‘There’s always a solution to every problem.’ Aw Kah Peng speaks in an exclusive interview with Lianhe Zaobao
May 13, 2022
Chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore Aw Kah Peng speaks to Lianhe Zaobao business editor Hu Yuanwen on her career over the last three decades and why she chose Shell when she wanted to join the private sector.
The last three decades have been a series of adventures for the Chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore, Aw Kah Peng. In this exclusive interview with Lianhe Zaobao, the story follows Kah Peng’s career spanning the public service, including her time at the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the Singapore Tourism Board and to the present day at Shell Singapore.
To her, work is about solving problems. Whatever challenges she faces, she believes there is always a solution. In her time with the EDB, Kah Peng shared the challenges of having to convince investors to put their faith in Singapore when some had not even heard of the country and were sceptical of governments. They would ask her what kind of support the government could provide, what the tax incentives were, what manpower support she could provide, and more. Kah Peng would deal with the challenges pragmatically and even carried with her a map and photos of Singapore to make her case stronger.
She recalled then Minister for Trade and industry George Yeo had told her that few industries require the cohesive collaboration between geopolitics, industry, and governments. The energy industry was one of them. ‘The energy industry is very unique. You’d need to understand the behaviour of each country and the geopolitics among them,’ she said.
Admitting she was unfamiliar with the value chain of the chemical industry, despite being a Chemical Engineering graduate, she asked Shell for a crash course. “(Shell) was very friendly. They invited me to visit their refinery and even drew a diagram for me. I thought this reflected Shell’s culture: They didn’t just focus on their own profits but were genuinely interested in helping people understand their business and the industry,” shared Kah Peng. She was also reminded of the time she visited the Shell office in London where they provided her with a lot of industry reports. This being the time before Google, Kah Peng lapped it all up. This was perhaps one of the reasons she decided to choose Shell when she left civil service for the private sector.
Through all her endeavours, Kah Peng never backed down from a challenge. “If you give me a task, I will give it my best shot. I won’t say I don’t know how to do it. Give me a few days or a couple of months and I will find the solution,” she told the reporter. To her, challenges can be resolved by the end of the day – with a little bit of tenacity and a whole lot of ‘can do’ team spirit.
Click here to read the subscriber-only article in Mandarin: 新加坡蚬壳集团主席区嘉冰 兵来将挡问题来了解决问题 | 早报 (zaobao.com.sg)