Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Norman Liu Honored with Ascend/Deloitte Inspirational Leadership Award

Henry Phillips, vice chairman of Deloitte and regional managing partner of its northeast region, introduced the winner of the 2011 Ascend/Deloitte Inspirational Leadership Award, Norman C.T. Liu. As President and CEO at GE Capital Aviation Services for 22 years, Liu has served as Corporate Champion of the GE Asian Pacific American Forum and is a member of the Committee of 100, a leading Chinese American organization.

The Ascend/Deloitte Inspirational Leadership Award honors an individual who has had a meaningful impact on accounting, finance, professional services or related profession, shown leadership in the marketplace and fostered commitment to community service.

As the concluding speaker of the Leadership Lunch, Liu said he would keep his remarks brief. He started with a thanks to Ascend, and to Deloitte. He said he was “proud to accept on behalf of the thousands of Pan-Asians at GE Capital,” and added that he becomes confident in the future “when I meet our internal Asian talent at GE Capital!”

Liu talked about leadership, noting that in school it’s “about grades and sports” while later on, at work, it’s “about developing expertise,” which was the task that defined the “first six years of my career.” But expertise accounts for only around 20 percent of leadership in the workplace. “The remaining 80 percent is connecting with, and inspiring, other people.”

Liu further explained that “leadership is not about position. Clearly it’s not about barking orders. It’s about doing what’s right for your clients and customers to succeed, and grooming new talent.” He added that “seeing your team grow is truly personally rewarding.” And, he added, “Finally, leadership is giving back to your community – and setting the right example for your kids.”

Liu said that he would “close on a point my pastor in London mentioned last week,” and noted that his pastor is “just learning to use Twitter and had only six followers. He found out Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber had 15 million followers each. But he remarked that Jesus has 2.1 billion followers each day, and Twitter wasn’t around for thousands of years!” Liu further recalled “the last Supper,” when Jesus washed the feet of his follower: “Can you imagine a CEO doing this today?” He closed by affirming that such a “servant-leader” model remains a relevant model for us all.

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Leadership Lunch Keynote: David O’Brien

The keynote speaker at today’s Leadership Lunch was David O’Brien, Partner, Americas Director of Communications & Marketing, Ernst & Young. He introduced the metaphor of skiing – particularly timely given yesterday’s surprise blizzard – and in particular, the challenge of overcoming the fear of speeding down a steep hill, and mastering the difficult black diamond trails – by leaning forward, over one’s skis, and forging ahead.

He spoke about the “global mindset,” and our constant need to “think about what this means.” While looking out to the audience, he noted there were many “young people managing accounts” here, as well as “some people who are partners,” and he asked of them, “for your clients, are you actually doing things for them – like taking them on trade missions,” and helping to “create opportunity, create a dialogue?” He further asked, “What are we doing right now with our sensitivities to create more opportunities” and to get “terrific, terrific results – getting teams to think more expansively?”

He suggested that the “team that is going to succeed is ultimately going to be that organization with the best global mindset.” And that mindset, he added, “has to permeate all the way through the organization,” from the top all the way through. He explained that “building those teams, strengthening those processes, creating that opportunity, creating more seats at the table: this is how the game is going to be won.” He added that “What this means is not giving up our culture, but leveraging our culture so people see opportunities in it.”

He cited the case of his colleague, Linda Lam, “the head of our insurance practice in NY. She tells this story – how she was a terrific student, and had done everything culturally and was very focused. But she was with a client one day and saw two senior people arguing about a position. She had to summon every strength within her to say to the two senior people on the account, ‘you’re wrong!’ This is what has to be done. And Linda was absolutely right. I look at her today and her strong leadership, and her elegance and how thoughtful is,” and think, “maybe that was her breakthrough moment. But she said no, no, no – I struggle with that every single day.” O’Brien explains that “the important thing is with leadership you have to be true to yourself,” and citing Washington SyCip’s remarks, echoed his advice to “never give up your integrity!”

Looking to the audience, O’Brien observed, “The people in the seats in this room have the greatest opportunity going forward.” He noted, “Many of us are in the accounting world, in the financial services world.” And if we look ahead ten years, he predicted, “we will find ourselves in a lot more leadership positions” – even “having board opportunities.” He observed that with regard to “what we have talked about, the expansion of the economies in Asia, your skills, your perspective,” will be of great value, as increasingly, “we are looking for people of diversity, with financial and accounting backgrounds and who can understand risk from a lot of different dimensions.” He cautioned that it’s “going to take a little while, years of perspective.”

Returning to his earlier metaphor of skiing, he advised: “Get back over your skis again,” and “look for your transformative opportunities. When you get there, don’t forget who’s behind you – don’t forget to open the doors,” and to “look at ways you can change the world.” He added, “Here I think the opportunity is even more vast! The number of people that have to get recruited to replenish our organizations” is large, and they can thus “help shorten that cycle of experience.” He closed by asking, “Where you can take your personal path – like SyCip did – where you can make a personal difference?”

