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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Singapore office rents to rebound as supply growth abates

Singapore’s office rents are set to rebound from their first annual decline in three years as new supply shrinks and more businesses expand, according to the biggest office property trust in Asia outside of Japan.

Rents in the city are reaching a trough and demand may rise as the country positions itself as a regional business hub, said Lynette Leong, chief executive officer of CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT), Supply for the next three years will be about 0.8 million square feet a year, down from 1.3 million square feet over the past two decades, she said.

Buildings stand in the central business district in Singapore. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg
The towers of the Marina Bay Financial Centre stand in the central business district in Singapore. Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

“Rents are poised for a recovery,” Leong said in an interview in Singapore on Jan. 24. It’s “a no-brainer that rents are not going to go down very much further so it’s more when the rents will turn and to what extent,” she said.

Ranked by the World Bank as the easiest place to do business for a seventh year, the country that’s smaller than New York City is also emerging as Asia’s wealth management center, driving demand for banking services with an increase of millionaires. Singapore office rents are the 19th-highest globally, according to CBRE Group Inc., and are cheaper than Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing and New Delhi.

CapitaCommercial estimates new demand accounted for 1.5 million square feet to 1.8 million square feet annually in the past three years, Leong said, without giving a forecast for 2013.

Singapore’s office rents fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, extending the decline in 2012 to 1.3 percent, the government said on Jan. 25. They climbed 8.4 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in the previous year, government data showed.

Millionaire Households

The country’s millionaire households expanded 14 percent in 2011, according to a Boston Consulting study. The proportion of millionaire homes in the city of 5.3 million people was 17 percent, the highest in the world, followed by Qatar and Kuwait.

Additional office space in the past two years came mainly from the downtown Marina Bay area, with banks including Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays (BARC) Plc taking bigger offices.

Standard Chartered relocated from 11 buildings across the city to one tower in the new office area, while Barclays moved from six to two in the district.

Average gross rents of prime office space declined 11 percent in 2012 and could fall 5 percent to 10 percent this year, Colliers International said in a Jan. 25 report. Leasing rates climbed 14.6 percent in 2011, the property brokerage said.

New tenants took up 1.9 million square feet of space last year, a 17 percent drop from the five-year high of 2.3 million square feet in 2011, Colliers said.

Too Early

“It’s still too early to pinpoint a time for a recovery,” Chia Siew Chuin, director of research & advisory at Colliers, said in a phone interview yesterday.

“Global economic headwinds are a concern and there is also a risk of secondary space that can be returned to the market should occupiers or tenants relocate to new buildings.”

Singapore’s economy expanded 1.2 percent last year, less than a quarter of the pace in 2011. Growth is expected to range between 1 percent and 3 percent this year, based on official estimates.

The city also became the first in Asia to introduce curbs on industrial properties. The government on Jan. 11 imposed as much as 15 percent in stamp duties on sellers of warehouses and logistics buildings to curb speculation after prices doubled in the past three years and outpaced the increases in rents.

Raffles Quay Asset Management Pte, which manages office towers developed jointly by billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. (1), Keppel Land Ltd. (KPLD) and Hongkong Land Holdings Ltd. (HKL), said most of its buildings are fully leased. Its latest offering, the third office tower at a Marina Bay development, is about 77 percent filled, it said.

Rent Stability

“We see stability in rents in the market,” Warren Bishop, chief executive officer of Raffles Quay Asset, said in an interview. “Given the amount of supply coming online, I don’t think it’s going to go down any further. Still, with the overall economic situation, it’s hard to predict it going up, because we have to be realistic that the situation in America and Europe is affecting the world economy.”

Singapore’s office vacancy rate has been falling since it reached a five-year high of 13 percent in the third quarter of 2010, according to government data. It fell to 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter last year, the lowest since the end of 2008.

CapitaCommercial said it filled 97.2 percent of its buildings in the fourth quarter, keeping its vacancy rate lower than the industry average. The trust, partly owned by CapitaLand Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest developer, increased its distributable income by 7.4 percent to S$228.5 million ($184.8 million) last year.

The trust, also the biggest office REIT by market value in Asia after Nippon Building Fund Inc. and Japan Real Estate Investment Corp., climbed 22 percent in the past six months, compared with the 8.4 percent gain in the Singapore benchmark Straits Times Index. (FSSTI) The shares climbed 1.2 percent to S$1.645 in Singapore trading today, snapping a four-day decline.

“A lot of companies are not just dependent on the Singapore GDP, but more the regional economies,” said Leong, the trust’s CEO. “And the region still looks fine, so we think that will drive demand for office space.”
- Bloomberg

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Malaysian business associations protest against minimum wage for foreigners

PUTRAJAYA: Some 100 people, claiming to represent business associations, held a brief protest against the implementation of minimum wage for foreign workers in front of the Human Resources Ministry.

A member of the steering committee reads out the group’s demands to the protesting crowd. — Picture by Zurairi AR

The group, called the Minimum Wages Implementation Steering Committee, demanded that the Government stick to the current wage level set by the embassies of the various countries whose citizens work here, and not hike it up to RM900 as is being done for local workers.

Committee member Goh Chin Siew said they want the ministry to re-examine the minimum wage requirements so that they reflect the standard of living in different areas across the country, and for the Finance and International Trade and Industry ministries to weigh in on the impact of minimum wage on Malaysians.

“Malaysians will face hyperinflation due to minimum wage, and we will also see a lot of money flowing out of the country when foreign workers remit earnings home,” he said before the group handed a memorandum on the issue to the ministry.

The group said they were only against implementation of minimum wage for foreign workers and not against minimum wage for Malaysians.

During the protest, the group chanted various slogans outlining their support for minimum wage for locals but not foreign workers.

They also held up placards in English, Malay and Chinese, asking why the Government had not “listened to our voices” and demanding that Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam resign for allegedly failing to resolve the minimum wage issue.

Among the organisations that the group claimed to have secured as members are the Malacca Chinese Assembly Hall, Malay-sian Furniture Industry Council, KL-Kepong Business Recreation Club and Electrical Electronics Association Malaysia.

The Star: Recent Related Articles:
Effects of minimum wage to be addressed - Story | The Star Online
Employers complain of high levy and allowances, says Subra - Story | The Star Online

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tips on courting investors

IN this penultimate column, I would like to explore the world of romance, courtship and partnership. Why some marriages are happy and long lasting and why some end in a messy divorce. I will also talk about quickie engagements, marriage of convenience and spouse for hire.

