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Le Petit Journal: Interview with Pascal Lambert – President of the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore

This interview has been translated from French. For the original report, please go to Letpetitjournal.com

Pascal Lambert arrived in Asia in 1985, via India, then Japan, before continuing to Hong Kong, where he met his wife Sandy. He has been based in Singapore for 9 years, as Head of the Asean and India area for Société Générale, while indulging his youthful passion for music within the Savoy Truffle group and supporting the NGO Passerelles Digital. Pascal ends this year in June his mandate as President of the French Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, after 4 years of presidency and 8 years on the board of directors.

 

Pascal, what is your background? What brought you to Asia?

I have been living in Singapore for 9 years now, as head of the Asean and India area for Société Générale. I have always been drawn to Asia, having been cradled in my youth with the memories of my family who had lived in Indochina during the period 1935-45. When I left Essec, I naturally joined the Indosuez group, given its Asian history. It was in 1985 that I arrived in Asia, via India, with a 4-year stay in Mumbai, and which marked me a lot. I then continued to Japan, then to Hong Kong, where I met my wife Sandy in 1993. I then joined the American investment bank Bear Stearns, which will send me to Europe for ten years ( Dublin and London) before returning to Hong Kong in 2008. I joined Société Générale there in 2009 and we stayed there until 2012, year of my departure for Singapore. We have three boys, two of them work (in finance) and the youngest is currently a medical student in Dublin. We are very happy to know that our second son, Raphael, is starting his professional experience in Singapore, in asset management.

What memories do you keep of Hong Kong and Singapore over the past 20 years? What are the events that have marked you the most? 

China's growth is certainly the constant feature over the past 20 years. I remember my first visits to China in 1989, and the contrast today is of course startling. As we can see today, Hong Kong occupies a special place in this new balance. My first stay in Hong Kong was of course marked for me by my marriage to Sandy, in 1994, and the chance to be able, thanks to her, to develop contacts and friendships beyond the French network. From a professional point of view, being the first employee of Bear Stearns in Hong Kong, I had the satisfaction of contributing to the development of their investment banking activities, and of recruiting high quality colleagues. It was also in Hong Kong when I returned in 2008 that I will experience the fall of Bear Stearns and its takeover by JP Morgan. Being COO then, I was one of the main points of contact to make the transition as painless as possible. I will thus spend a year at JP Morgan, before joining Société Générale.

Arriving in Singapore, it was hard to think that I would stay in this position for 9 years. The aim here was to redevelop this Asean and India region for the group, in our financing and market activities. There too, one of my great satisfactions will have been to be able to identify, and work, with a core of colleagues, mainly local, and who now constitute the future of our organization in this region. Singapore is an ideal platform to observe and participate in the rapid development of the region. The lessons of the 1998 crisis have been well followed, and the financial governance of the main countries in the region is now of excellent quality. We really appreciate Singapore, for its living environment as well as a very favorable business environment, thanks to a perfectly organized and accessible ecosystem. Personally, Sandy was fortunate to discover talents as an artist, studying at NAFA and doing since his first exhibitions. For my part, I was also able to accomplish in Singapore a youthful passion: with friends we had formed a rock group, Savoy Truffle, which performed about twenty times from 2015! In great apotheosis, our last performance took place on the stage of the Botanical Garden in June 2019!

You are President of the FCCS. What have been the challenges of the CBCF over the past 20 years?

I am ending my mandate as President this month of June, after 4 years of presidency and 8 years on the board of directors, so according to our statutes I will not be able to represent myself. The FCCS is today a well established institution, with more than 600 members. The main credit is of course to his team, which now has more than twenty people. The members of the chamber are also those who ensure its success, through their involvement in the various events and committees that are organized there. Thanks to the establishment three years ago of Team France Export, and the concession granted by Business France to the FCCS on local prospecting activities, the FCCS is today a major interlocutor in the integration of French companies into the Singaporean ecosystem. And I am delighted to note that at the end of my mandate, relations between the various actors of the French economic community (FCCS, CCEs, French Tech, etc.) are in good shape, and I hope to have contributed a little! The present challenge of the FCCS is of course the management of the Covid crisis, which has affected, like many, our economic model. The strength of the chamber allows it to cope well, but we are of course waiting for a return to normal, in particular with support for French companies in commercial prospecting in the region. And the chamber must continue to play an important role in representing the French business community vis-à-vis local authorities in the country's management of the crisis and its impact on our members.

How do you see the current situation in Singapore in the context of the pandemic?  

Singapore is one of the countries cited as an example in the management of the pandemic. After the first 3 months, when, like many countries, Singapore had to learn to manage this crisis, the country demonstrated the solidity of its social fabric and its ability to organize itself. One of the country's strengths is the permanent consultation between the private sector - government / public sector - workers. I was particularly impressed by the establishment of EST (Emerging Stronger Task Force) and the 7 different AFAs (Alliance for Action), which bring together participants from various backgrounds and formulate very concrete and actionable recommendations, which will allow Singapore to quickly learn the lessons, and benefit, from the crisis.

Singapore also has the benefit of being a country in very good economic health, being able since the beginning of the crisis to give massive financial support to the economic sectors most affected. In the immediate term, of course, Singapore must be able to reopen itself, and this will depend on the progress made by other countries and future agreements on vaccine recognition.

Those of us who are in Singapore can therefore consider ourselves privileged, but this comes at a price, and in particular the great difficulty of visiting our relatives abroad, or of bringing them to Singapore.

How do you see your future? In Asia ? In France ?

The day I leave Société Générale, we will stay in Asia. I will take advantage of a more independent status to undoubtedly devote myself to roles of non-executive director, or advisor, with companies based, or linked, in Asia, in financial fields but also in education and others if the opportunity presents itself. I will also find more time to devote to the NGO that I have supported for almost 8 years: Passerelles Numériques, and whose mission is to provide IT education to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, with three centers in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia, Especially in these difficult times, PN needs all possible support.

Depending on the opportunities that may arise, it is quite likely that we will then decide to return to Hong Kong, where I am a Permanent Resident. After having followed me during all these years, to the detriment of her professional career, it is my turn to follow Sandy in a territory that I continue to love, thanks to her natural dynamism, and her nature! And hoping that this new stage in my life will allow me to maintain close ties in all the countries of Asia with which I have been able to forge relationships, personal and professional, and of course Singapore in the first place.

 

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