He noted how in his own personal life, he has endeavored to do this, and he and his wife adopted two special needs children from China, and that he also serves on the Children of China Pediatric Foundation, “with some of the top doctors out of Columbia University. We go work with the orphans over there.” He thus counseled, “Find those that need it most, and use your capital to help those – there’s plenty of need out there.”

He ended his keynote speech by saying, “I am truly, truly honored to come out here to share with you,” and that he “wanted to hold a mirror back on what I saw last year – the power of the Asian community, the power of inclusiveness, and to talk about that and share the perspective on that – to push you toward the leadership level. It may be a little uncomfortable – but you’re going to make it down the hill! It’s a little bit fast at first, a little bit harrowing – but it will encourage you to get back up that hill, and try the black diamond!”

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Washington SyCip, Honored

Diana Solash, president of the NY chapter of Ascend, started the Leadership Lunch off by saluting Ascend’s Leader Award Winners for 2011.

Washington SyCip, recipient of Ascend’s President’s Lifetime Achievement Award, was then honored with a video saluting his life and his accomplishments.

After the video, SyCip addressed the attendees in the full Sutton complex, in which he discussed how the century of Asia has begun – and noted the young attendees can now choose between being an accountant in the US, or perhaps the “head of a firm in Asia – likely India or China, whose population is four times that of the US.”

“If I were still in the profession,” he said, “I would probably take the brightest people that I have and post them not on Hong Kong – but Beijing. Money talks – and China now has the money – not London or New York.”

“If I were in your place,” he added, “as young as you are, as healthy and as dynamic as you are – I’ve learned a lot from you young people – I’d start learning Chinese.”

SyCip is a sought-after authority on business matters ranging from best practices, to mentoring and leadership in finance, business management, philanthropic endeavors and promoting educational programs. “Mr. SyCip came from humble beginnings to build a strong and powerful network. He has won the respect and trust of others in Asian leadership,” says Arthur Chin, Executive Director of Ascend. “His accomplishments underscore the Ascend mission and it is our privilege to honor his contributions to our community.”

SyCip, 90, is Chinese born and grew up in both Shanghai and the Philippines, receiving an American education while still overseas. He graduated high school at fifteen and received his Bachelors of Science in two and a half years summa cumme laude at the Catholic University of Santo Tomas (UST), before pursing a career in finance. Mr. SyCip attended Columbia University and then begin his career in the financial world.

Leadership Lunch in the Sutton complex grand ballroom about to start; it’s filling up quickly!

The keynote speaker is David O’Brien, Partner, Americas Director of Communications & Marketing, Ernst & Young.

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Emerging Market Panel: Changing Dynamics in Emerging Markets

Another full house in the Murray Suite for the Emerging Market Panel on the topic of “Changing Dynamics in Emerging Markets.” The moderator, Rajiv Basu introduced the panelists: Alice Young, Partner & Chair of the Asia Pacific Practice, Kay Scholer LLP; Punit Arora, Partner, PWC.; and Jennifer Yi Qin, Partner, Deloitte.

Alice Young described a “tremendous opportunity” in the emerging markets. She noted the U.S. recovery has been “unbelievably slow but compared to Japan, it looks pretty good.” And now, “with Europe on the ropes, who would have thought China would come to its rescue – first with its bail out the U.S., and now the bailout of Europe.” She added that Beijing has “learned some lessons” from the U.S. bailout, “and now they have some conditions for the European bailout!” She commented, “I think we are seeing tremendous, dynamic change, and frankly I am guardedly optimistic,” as “we have seen this roller coaster before,” and going forward, she added, “We’re going to have to have more of a global collaboration.”

Next up, Punit Arora noted that in the emerging markets, “it has been quite dramatic what has happened the last few years,” and noted that “while we tend to refer to a lot of these as ’emerging markets’, I refer to them as growth markets” as they are the “only ones showing consistent growth.” With so much volatility in world markets, he finds these growth markets “provide consistent stability” with markets like China, India and a number of smaller markets like Indonesia, whose “growth rate is much higher than India and China,” providing an important engine of growth to the world economy. He noted how “this past week was one of the best weeks in a quarter of a century for the stock markets,” adding “this one week along took back all the losses of one whole quarter.” He reflected on this, he said if we “look at that” we can “say where is this is going to take us,” as “these markets are really growth markets.” Arora observed that the “integration within these markets is so significant” and noted there are “more China RMB funds than any other country-specific funds,” with a “large appetite for more investments there.” He expects that the U.S. “will remain a very, very significant market. But where is the growth for that market going to sustain itself from?” He expects this growth will be fueled by markets in “Africa, Latin America, the Middle East as well – that’s going to drive growth into the next ten, twenty years.”