No, I am not Aunty Thelma providing counsel on your turbulent personal life. Neither am I qualified to talk about politicians and rent seekers. This discussion is confined to entrepreneurs who need partners to help them kick start their business. Occasionally, desperately sourcing capital for survival and sometimes needing a healthy dose of cash injection to grow.

For new startups, courting the investors will be the most stressful stage. Before they part with their money, they will question the viability of your business, sustainability of your business model and most importantly, the potential to scale. You are advised to be well prepared with facts and figures supporting your proposal. If a knowledgeable investor tears up your assumptions and forecast, swallow your pride and rebuild your model if necessary. You will be better prepared to face the next potential investor.

Knowing the type of investors that you would like to “sleep with” will save you unnecessary stress and avoiding misaligned discussions. Short-term investors think very differently from long-term investors. Temporary relationships means moving in together and having fun without any responsibility. Breaking up is not hard to do.

Long-term relationships requires patience, understanding and tolerance between both parties. Like all marriages, there will be fights and misunderstandings but both sides will make up and continue for the sake of the children, albeit on an uneasy truce.

If you have a quick turnaround project with an early exit plan, then you will click immediately with short-term investors who will be willing to take on higher risks but expecting immediate returns on invested capital. Normally they do not mind having a smaller equity share as long as they see good upside but you will have to pay interest or dividends on their different class of preferred shares. It is best you find out more on terms like convertible cumulative preferred stocks and RCCPS (redeemable convertible cumulative preference shares) etc ... If you want to be on the same page as these savvy investors.

If your project has a long gestation period, get a rich investor who looks for steady recurring income with an eye for capital asset growth. Be conservative with your forecast and highlight your cashflow management skills. Nothing pleases the long-term investor more than having a mature thinking partner who will conservatively build a meaningful asset business in a steady environment.

Once you have the investor interested, the real negotiation starts. Assuming all investors are fools, you will be able to load the investors with a high valuation, retain majority equity and management control and yet raise a lot of capital by giving little away. Alternatively, assuming you are the desperate fool, you would end up working for the new investors, saddled with a low valuation and stuck with minority equity stakes. Nobody likes playing the fool so either one of these relationships will definitely end up in divorce.

Basically, the whole negotiation rests on the basis of valuation. For a new startup with no prior track record, the valuation is based on forecast budgets normally over a five-year period. To investors, getting the forecast right determines the level of risks to be taken. But his guess is as good as your guess. Then you end up with two sides articulating their understanding on market trends, benchmarking best practices etc, just to justify their number guessing skills.

So the final numbers to be agreed upon will depend heavily on your negotiation skills or how much the Investors believe in you. If you are desperate, the Investor will see through that and you will not be negotiating from strength. A right minded investor would prefer to have a highly motivated entrepreneur at the controls of a start up so you will not be forcefully bullied. Just remember to tell him that you need to feel motivated when you wake up every morning and he will back off and see that you are fairly treated.

If the Investor pushes you into a corner, just walk away. You have not lost anything. That said, I assumed you have been realistic with your forecast numbers and have comfortably addressed the investors concerns. If not, do not be surprised if the investor walks away instead.

Understanding how investors think will help you prepare your proposal. Greedy investors look for maximum short-term returns and these are normally fund managers who wants to believe in well structured glossy presentations so that they can justify to their investors why they should invest their money into your project. It will be unfair for me to say that these professional fund managers are willing to invest in high risk projects since it is not their personal money but the pressure to perform forces them to take higher risks that carries higher returns.

Individual investors are way too careful and they prefer proposals with reduced risks and long-term asset building models. This has been my preferred business model as an entrepreneur then and even now as an investor. But the lure of fast short-term gains enjoyed by so many has whetted my appetite and I am now reconsidering my investment strategies. Greed is indeed sinful and irresistible.

Since I made a promise not to write about politicians and GLCs (government-linked corporations), I will not be elaborating on the topics of quickie engagements and marriage of convenience. I apologise if you have found this column dry and boring but I hope my advice on having safe sex in a monogamous marriage will help you live longer with a healthy bank balance by your side. Stay happy always.


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Homeless in Penang no shelter !

The homeless in Penang are facing a hard time.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have pointed out that the state still has no government shelter for the homeless and needy, even though Penang has a large number of homeless people.

According to NGO volunteers, there are only two free-of-charge stay-in shelters in the state and these are run by NGOs.

The volunteers claimed that the DAP-led state government had promised to build a shelter when it came to power in 2008, but nothing had materialised so far.

As a result, hundreds of homeless people could be found at public places, such as bus stops, five-foot ways, under bridges and on pedestrian crossings, according to P. Muru¬giah, coordinator of the Temple of Fine Arts' Klinik Derma Sivasanta.

He said that half of the 70 or 80 needy patients treated by the charity clinic twice a week were in fact homeless.

"The Government needs to build a shelter for the homeless and provide medical care for them," he told The Star Online.

Murugiah said his clinic had even collected and cremated 40 unclaimed bodies last year.

He suggested that Penang had a high number of homeless people because the state was densely populated with many senior citizens, and some of these were neglected by their children.

A volunteer at Kawan, a drop-in centre for the homeless and needy, said homeless people were made up of vagrants, the mentally-ill, drug addicts, as well as unemployed youths from other states.

"Half of them are those aged 50 and above and illiterate," said the volunteer, who gave his name as James.

"There is a sizeable number of elderly people and the government needs to set up a shelter quickly."

A doctor in George Town, who declined to be named, told The Star Online that the federal government should step in to solve the problem.

Once again, the disadvantaged sections of society have received no help from Guan Eng's administration, forcing the Barisan Nasional government to step in to help Penangites.

If it was affordable housing earlier, this time it is shelters for the homeless. Either way, the federal government has always carried out its responsibility to the people whereas the DAP-led state government has been found wanting.


Penang homeless need shelter

I STRONGLY support the call by various NGOs for a shelter for the homeless and needy in Penang.

Many of these homeless people sleep on corridors outside shops and temples. Some sleep in sheds and bus stops during the night, and try and get some work during the day.

The elderly and sick end up in hospitals and refuse to leave the wards when they are discharged because they have no home to go back to.

The state Welfare Department’s regular beggar raids cannot ease the situation because only those without serious medical problems and are above 60 years old can enter government-run old folks home.

The rest of the homeless go back to the streets because they cannot afford to rent rooms.

It is high time that the Federal and state governments work with NGOs in Penang to identify a place and start this service. The authorities need to provide support and allocate funds, and not let NGOs run shelter homes in the name of charity.

These shelter homes must also have trained social workers and volunteers.

As Penang strives to retain its modern and heritage status, social service for the needy and disadvantaged groups must always be part of the plan.

