of premium resorts, hotels and spas, with 38 resorts and hotels, 67 spas, 79 retail galleries, and three golf courses. T he Group’s primary business is centered on four brands: the award-winning Banyan Tree and Angsana, as well as newly established Cassia and Dhawa. Banyan Tree also operates Laguna Phuket, through the Group’s subsidiary, Laguna Resorts & Hotels Public Company Limited.

As a leading operator of spas in Asia, Banyan Tree’s spas are one of the key features in their resorts and hotels. Its retail arm Banyan Tree Gallery complements and reinforce the branding of the resort, hotel and spa operations.

Since the launch of the first Banyan Tree resort, Banyan Tree Phuket, in 1994, Banyan Tree has received over 1,300 awards and accolades for the resorts, hotels and spas that the Group manages. The Group has also received recognition for its commitment to environmental protection and emphasis on corporate social responsibility.
Claire Chiang See Ngoh, 64, as co-founder of the Banyan Tree Group, has become synonymous with the ideal Asian female entrepreneur. An outstanding corporate citizen, with a slew of industry accolades to her name, Chiang has also made history by being one of only two women to be admitted to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCC).

A Singaporean by birth, she is an Arts and Social Sciences graduate (Honours) from the University of Singapore (now known as National University of Singapore). “I am a firm believer that while formal schooling is important, learning life skills by experience is of at least equal importance. T he knowledge which is traditionally gained through formal schooling needs to be matched with the ability to empathise and inspire, both of which are interpersonal skills honed via experience,” Chiang says.

Growing up, Chiang had, as her first role model, her grandmother whom she remembers as being, “my first coach on self reliance, when I saw how she picked up carton plastic strips to weave them into baskets to hold her clothes and sewed every piece of her clothes by needle and thread.”
Chiang went on to be inspired by Shirin Fozdar, Singapore’s first feminist. “Born in 1905 in Bombay, India, she was one of the founders of the Singapore Council of Women in 1952, well known in Singapore and abroad for her work in the cause of women’s emancipation. I met her when she was already 81 years old, in Bangkok some 20 years ago. Knowing that we planned to build a hotel brand, she brought triangular pillows made by the Yasothon villagers. From that exchange, Banyan Tree Gallery, selling handicrafts by village communities was born,” shares the industry maven. When asked about the characteristics of a good entrepreneur, Chiang said, “Being creative and visionary are necessary qualities. That spirit of wanting to make a difference is the cutting edge quality. Entrepreneurship is a long process of risk taking and overcoming failure, exercising perseverance and resilience to never give up. Success, on the other hand, is a feeling of being proud of how I value add to life experiences. Personal competences, family bonding, community engagement, national duties and the peacemaking are success pillars I work on.”

She believes that being authentic and down-to-earth has endeared her to people she has come into contact with. “I have made many friends who have supported and grown with me in my career. Gender can work against you in some business sectors dominated by men. However, with enabling technology and new economy competences which have enhanced women’s competitiveness and academic achievements, women are getting a growing share of the economic pie. As long as you are good in what you do and you deliver the results, women today can have the opportunity to shine. However, there is a long process for improvement.”

Quizzed on work-life balance, and how she splits her time between business, home, family and her three children, she says frankly that women executives tend to have a harder time. “We have to multi-task and aim to be the best in all our different roles at work as supervisors and at home as daughter, wife, mother and even as a grandmother. Women still do have a harder time in the labour force due to our overwhelmingly male-skewed norms and traditions. This translates to personal and family time as well for professional women when studies still show that female executives are still paid 75cents to every dollar paid to male executives for the same job. Gender stereotypes continue to be significantly unequal. It is therefore important for women to stay on course, find the ‘fit’ between life and work goals, and try to make ‘daily wins’ at home and at work to get what she wants. She can have it all, maybe not at once but in a longer timeframe. On that journey, she has to be committed to realising her aspirations by integrating the resources around her to achieve the targets.”

As to what advice she would you give a young woman wanting to start her own business, Chiang counsels, “Just do it, and do it on your own terms by first sharpening your abilities and building an inner resilience to fight all odds. By embracing an attitude of self-agency, taking responsibility in your efforts, you will do and improve.” Describing her average work day as being from 8am to 1 am, she says, “Every day is an opportunity, there is always another tomorrow. Business has its ups and downs, the good and bad times. What we need is to hold firm, review and re-charter to take the next leap. This volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment (VUCA) requires leadership qualities of versatility, unwavering commitment, connectivity skills and an attitude to overcome and find solutions – ‘VUCA Responsiveness'”.

Share This Story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related STORIES

Be Recognised As One Of Asia’s Top Leadership and Sustainability Players