Tasked to oversee her family business’ Singapore operations, one of Vicky Hwang‘s first acts was to transform a quiet lobby bar into Atlas, an award-winning, talked-out cocktail destination. In doing so, she is also carrying on the legacy of her grandfather CS Hwang, the billionaire Hong Kong tycoon and founder of property conglomerate Chyau Fwu Group.
As CEO of Parkview Group Singapore and Chyau Fwu Development Singapore, she helps her family develop new projects here. At the same time, she is making a mark as part of the next generation of Chyau Fwu Group, which owns residential developments and hotels in Hong Kong, China and Europe. The Hwang family also owns Parkview Square, where Atlas is, and Parkview Eclat condominium on Grange Road. Although she declines to reveal specifics, she is now working on a space at Parkview Square that will pay tribute to her uncle George Wong, the late executive chairman of Parkview Group and a big lover of life, food, drink and art. He opened the Parkview Museum two floors above Atlas in March 2017, the same month as the bar, and passed away suddenly nine months later.
Built in 2002, Parkview Square had been her grandfather’s last major building project – he died two years later – so it remains special to the family. “At the time, people thought it was an odd place to build and my grandfather always felt that was short-term thinking,” Hwang, 40, says. “With Duo and developments of the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor Corridor, his prediction came true. To ensure we stayed relevant, I was asked to come to Singapore to see what we would need to do.”
That would involve a multimillion-dollar rejuvenation of Parkview Square, including the retooling of the old Divine wine bar into Atlas, which has raked in accolades, including Bar of the Year at the 2019 World Gourmet Awards, and fifth spot in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 list.
Hwang says she brings a cosmopolitan outlook to the group. She holds American, Hong Kong and Taiwanese passports, was born in Taiwan and grew up in Hong Kong. She spent seven years in the US, studying political science at Georgetown in Washington DC and East Asian studies at Stanford in Palo Alto. After graduating, she worked for seven years in the UK as leasing director of Battersea Power Station, which her father bought in 1993 and sold in 2006. She met her Belgian husband in France, and lived there until they moved to Singapore with their young daughter in 2013.
Having diverse views matters, especially in a male-dominated business like property. The mother of three says: “I often sit in a room full of men, but I’ve been raised by my father and grandfather to be like everyone else. I feel worthy to be at the table and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. Women are able to collaborate well and put the ego aside a lot more than men.”
Besides looking to develop a site in Niseko ski resort with her brother, Hwang says her dream project is to finish reconstructing an old orangery on a 38ha site in the south of France, a sentimental place where she met her husband. She hopes to one day turn this chateau into a hotel that feels like it’s owned by friends, “(where) it’s luxurious but comfortable and not pretentious”.
That down-to-earth attitude shows when she says she’s happiest spending time with her family, regularly flying back to Hong Kong to hang out with her cousins and their children.
Her fierce devotion to family shines through in her work. As she puts it, her aspiration has always been simple and true – to do the Hwang family proud.
“We wanted (Atlas) to be in the league of the best bars in the world. But it’s also been hugely personal. I’m trying to do my grandfather’s legacy justice. Everything we do is with heart.”
(RELATED: 50 of the world’s best bars)