LIM B. EAN Penang The Star

Sunday, January 27, 2013

International Financial Reporting Standards gets in a sticky muddle

ACCOUNTING is a subject that most people dread, for fear of its dry and lengthy text. Nonetheless, it is of utmost importance in the business world for without it, businesses would have no proper and standardised system to run on.

Having studied the subject at high school, which then led to graduating with a bachelor's degree in accounting and finance, I have to admit that the subject was not one of my favourites. I was one of those, mentioned earlier, who feared the subject because of its lack of obvious colour.

At university, I took a paper on financial accounting principles, which included the study of financial reporting standards. Trust me, it was one where my memory skills were tested and fully put to good use.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I didn't like the subject at all. It was probably more of a frustration because I lacked the understanding then. I only truly began to understand it when I started my working career.

The Malaysian Accounting Standards Board (MASB) enforced the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) created by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) last year. As a result, many companies had implemented IFRS as at January 2012.

Although most have not been burdened too much by the change, several parties are dealing with issues of implementing the IFRS as doing so would result in a huge variance in financial reporting.

The implementation of IFRS has left both property developers and plantation operators in a sticky situation. Both parties' issues have to do with International Financial Reporting Interpretation Committee (IFRIC) Interpretation 15, and IFRS 13.

IFRIC Interpretation 15 deals with revenue recognition, and under this interpretation, property developers would recognise revenue only upon completion and handover of the properties to the buyers. This is different from the more common method of revenue recognition used in Malaysia, which is the sell-then-build method.

This could gravely affect the smaller developers that have less construction projects, which would take several years to complete.

Then, there's IFRS 13 which is the standard dealing with fair value measurement. If implemented, it could mean that the fair value of land for non-plantation use could be higher than the fair value of the same land with existing crops on it.

Technically, the result would be that a zero value is assigned to the agricultural crops on the land. This is due to the interaction between IFRS 13 and International Accounting Standards 41, which allows a residual approach in fair value determination of land and assets. At times, the best use for the land varies from its current use, which means that using a residual approach could result in a minimal or zero value given to the crops.

The MASB has given property developers and plantation owners until January 2014 to implement IFRIC Interpretation 15 and IFRS 13 in view of the issues that will arise if it should be implemented now.

Meanwhile, the issues have been raised to the IASB and the IFRS Interpretations Committee.

Seeing that there's still some time for a compromise to be reached, let's keep our fingers crossed that an amicable arrangement can be achieved.


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Banks need to be transparent on housing loan

STANDARDISING and simplifying housing loan documents is a step forward. Kudos to Pemudah (Special Taskforce to facilitate business), Bank Negara and the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM). It will be an excellent move to reign in the rogue banks, financial institutions (FIs) and development financial institutions (DFIs).

The National House Buyers Association (HBA) views the recent standardisation of loan agreements for housing loans below RM500,000 positively. For many years, HBA has been calling for greater protection for house buyers when they buy from developers and for borrowers when taking a housing loan.

As a typical housing loan ranges between 20 and 30 years, borrowers are stuck with the terms and conditions (T&Cs) of the housing loan for a long time. Unfortunately, most borrowers do not really understand the T&Cs of housing loan, as:

(i) The loan agreements are lengthy, running between 20 and 30 pages;

(ii) They are filled with legal terms and jargon that even borrowers with a law degree will still need their legal dictionary for reference.

Even for borrowers who are law-savvy, the loan agreement is a one-way traffic; the borrower must accept all the T&Cs or find another bank, as the banks will not vary any T&Cs. However, the scenario is the same for all banks and borrowers are at their mercy. (banks in this context includeFIs and DFIs).

Another grave injustice is that the cost of legal fees for the said housing loan is borne by the borrower although the lawyer is in fact, representing the banks and on its panel, and is in no position to advise the borrower. The borrower will be required to appoint his own lawyer should he require any legal advice. But this will be futile as banks will not agree to vary any T&Cs of the loan agreements.

Standardised Loan Agreement

HBA has been urging banks in Malaysia to be fair and transparent in their dealing with borrowers. Hence, credit must be given to “participating banks” for finally agreeing to adopt a standardised template for housing loans with simplified language which is easy for the layman to understand.

Based on our quick analysis of the Standardised Loan Agreement which can be downloaded from the website of the Association of Banks in Malaysia (, the agreement does appear to contain less legal jargon and is written in a manner which is easier for the borrower to understand.

The agreement also does away with unnecessary and ridiculous restrictions that certain bank previously impose on borrowers taking housing loans, such as:

● Borrowers cannot rent out the property without the consent of the banks;
● Borrowers cannot undertake any renovations without the consent of the banks; and
● Hidden clauses which impose various hidden charges and penalties such as late payment charges on borrowers

Based on our preliminary assessment, HBA views the agreement positively and we urge the banks and Bank Negara to further improve on the following areas:

Remove the RM500,000 cap

HBA calls for the RM500,000 limit for the Standardised Loan Agreement to be removed. This agreement should be applicable for all housing loans regardless of the amount, as the nature of the housing loan is the same. Already, most landed properties in areas such as Puchong and Kota Damansara are in excess of RM500,000. Even strata-properties in locations such as Bandar Utama, Ara Damansara are already in excess of RM500,000. Why not extend the coverage to all housing loans per se?

All industry players must adopt the standardised loan agreement

It would appear that the standardised loan agreement is being used by certain participating banks on a voluntarily basis and not all commercial banks which give out housing loans are adopting this agreement. Why is this the case? Bank Negara should compel all commercial banks to adopt this standardised agreement. In addition, non-banking Institutions that give out housing loans, such as DFIs, insurance companies must also be compelled to adopt the agreement. Why shouldn't the house buyers offered similar protection here?

Non-members of ABM such as DFIs include Bank Islam, Bank Muamalat, Bank Rakyat, Agro Bank, Bank Industri, Bank Simpanan Nasional and EXIM Bank which are formulated under their respective legislations.

Remove unnecessary fees and charges imposed on borrowers 

Certain banks currently impose unnecessary fees and charges on borrowers when they request for bank statements which are needed when sthey want to settle/refinance their housing loans, or when making EPF withdrawals to reduce their housing loans. While the fees of up to RM50 may not seem much to some people, it still is an exorbitant amount as it cost banks next to nothing to produce such statements. Moreover, it is the borrowers' right to settle/refinance the loan and/or to make EPF withdrawals to reduce their loans. A bank statement showing the principal sum outstanding is required to facilitate such transactions.

By imposing fees of up to RM50 to prepare such simple statements, banks are blatantly taking advantage of their customers as they have no choice but to pay the charges just to ensure that the transaction goes through.

