Datuk Khor Siang Gin: The Man behind the Property Mogul
In Asian society where ‘’fuerdai’’ or rich second generation are often seen as an inert group riding on their parents’ riches, lacking ambitions and feasible ideas or practical capabilities of their own, it becomes all too easy and even forgivable to label all who’ve inherited the empire of their parents’ riches as an ineffectual group who are merely exceptionally lucky to be dealt destiny’s good cards, compared to the rest of us mere mortals. However, you’d be wrong not to see beneath the surface, as there are certainly exceptions to the rule. Meet Datuk Khor Siang Gin, managing director of Hunza Properties Berhad - a renowned Malaysian real estate developer - who has taken over from his father Datuk Seri Khor Teng Tong’s reins to run the huge corporation. Though Datuk was born even before the term ‘Fuerdai’ was popularised in mainstream media, his story of inheriting a company worth millions and the great expectations he bore as a result of his lineage would surely resonate enough to warrant a comparison.
From Boy to Man – Shaping the Foundation of Character
Datuk Khor spent his primary school years at Phor Tay Private High School in his hometown of Penang (also the city where he would later make his mark), before transferring to Kong Hwa Primary in neighbouring country Singapore under his father’s insistence, at the age of 11. The senior Khor believed that his son would benefit from an English-centred education available in Singapore. This decision meant that he would have to adapt to a different learning environment, away from the familiar comforts of home where he would be well taken care of, and from the friends he had made, returning home only during festive occasions such as Lunar New Year. Though initially resentful at his father’s decision and insistence, this stage of his life forced him to explore his capabilities beyond the proverbial comfort zone and pushed the young Khor to grit his teeth and press on – developing his tenacious mindset which is the distinguishing trait of not a few successful businessmen. He furthered his studies at Dunman High School and completed his Administrative Management Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Toledo, U.S., in the year 1995.
Beginnings of Ann Illustrious Corporate Career – Thrust into the Hot Seat
Upon graduation he joined homegrown company Malaysian Oxygen Bhd, Mox as its market executive. Being confined within a nine-to-five schedule was not his calling, and he decided to embrace the career path set out by his father for him, joining the family business two years later in 1997, and with that, preparing for his eventual role as its next generation leader.
In 2010 he was assigned Executive Director of the Group. Beneath the glamour of the corporate title, what preceded the progression were hours of unwavering effort, continuous learning about the intricate workings of the real estate industry, where he picked up valuable pointers and hands-on experience about property management, staff management and other fields from experienced industry veterans. Indeed, Datuk Khor has humbly mentioned in interviews that he is grateful for the guidance of the company veterans from whom he learnt tremendously about the property development and real estate, which were then foreign to him as he was more trained in corporate investment.
Not Just Any Other CEO: A Man with Transformative Vision
In 2014, Datuk Khor officially became the Group’s CEO and the pinnacle of its top management. It was during his tenure that the Group, which had been listed on Bursa Malaysia since 1997, became privatised. Realising the potential for the company to expand its scope of services outward in order to thrive in the industry, he slowly but surely steered the company towards its new direction of property investment and development, manifest in some of Penang’s most distinctive landmark malls and prestigious residences which are now Hunza’s signature projects, thanks to his foresight and tenacity.
Thrust into the great expectations of investors, staff, family and the public, it seems that Datuk Khor has not only excelled in the traditional sense of the word, but further revolutionised the company culture for the better. His unique brand of human-centric leadership, seen in humble gestures of appreciation towards employees, and a pro-upskilling, upgrading mentality – the company sponsors its staff to further hone their career skills to enhance competitiveness – has won him respect from staff, but also many friends across the worlds of business and fashion, two arenas where he is actively involved in. Where two roads diverged in the yellow wood, Datuk Khor might have taken the route his father had intended for him to, one that is dictated by the arms of fate – but this route is in no way less challenging and fulfilling. And Datuk Khor has proven with both flair and substance that second generation leaders can in fact hold their own under the pressures of their parents’ pioneering legacy, and be trusted upon to helm family businesses to another chapter of success.