Jennifer Yi Qin next spoke, addressing a question posed by the moderator: whether Shanghai might become tomorrow’s Tokyo or Hong Kong, and will Singapore survive as a financial center? She noted that “Shanghai wants to be a financial center, and has a vision for 2020” and added that “financial markets in China have reached the size to become capable of a lot of things globally.” But she added it’s “not only the size of the markets matter” and that there are three other “important factors: infrastructure, currency, and the regulatory environment.” For China, she asked, “what’s the matter for RMB? The Chinese government has put into place steps for the RMB to be internationalized, to become a significant player in the global economic environment.” But she noted, from that perspective, there remains steps still to be taken toward that.” From the financial markets perspective ,” she noted, “recently in China there has been a trend regarding what’s considered a Fortune 500 company – is it size? Is it presence in the global arena? For Chinese companies not to be satisfied with the local market but who step out and take a significant role in the global stage, we will see continuing opportunities.” This involves the big banks, and we will “see next a wave of transformation of securities firms in China. With all the new found money the brokerage firms will have, the ambition will be there to expand globally.” In the next seven to eight years, she believes, “we will see if it develops in a way to match Hong Kong and Singapore.” She noted that “Singapore has most lenient tax regime in Asia area” and that Singapore “has a better tax treaty with China than Hong Kong.” For such a tax incentives to register in Singapore, “that’s something of a double sided blade as government relies on tax revenues. But to grab the practice by changing the tax code, it can reach that level.”

Alice Young also discussed Singapore, noting it’s “like a little Switzerland” and “provides the clear legal protections, the secrecy but with the strong government oversight. They can pretty much run it the way they want to because of the government – unlike India or China which have a much bigger locomotive to run. Singapore only has 4 million people.” Further, China and India have “currency restrictions, a lack of exchange flexibility” and as a result, “Hong Kong will therefore continue to be window into China, into Asia.” She commented that “the piece no one has mentioned, London and NY are not going to be the centers – already they are seeing a tremendous fall off” and this will “result in types of regulations that are very restrictive for fast movement” and which will continue to “push toward the Pacific.”

Punit Arora addressed Mumbai, observing some significant differences from Singapore, noting “how quickly large multinationals will be going outbound. That part of the growth is still somewhat untapped” so there remains “significant growth capability in the next couple of years.” He noted that while in “Singapore, Hong Kong, there’s a stable regulatory regime,” that “a different dynamic plays out compared to Mumbai. There’s lot at stake for Mumbai, but it is moving slowly with regard to regulatory regime.” But Arora noted “they take great pride in moving slowly” as this “has helped their banks” by insulating them from some of the recent volatility. He noted that we’re “starting to see firms go out; India is pitching to China to get outsourcing into India” as “China attracts initially” but will “rely on India to further develop” and as a consequence, “their fortunes are aligned” and “their growth is similar.” With regard to Singapore, he noted “the country is really run like a corporation. They are very very focused on what is it that business needs. In my view, Singapore will continue to play a very major role.” He noted a lot of Indian IPOs are out of Singapore, as “the capital market development has been much faster there than anywhere else in the region. Singapore is the place they are looking at for setting up the entities, competing directly with Hong Kong. And its tax treaties are better developed than Hong Kong.” All this bodes well for Singapore’s continued importance.

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Photo Album: Opening Reception of 2011 National Convention

And here’s a photo album from last night’s opening reception at Ascend’s 2011 National Convention. Full-sized individual photos can be viewed on our Facebook page.

Ascend 2011 National Convention - Opening Reception Photo Album

Ascend 2011 National Convention - Opening Reception Photo Album


Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Photo Album: Day 1 of Ascend’s 2011 National Convention

Here’s a photo album from Day 1 of Ascend’s 2011 National Convention. The full-sized individual photos can be viewed on our facebook page.

Ascend 2011 National Convention - Day 1 Album

Ascend 2011 National Convention - Day 1 Album

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Congrats! Phil Yam Awarded Kaplan CPA Review Full Scholarship

Congratulations Phil Yam! Ascend is proud to present you with a Kaplan CPA Review Full Scholarship!

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 30, 2011

Full house for the Executive Development for Asian Americans session!

Full house at this morning’s Networking Breakfast: Executive Development for Asian Americans, in the Sutton complex. Coffee and pastries are available in the hallway outside!

Full house at this morning's Networking Breakfast: Executive Development for Asian Americans!

Posted by: Competing In A Borderless World | October 29, 2011

Final Thoughts on Diversity

The diversity panel closed with some final words of wisdom from each of the panelists:

Jose Garcia advised, “Pursue your passion, have the courage, and ask for things.”

Karyn Twaronite recommended, “Take advantage of opportunities to build your network – your professional network and the relationships you’re building is your power! Make your achievements known.”

And lastly, Olga Kozak advised, “Always be open to new experiences, and don’t get too attached to your career choice as it will change – always be open, and keep your eyes open, to new experiences.”

With that, the panel concluded, and attendees exited the conference room for the opening night reception – at 6:30 in the Mercury Ballroom.

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