HBA is calling for banks to be prohibited from charging fees for these statement to facilitate repayment, refinancing or to make EPF withdrawals to reduce their loans. Some Banks are already charging RM10 for “reprint” of a bank statement on current accounts. Can you imagine a situation where the customer has not received his monthly bank statement for whatever reason and has to pay RM10 for a “reprint” of his own bank statement?

Banks can unilaterally vary theinterest rate

However, upon closer inspection of the standardised template, HBA noticed that a clause currently found in most housing loans has been carried forward. .

Even if the borrower had faithfully paid all his dues and installments' on time, the bank is entitled to vary the interest rate unilaterally at any time during the loan tenure. There is no such thing as sanctity of a binding contract between the borrower and the banks.

As we know, the current interest rates for housing loans are competitive, with some banks willing to go as low as BLR less 2.50%. So, what this can mean is that a few years down the road, when the banks realise that such low interest rates are no longer feasible, they can vary the interest rate from say BLR less 2.50% to BLR PLUS 2.50% and the borrower is obliged to pay the new interest rate. Furthermore, if the previous installment was only RM1,500 a month and the new installment due to the revised interest rate is RM2,500, the borrower must pay the new rate or risk the bank repossessing his house.

HBA urgently calls for Bank Negara to repeal this clause to prevent banks from having the upper hand to victimise unsuspecting borrowers. Banks must not be able to unilaterally vary the interest rate if the borrower had not defaulted on his obligations' under the loan agreement. Banks may say that they will not normally invoke/exercise the said clause. But, covenanted terms and conditions are binding upon both parties.

Lawyers have to purchase standard forms from banks

Nowadays, law firms undertaking banks' work have to purchase standardised pre-printed forms from banks. The price ranges from RM150-RM350. Would printing cost be so expensive or are banks making a profit or “mark-up” from such sales to law firms?

Such “expenses” are nevertheless passed down to customers/ borrowers as disbursements. Couldn't a “soft copy” be made available to law firms to adopt and print at their own cost and expense? Printing charges are only limited to RM50 as approved by the Bar Council.

Apportionment of payment to interest and principal shrouded in secrecy

Another grave injustice to borrowers is the allocation of monthly installments towards the settlement of principal and interest as this is not disclosed anywhere in the Loan Agreements' or even in the Standardised Template.

To illustrate a real life example, we had a complainant who took a 20-year housing loan about six years ago. After diligently paying his loan for five years, the complainant assumed that the principal amount outstanding should only be about 75% of the original amount. Unfortunately, the complainant had personally experienced, the amount was closer to 83%.

There need to be greater transparency on how the allocation of monthly repayments for interest and principal is done and this must be disclosed in the loan agreement. Moreover, the allocation must be done on a “straight line basis” so, after paying five out of a 20-year housing loan, the principal outstanding must be 75% of the original amount.


HBA calls for banks to continue to take cognisant of their borrowers' hardship and protect the interest of their borrowers instead of just focusing on profitability. Without the borrowers and customers, banks will not have any profits to show.

HBA also calls on Bank Negara to continue the close monitoring of banks to ensure that they do not take advantage of borrowers. The battle of borrowers against banks is akin to David vs Goliath. Timely intervention from Bank Negara is needed to balance the scale of power.


Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation purely manned by volunteers. You can log in to

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leaving a financial and parenting legacy

BEING a parent is a challenging job. It's a job that requires lifelong commitment, and you cannot resign from it even if you feel you can't cope. And what's more, parenting requires skills that are not obtainable from school, college or university. Parenting and managing money are the two most important skills that we learn from our parents or adults with whom we grew up, be they our grandparents, nannies or guardians.

As you go through the process of considering how to communicate with your parents and siblings about managing family wealth, you will realise the need to teach your children about money so that you are able to leave your own legacy behind for your children to communicate and manage money harmoniously as a family.

There is really not one proven or standard method of parenting and teaching children about money because of different personalities, behaviours and attitudes. We teach children about money based on how we were taught about money by our own parents or guardians, and from the environment in which we were brought up. Recall your childhood days, and how your parents taught you about money. Were you taught to save your pocket money or to spend it wisely?

Think about the environment you grew up in. Were there times when your parents had money problems and you often heard them argue about it? Or did your parents hide the fact that money was hard to come by in the family? Or were you pampered by your parents with toys, clothes and going out for fun activities and holidays?

Some parents have told me that because of the poverty they experienced during their own childhood, they now try their best to give their children a better life by lavishing them with the material goods and experiences that they themselves never had. By indulging their children, they are not allowing their children to experience financial responsibility.

Different parenting styles

While most parents learn parenting skills from their own parents or by observing others, they will accept some practices and discard others. Effective parenting requires interpersonal skills that can create some emotional demands. Experts in early childhood development say an important dimension of parenting is the style parents adopt when they interact with their children. According to Maccoby and Martin's parenting style typologies, there are four different parenting styles. Depending on the child's character, different parenting styles lead to different results:

1) Authoritarian parenting is a restrictive, punitive style in which parents exhort the child to follow their directions. The authoritative parent places firm limits and controls on the child, and allows little verbal exchange. These parents tend to be very strict and may control the children by limiting their wants and desired wants. In this case, the children may either grow up to rebel' by spending beyond their financial means to fulfil their childhood desires, or they may become very good at managing their money.

2) Nurturing parenting is a style that encourages the child to be independent but still places limits and controls on the child's actions. Extensive verbal give-and-take is allowed, and parents are warm and nurturing towards children. These parents often communicate and teach their children to spend their money wisely by explaining to them the importance of money.

3) Neglectful parenting is a style in which parents are uninvolved in the child's life. Children whose parents are neglectful often develop a sense that other aspects of their parents' lives are more important than they are. Children who grow up in this environment are often deprived of parental love and a sense of belonging in the family. As a result, they may grow up spending lots of money to fulfil their need for love from friends, and from their life partner. Or they may spend money to boost their self-esteem because of the lack of parental love.

4) Indulgent parenting is a style in which parents place few demands or controls on the children. These indulgent parents will let their children do what they want. Children with indulgent parents may often be spoilt by a variety of material things or an impressive lifestyle. The spending behaviour of indulgent parents may condition the children to spend more than they need or more than they can afford when they grow up.

Imagine a situation where the father is indulgent towards a child and provides gifts, toys, fun and pleasure, while the mother, on the other hand, is a disciplinarian with strict rules about gifts, toys, fun and pleasure. Who will the child prefer to be with, and who will the child learn more from? You and your spouse should decide on a best way to handle your children's money expectations. It is important to be consistent and fair to lessen potential family strife.


According to experts of child psychology, even from a tender age of 2 or 3 years old, a child learns by observation, and from conversations and experiences they have with adults. Hence, effective parenting warrants a tremendous amount of proper learning methods and communication skills. Understandably, today's parents are faced with more issues compared with their parents; the fact that today's younger generation is growing up in an era of media influence, technology advancement and the Internet makes parenting an even more challenging job.

It can be painful for parents to discipline and teach children about saving money, particularly when their children are easily influenced by their friends even as pre-schoolers. This is further compounded by the barrage of advertisements on television and online media that tempts your children with attractive toys, pretty clothes and accessories.

It does not really matter how much money you have or how much joy you derive from showering your children with material things. As parents, you have got to show some restraint and boundary. You don't have to feel guilty about scaling back on spending for your children. Your children may already have more than they need more clothes and shoes than they can wear, toys and games than they have time to play with.

Be mindful that while you are conscious of good money habits for your children, you need to ensure that your children's grandparents, godparents, aunties, uncles, or other adults around them do not indulge them too much with gifts. This may send your children the message that if they cannot get what they want from you, they can get it from them.

Family values 

In some situations, a couple may bring different views and values about money and parenting to the marriage. Because of personality, character, family and life experience differences, couples do face conflicting personal and family issues where money is concerned. Therefore, teaching a child about money really begins with teaching your child about the importance and meaning of life values as a family.

Honesty, integrity, teamwork, helpfulness, trust, love, family support, accountability, unity, filial piety, commitment, communication, sharing, spending time with parents and siblings are some of the most important family values that your children ought to know, even if they may be younger than six years old.

Constant messages to your children about how good family values are important in life, and that money cannot buy such values, are more important than parental love expressed in the form of material things for your children.

Teaching them important life values and let them know that money is a means to an end, and not for self-gratification.

Other than sending them to school to gain knowledge and social skills, the money skills that you teach your children from an early age are the most important life education you can provide them with and it actually starts at home. It is as simple as how you and your spouse manage money and communicate about money at home. Your good money skills will rub off on your children.

May this be your new resolutions for teaching your children good money sense!


Carol Yip, founder of Abacus For Money, believes that if people understand their money mindset, behaviours and money psychology, they can be financially happy and successful. She actively promotes financial literacy and intelligence within families and for women, youths and retirees.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Malaysian banks optimise depposit rates and lending

PETALING JAYA: Competition for fixed deposits (FDs) is set to continue as banks eye new liquidity by offering better interest rates to depositors following the postponement of the Basel III liquidity requirement rules. Industry analysts said banks would also likely optimise their lending ability moving forward.

Ambrose: ‘Malaysia has a well-functioning banking system while Europe does not and the US barely does.’

“It's not good to be too conservative in lending. It is important for the overall economic wellbeing of the country and it gives life to businesses, bringing prosperity to the country,” said a banking analyst from one of the four largest local banks by asset size.

According to Gerald Ambrose, the managing director of fund management company Aberdeen Asset Management Sdn Bhd, the stricter Basel III requirements to ensure banks are well capitalised may not be too suitable for Malaysia which presently has a well-functioning banking system.

“Malaysia has a well-functioning banking system while Europe does not and the US barely does. I think capital requirements that are too strict may potentially stifle economic activities,” Ambrose told StarBiz over the telephone recently.

Commenting on recent banking statistics, RHB Research in a recent note said the November 2012 system statistics showed loans growth had eased to 11.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) from 11.8% y-o-y growth in October 2012.

“The slower pace of growth was attributed to higher repayments during the month, partly mitigated by stronger disbursements. Meanwhile, household loans continued to expand at a steady pace of 11.6% yoy,” RHB Research analyst David Chong said in the report.

Chong noted Nov 2012's total system deposits grew 11.3% yoy with this growth being broad based' with loans to deposit ratio unchanged month-on-month (m-o-m) at 81.6%, the system core capital ratio was at 13.4% and risk-weighted capital ratio stood unchanged m-o-m at 15.3%.

According to Alliance Research banking analyst Cheah King Yoong, these statistics showed the domestic banking system remained “well capitalised” and “resilient to withstand unanticipated shocks to the financial system, if any.”

Cheah added that lending activities did not pick up towards the end of 2012 which could be due to both lenders and borrowers turning cautious with the impending general election which is widely expected to be held in March.

“We reiterate that there could be two potential de-rating catalysts, which pose downside risks to our 7-9% loan growth forecasts for 2013.

“These are (that) lending activities could decelerate in the first quarter of 2013 with slowing corporate loan disbursements and consumers turning cautious pending the upcoming general election,” Cheah said.

“Post-election, should the federal government implement (the) goods and services tax, resume its subsidies rationalisation programme and raise the electricity tariff to close its budget deficit; these fiscal tightening policies could have an adverse impact on consumer spending and consumer loans in the later part of 2013,” he added

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

IBM on solid ground

IBM, the world’s largest technology services company, reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat estimates on the back of growth in emerging markets.

It gave a better-than-expected 2013 outlook after a solid fourth quarter that analysts say has more to do with Big Blue's smooth execution than a vibrant tech spending environment.

Companies had been widely expected to hold back on IT purchases in December in part because of worries about the so-called US fiscal cliff.

Automatic tax increases and spending cuts would have been triggered had Congress not made a deal to avert the cliff and could have pushed the weak US economy into recession.

But IBM said on Tuesday that its quarterly results beat forecasts and it planned to achieve earnings of at least US$16.70 a share for the full year, above analysts' consensus forecast of US$16.57.
While some analysts said IBM's earnings might be a sign of an improved tech spending environment, others said the strong results were specific to IBM's business model.

“IBM is better positioned in a tough environment than most tech companies are,” said Cindy Shaw, managing director at Discern.

IBM made a bold strategic move a decade ago when it bought PriceWaterhouse's consulting business and then decided to exit the PC business, betting its future was in finding solutions to business problems with the help of software and technology.

That strategy appears to have paid off.

“What IBM does better than anyone, with the exception of Accenture, is solving problems and I am not talking about taking out some costs, but really driving revenue,” Shaw said.

In addition, she said, IBM was strong in “hot growth markets” such as data analytics, cloud computing, emerging markets and what IBM calls smarter planet, which aims to improve areas such as traffic, power grids and food production.

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu agreed, saying the success appeared to be more specific to IBM than the industry in general.

“The results show that the IBM advantage and business model vertical integration of hardware and software is difficult to replicate,” he said.

“IBM has been doing this the longest and customers are very accustomed to it. They have a much stronger offering and brand name.”

As a result quarterly net income rose 10% to US$6.1bil, or US$5.39 a share from US$4.71 a year earlier. Revenue dropped 1% to US$29.3bil due to the sale of its retail business in the third quarter.

Analysts had expected the Armonk, New York-based company to report net income of US$5.95bil, or US$5.25 a share, on revenue of US$29.05bil, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue grew in particular because of an 11% increase in IBM's growth markets in Brazil, India, Russia and China.

Software revenue was up 3% in the quarter. Reuters

Some analysts said IBM's better than expected results were a sign that tech spending might not have been as bleak as expected.

”It is better than what people had feared,” said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group.

”Virtually every segment did a little bit better than people expected. It supports the fact that things are getting better out there at least from a tech industry standpoint.”

Andrew Bartels, an analyst with research firm Forrester Research, said: “We were expecting a lot of companies were sitting on their wallets until it became clear what was going to become of the fiscal cliff.

”Given the fact it's Q4 with a cloud of the fiscal cliff, it's a positive indication that tech software will be doing better in the next couple of months.”

IBM shares rose more than 4 percent to $204.50 after closing at $196.08 on the New York Stock Exchange.- Reuters  

Is there ethics in politics?

DR Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran of Ikim in “When the world of politics is devoid of ethics” (The Star Jan 22 - See the attachment) believes there is still room for ethics in politics.

In the real world, especially in developing countries, the ethics of Plato and al-Farabi are only good for an utopian society.

While man is not born power crazy, those who enter politics are goaded by power to resort to unethical means.

Morality is hard to preserve and practise in politics.

English philosopher Francis Bacon said: “It is hard and severe a thing to be a true politician as to be truly moral.”

Unethical behaviour seems to be the order of the day as the general election looms near.

Almost everyday we read of mudslinging on both sides of the fence. Everything under the sun is being politicised as the stakes are very high.

French philosopher Voltaire remarked: “The pleasure of governing must certainly be exquisite if we may judge from the vast numbers who are eager to be concerned with it.”

Had Voltaire been alive today, he would qualify his statement by saying, “It is not so much the pleasure of governing, but the power that comes with it, making the vast numbers who are eager to be concerned with it.”

As Dr Farid said: “Politics, in its true meaning, is praiseworthy”. But the “realpolitik” meaning is different. Mao Zedong once said: “Power comes from the barrel of the gun”.

Jonathan Swift said: “Politics as the word is understood, is nothing but corruption.”

Despite the negative connotation of politics in its general form, politics as a profession can have high ethical values if the very system in which politics arise have strong values as seen in most developed countries.

Singapore is a shining example where the ruling party has great difficulty finding candidates to stand for elections as the people do not see it as a way to become rich overnight.

Singaporean politicians are known to observe and practice the highest ethical principles as espoused by Plato.

The observance of ethical political principles in Malaysia still has a long way to go as noted by Dr Farid where “small issues can potentially be magnified into a big scandal.”

“The various issues raised by political parties range from major ones such as fair economic distribution and political justice, to the most trivial or personal matters such as the way leaders and their family members dress”.

So far, general elections in Malaysia, unlike in some developing countries, have not resulted in the use of heavy weapons to gun down people.

And when the election results are announced, people accept it in good faith and continue with their daily chores while waiting for the next general election. Meanwhile, they hope the party that won will honour its manifesto.

One of America’s founding father’s Thomas Jefferson said: “I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office.” Thomas Jefferson was a man of high ethical values.

Do we have men like Jefferson in Malaysian politics?

Certainly there are many men and they should be given the task of providing true leadership along the political principles of Plato and al-Farabi.


When the world of politics is devoid of ethics


Much too often, personalities are the biggest casualties as they are ruthlessly tarnished. All the dirt and grime is dug out and paraded for the nation to see despite their many prior good contributions.

WITH the general election around the corner, the heat of the Malaysian political climate is gradually increasing.

The number of political gatherings, ceramah and demonstrations by political parties multiply by the day and continue to increase.

The various issues raised by political parties range from major ones such as fair economic distribution and political justice, to the most trivial or personal matters such as the way leaders and their family members dress.

It looks as if Malaysians have become a very conscious lot concerned over everything overnight. Small issues can potentially be magnified into a big scandal.

Not only is the intensity palpable within ceramah and gatherings, a similar tone is also evident in cyberspace where heated debates and exchange of views have overwhelmed the social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

While such a phenomenon is regarded as normal, the negative culture attached to it is best eschewed.

To render support for one’s own party, some leaders and fanatical followers would resort to unethical means such as making false claims and unfounded allegations that include character assassination.

In response to such accusations, the opposing parties will stage similar counter attacks. As a result, emotions simply overrule reason causing the situation to get out of hand.

Understandably, the principle that guides extreme political groups is that politics is a war in which all kinds of weapons must be deployed to exterminate the enemies.

In engaging power politics, the prince, says Machiavelli, must be “adaptable and know how to do wrong when he must”.

Naturally, such an approach will have a more divisive impact on society.

People become more divided and emotions override everything else, particularly level-headedness.

Much too often, personalities are the biggest casualties as they are ruthlessly tarnished. All the dirt and grime is dug out and paraded for the nation to see despite their many prior good contributions.

Thus, questions remain: Is this the way politics serve its purpose in administering human life? Must society undergo this unhealthy process to elect a leader? Must we necessarily be divisive before arriving at political maturity when the amount of damage done is irreparable?

The answer lies in how the meaning of politics should be properly understood.

More importantly is the understanding of the role of ethics in political activities.

Politics, in its true meaning, is praiseworthy.

Philosophers and political thinkers as early as Plato, through his idea of the “Philosopher King”, had proposed a political system where wisdom and virtues must be the bases of governing states.

Although his idea is also criticised as utopian, the principle that Plato tried to put forward is very important, that is, a true political system must be guided by knowledge and virtue reflected primarily in the character of the leaders and politicians.

In other words, ethics, according to Plato, must be the basis of politics.

Just as men must live virtuous and good lives, a state must also be built on strong ethical ground. If the state is unfavourable, says Plato, the individual citizens would find themselves unable to lead a good life as it should be lived.

This organic relationship between ethics and politics from Plato stemmed from his idea that a state must be a microcosmic reflection of man. Since a state is run by humans who need to be furnished with good ethical virtues for him to be good, a good state must also be refined with virtuous characteristics.

Echoing Plato is al-Farabi, a celebrated thinker from the Muslim tradition whose work, The Opinions of Inhabitants of the Virtuous City, underlines that a state should be properly ruled by virtuous leaders and followed by virtuous people.

“The excellent city resembles the perfect and healthy body where all of whose limbs co-operate to make the life of the animal perfect and to preserve it in this state.”

Among the qualities needed by a ruler, according to al-Farabi, are intelligence, good memory, keenness of mind, love of knowledge, moderation in matters of food, drink and sex, love of truthfulness, magnanimity, frugality, love of justice, firmness and courage.

Arguably for some, real politics can never take ethics as its principle.

Such a view is justified if only man is naturally born with the attribute of being power crazed.

However, this has not been so since man was created by God in the best of mould as affirmed in the Quran: “Verily we have created the human being in the best of form.”

Furthermore, mankind can take pride in some of its leaders and rulers with good qualities and virtuous characteristics decorating its history. In Islam, for example, Prophet Muhammad and the four-guided caliphs continue to be revered as leaders par excellence for all Muslims. Another outstanding and exemplary leader at a later period was Umar Abd Aziz whose short rule, nevertheless, left a tremendous impact.

So rigid was Umar’s standard of ethics that he was said to have even refused to use up the candle in his office to light the room when discussing personal matters.

In sum, while we all can agree and understand Einstein when he said, “Politics is more difficult than physics”, we hope that, just as physics has contributed immensely to benefit the life of the human kind, politics would be able to do likewise.

IKIM VIEWS - The Star Jan 22, 2012

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On Ethics and Politics :
 Is man not capable of love if he embraced the morality of self-interest? Only the man who loves himself and who knows his values is capable of loving others, albeit not indiscriminately.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chance to invest in distressed assets

Distressed property markets where deals are difficult to finance and yield spreads are at all-time highs provide attractive investment opportunities, according to Morgan Stanley’s real estate unit.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing is most focused on China, India, Australia and Japan, said Olivier de Poulpiquet, who helps oversee $36 billion in real estate assets as the global co-head for the unit.

In India and China, demand is driven by strong demographic trends amid a dearth of financing, while in Australia and Japan, low borrowing costs are providing opportunities, he said.

Morgan Stanley, with a team of 280 globally in 11 countries dedicated to the property business, has about 45 percent of its investments in the U.S., 33 percent in Asia and about 22 percent in Europe.

In many developed markets, such as U.S., Japan and Australia, the yield spread between real estate and the risk free rate, typically the interest rate on U.S. Treasury bills, is as much as 400 basis points, de Poulpiquet said.

“Asia and the U.S. will continue to offer opportunities,” de Poulpiquet said in an interview in Singapore yesterday. “Investments in real estate have seen a flight to safety globally and in particular in the U.S. and Europe.”

Interest in property investments by institutional investors is improving as the asset class is viewed as an effective portfolio diversifier and an inflation hedge, de Poulpiquet said. Allocations to real estate by major institutions may climb from an average of 7 percent currently to 10 percent, he said, without providing a time frame for the increase.

India, China

In India and China, Morgan Stanley is finding opportunities by financing developers that are seeking money to complete projects amid a scarcity of capital, de Poulpiquet said.

In its almost three-year effort to tighten the property market, the Chinese government has raised down-payment and mortgage requirements, imposed a property tax for the first time in Shanghai and Chongqing, and enacted home-purchase restrictions in about 40 cities. India’s biggest developers have struggled to rein in record debt as they grapple with high borrowing costs, dwindling sales and banks’ reluctance to lend.

“The major trend in these markets is that this growth is combined with a capital constrained environment for real estate, mostly driven by government interventions and price cooling measures,” de Poulpiquet said.

“In India and China, there is less opportunity to buy existing assets but greater opportunity to pick the right developer and build to either lease or sell.”

Favorable Demographics

India will have 127 million more working age adults by 2020, while in China, the 470 million adults leaving rural areas for cities will reach a rate of 11 million per year, said de Poulpiquet.

Over the next 15 years, the total global urban space growth will reach about 82,000 square kilometers (31,660 square miles), 47 percent of which will be driven by India and China, he said.

In markets such as Shanghai, the supply of class A office spaces is relatively low while demand is forecasted to remain robust, de Poulpiquet said. In India, the trend is similar where the residential sector continues to offer interesting opportunities, he said.

In Australia, distressed assets sold by European banks which are undergoing deleveraging processes to clean up their balance sheets are attractive, said de Poulpiquet.

In Japan, Morgan Stanley is buying class B office assets in Tokyo and greater Tokyo, he said.

“In many markets globally, including Japan and Australia you can buy class B plus assets, at significant yield differential between your cost of borrowing and the real estate yield,” said de Poulpiquet. “It is a relatively safer investment with good quality yield and return profile.”

Europe will also increasingly offer attractive investments in real estate with all the level of distress in the market, he said. Still, Morgan Stanley remains “cautious” and focused on making “defensive investments” in the region as prices still have some room to fall, he said.

“Overall, we will see slower growth, more volatility but in Europe, it’s neither a doomsday scenario nor in a happy recovery and this will last for a while,” he said.- Bloomberg

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Japan's strategic offensive, from Diaoyu Islands to Nay Pyi Taw

Illustration: Liu Rui

Shinzo Abe's election has pushed the Diaoyu Islands crisis into the edge of all-out confrontation between China and Japan.

 While Japan's high-profile move on the Diaoyu Islands is a direct confrontation against its neighbor, its actions in Myanmar are a secret detour against China.

As the Diaoyu Islands dispute gripped the attention of China and the whole world, Japan's newly appointed Finance Minister Taro Aso visited Myanmar to write off its debt of 500 billion yen ($5.58 billion), followed by major financial groups covertly pushing into Myanmar's economic field.

In fields where China is also involved, Japanese financial groups, with their advanced technology, strong capital and national support, are in a race with Chinese enterprises.

They do not aim for profits at the moment, and some would rather suffer a loss.

This is not a healthy competition, but a vicious economic war which aims to drive out Chinese companies, control Myanmar's economy, and finally, cut off China's energy passageway to the Indian Ocean.

Soon after the US focused on hedging against China in Myanmar, Japan immediately started annihilating Chinese enterprises under the umbrella of the US' strategy.

China has three grand strategic projects in Myanmar - the Myitsone hydropower project, which has been forced into a total shutdown, the Monywa-Latpadantaung copper mine, where several public protests have taken place, and finally, the construction of an oil and gas pipeline between China and Myanmar, where recent signs have become increasingly disturbing.

Myanmar joins sea and land in the US' C-shaped encirclement of China, which includes the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, East Asia and South Asia.

After the US decided on an eastward strategic shift centered on encircling China, an East Asian alliance, with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam as the axis, promptly came into being and endangered vast areas in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

It is a fatal threat to China, which relies heavily on the sea for its trade and energy. Under such circumstances, Myanmar's vital strategic position is evident, which is why the US and Japan have concentrated on the country.

Due to the strong US-Japan alliance, it is very difficult for China to achieve a decisive breakthrough in the East China Sea and the South China Sea issues, while a westward focus may be the best solution.

However, Myanmar, one of the four westward passages, was seized initially by the US and Japan, which have launched a strategic offensive in what seems like a showdown posture.

Through the powerful intervention of the US and Japan, great changes have taken place in Myanmar's political situation, and Myanmese military forces' large-scale attack on the Kachin Independence Army is only one event that shows this. 

Thus, Myanmar has become the arena where China, the US and Japan play out a strategic game. We hope China can develop a proper strategy to deal with the situation in the new century.

After the US' public announcement of its eastward strategic shift, some Chinese have given up their fantasies about the US.

 A number of Chinese have another fantasy of China uniting with Japan to isolate the US, as Japan's national strategy aims to keep abreast with China and the US in its politics.

But the US' usefulness is much greater than China's, and will be for quite some time. Japan will align with the US strategic direction in this period, rather than move closer to China.

I suggest strategy planning departments deploy unified strategic actions with regards to Myanmar and the Diaoyu Islands from the perspective of the overall Sino-Japanese duel.

On the issue of Myanmar, China should support the normal economic activities of Chinese enterprises with State power, as Japan has done. As for the Diaoyu Islands, China must leave Japan in a defensive position by regaining the initiative instantly.

By Dai Xu
The author is director of China Institute for Marine Security and Cooperation Studies.

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Right person for the right job, how and what to do?

MEASURE twice, cut once is a term often used by carpenters and tailors when measuring material for a specific purpose. The point is to be very careful and judicious when measuring to avoid nasty outcomes once the wood or material has been cut.

However, this phrase is just as appropriate for the hiring process as well. Once an employee is hired, the company has to ensure that the individual assimilates well into the organisation and achieves the desired level of performance; otherwise the remedial action that needs to be taken can be very tedious and even unpleasant.

One of the many pitfalls of this situation is that employers, under the pressure of filling a vacancy, could end up hiring individuals who may not be the best fit, and as a result, could be setting a whole series of messy events into motion.

Not too long ago, one of my clients approached us to take on a sales director search. The client shared that he had been a bit too hasty in hiring the last sales director, and had failed to dive deep into the strategic value and scope of the role before making the hiring decision.

In our post mortem discussion with the client, it was clear that he had hired an individual who might have been suitable for a sales manager's position; one level below the sales director's position, but had given him the sales director role because of urgency and the lack of suitable candidates at that time.

The unfortunate result of that scenario was that the newly-hired sales director resigned after only three weeks on the job under the pressure and scope of the work, leaving a path of chaos amongst all the company's clients and suppliers. As such, half-way into its financial year, the company was forced to start looking for another candidate for the sales director role.

In this instance, the company may have benefitted from measuring twice and cutting only once, rather than having to repeat the process of hiring for the same position after such a short period of time.

Other than experience, another critical-but-often-overlooked consideration in the recruitment process is the salary range or the package offered for the role. Salaries and wages are always moving in tandem with the demand of a particular skill-set or type of profile. The more in demand a particular type of skill is, the higher the cost of acquiring that skill.

Some organisations are willing to pay above market rates for certain key positions, as the alternative of not having someone in the role may actually cost the organisation more, from a commercial standpoint. On the other hand, there are some companies which would rather keep within a certain salary band rather than pay the market rate to an individual with the right amount of experience for the job.

From my experience, it is essential to have not only a good understanding of the market salaries but also what the candidate's realistic expectation is.

If we pay too high above the market rate, this often sets a very high expectation for this person to perform. And in some instances, if the individual is unable to deliver the expected results, the risk of paying an inflated price to acquire this individual might not have paid off; and if the company had hired someone less qualified because that was all its budget could afford, then the less-experienced individual may also not be able to deliver on the expectation, as he or she may not have the knowledge, capability or necessary life-experience to do so.

Finding a solution

How can we put the measure twice cut once concept into practice?

One innovative human resource director shared with me recently that he had been trying unsuccessfully to fill a role in his department for quite some time. During this period, he was introduced to an individual who was not an ideal fit to the role in terms of experience but one who was teachable and would be able to work well with the rest of the team.

So, he crafted a role around the individual's profile and experience and got the revised role approved by the top management. This worked out well for both the company and the individual, as the expectations set were achievable and realistic. The human resource director, in this case, had to measure twice but only had to cut once as he managed to find a solution to his problem. The solution turned out to be a good one, as the individual successfully completed her probation period and met her key performance indicators.

Another client who was looking for a managing director for his company was also forced to take a less conventional route to filling his needs. The client shared with me that he had already interviewed more than 20 candidates for this role before approaching us to assist with this search. The only candidate who was given an offer turned down the job when he was counter-offered by his current employer.

As such, the client already knew the market and we were hard-pressed to come up with a new slate of candidates for the search. The client liked one of our candidates but felt he wasn't ready to take on the role of managing director yet. However, instead of disregarding a good talent, the client decided to hire the individual as an operations director.

As such, the individual was able to grow into the managing director's role and the company would also have the benefit of securing a good talent who could potentially achieve more for the company in the future.

In this example, our client knew exactly what he needed for the role and exercised some flexibility to acquire good talent rather than missing out on a high-potential candidate. In addition, he did not compromise on his requirements but was able to see beyond the immediate need to find a managing director.

Different approach

When to measure and when to cut? An important aspect of measure twice cut once, is that the person doing the measuring needs to take the time to get it right and not be in too much of a hurry to get to the cutting stage. A carpenter or tailor is a craftsman who takes pride in his work. Therefore, when we hire, it is essential to look carefully at all aspects of the role which needs to be filled and take the time to understand how a potential candidate will fit that role.

The technical expertise or hard skills are only one part of the whole equation. We should take the time to understand the personality profile of the individual, his or her motivations and long-term goals.

Most hiring managers often forget to look at options in the recruitment process. There is a finite pool of talent and the best talents would also have been earmarked by your competitors as well.

So, instead of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome, perhaps it's worth the effort to try a different approach. Tailor the job to fit a good talent, or give the person another role to allow time for the individual to grow into the intended position. Although we may not always have the option of changing the status quo in this way, the purpose of this article is to offer another alternative solution to the talent shortage problem, and hopefully, bring about a better outcome.

Talking HR with Pauline Ng

Pauline Ng, consulting director and head of BTI Consultants, encourages every hiring manager to explore all options and leave no stone unturned when making the decision to hire by utilising assessment tools and having a comprehensive map of the talent market.