Alex Chua, CEO of Goldbell Financial Services: The discipline of time
Alex Chua claims to be lazy, or at least that’s what he says. Rather than working hard, he works smartly and looks at the big picture. According to the 40-year-old CEO of Goldbell Financial Services (GBFS), the traditional relationship manager model used by most financial institutions is not scalable.
This is why he prefers working with SMEs. “Have you ever wondered why they can’t get financing?” Chua questions. “It has nothing to do with risk. SMEs are simply too small. Why would RMs invest the same time on a $30,000 deal when they can secure a $30 million one?”
Chua believes otherwise. He sees the gap in this market and not only provides financing for companies in such situations but continues to support them as they grow. It creates a win-win scenario. As SMEs scale, GBFS’s debt book grows as well.
He approaches his personal life in the same way. Chua has been practising Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) for 12 years. It’s the only sport he has stuck to for so long. He has completed Ironmans, played football and basketball, and run marathons, but BJJ remains his one constant.
However, while his gym mates drill techniques repeatedly, he prefers a less traditional, free-flowing style, similar to how he views financing. “Good BJJ practitioners will drill more than 100 times. I don’t like that because it’s boring. I prefer to just roll with my sparring partner. I might only get 10 per cent better, but I will have a better appreciation for what to expect in a competition,” he says.
Besides his day job and the daily practices on the mat, Chua is also a devoted father. Every morning, he spends time with his three children and tucks them in at night. He also takes them swimming once a week.
I ask Chua how he finds the time to juggle all his responsibilities, and he replies, “I stay disciplined by keeping my life to the bare necessities. The key is concentrating on the most important things, spending time on them, and doing them well. I only spend time on activities I enjoy.”
It’s how he keeps winning on the mat – he placed third in his 82kg weight class among 72 competitors during the 2018 World Master IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship final – and in the office, where GBFS has cumulatively loaned out over $1 billion as of March this year. Chua understands what he’s good at and attempts to tilt the playing field in his favour.
That doesn’t mean Chua never loses or falters. He’s failed multiple times throughout his life. The most important thing, he says, is to understand the reasons for failure. “Six years in business have taught me that it’s about trying and trying to figure out what works.”
He admires fine watchmaker Audemars Piguet for the same reason. In 1972, the Manufacture launched the Royal Oak, a high-end, hand-finished stainless steel sports watch that broke prevailing aesthetic codes. It has continued taking risks to stay ahead of the pack. “The watchmaker’s legacy and values appeal to me. A legacy is distinct to each individual. You cannot pass on your legacy to your children. That would be a burden. I would rather teach my children to be good and humble,” he says.
Audemars Piguet’s continued evolution throughout history is mirrored in these values – staying true to yourself while continuing to evolve for the future. Let history be your guide, not a ball and chain.
Zabriel Sim, serial entrepreneur: Full speed ahead
Running one business is enough for most people. For Zabriel Sim, being at the helm of multiple businesses is all in a day’s work. Besides heading Standard Engineering – a mechanical and electrical systems company that offers one-stop solutions for commercial and industrial spaces – he is also the managing director of its three subsidiaries: additions and alterations specialist Create Logic, carpentry firm Create Woodworks and Build Companion, a structural installation company.
It’s a resume that requires the serial entrepreneur to be on top of his mental and physical game from dawn to dusk. On a typical workday, you might find Sim at a construction site at 8am, overseeing his team’s work, before having on-site meetings with engineers. His afternoon agenda is full of sales meetings, after which he’s at his desk doing administrative tasks. In the evening, he heads out for networking engagements.
Despite his busy professional schedule and family commitments, the father of two found time to pick up go-karting as a serious hobby last year. Though he had been karting for fun for years, he became serious about the sport after meeting the team manager of The Podium Club CRG (TPCRG).
After his first time driving a race kart, which can travel at speeds of more than 100km per hour, he was hooked. To fit in the fortnightly – weekly during competition season – training sessions, he organises his schedule before a training session, and utilises the breaks during the practice to attend to work matters.
During those sessions, Sim and his TPCRG members will be roaring their engines at full throttle as they attempt to shave fractions of a second off their lap times. His personal best lap time so far is 46.5 seconds on a curvy 960m track. “The winner and second place finisher can be just milliseconds apart,” says Sim. “A good lap time can determine if you have a good starting position in a race. And overtaking someone occurs in a split second.”
Similar to Formula One racing, karting requires plenty of focus and physical endurance. Says Sim, “It’s not like driving a regular car. In addition to how certain components are arranged, you’re also exposed to very strong G-forces. While driving at high speeds, you are literally thrown backwards.”
He adds, smiling, “My work and karting both require a lot of mental and physical exertion. I believe in working hard and playing harder. When I’m working, I’m totally focused on work. But when I’m training or racing for 15 laps, I am only thinking about the track.”
Sim’s love for racing is closely connected to another of his passions – horology. Says the watch collector, “The racing scene has always been linked to watches. Timepieces capture precise lap times, and both watches and go-karts are about bold and innovative designs.”
A fan of substantial, sporty watches, Sim’s first and most-worn timepiece is a 42mm Royal Oak Offshore “Panda”, which has accompanied him “through thick and thin” and for work and play. He even dropped it on the tarmac once and it kept working.
He is also a fan of the new 43mm Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph in pink gold topped with a black ceramic bezel that he sports on these pages. “Although it has a larger diameter, its curved case and ergonomic build make it comfortable even for smaller wrists. The flyback chronograph is a must-have for people with a need
Defying the Norms
Slipping easily into work or play modes, the latest 43mm Royal Oak Offshore models are crafted in titanium, stainless steel or 18-carat pink gold. Combining the identity of the sporty model with a more ergonomically refined design, these timepieces are powered by the Manufacture’s selfwinding flyback chronograph Calibre 4401. A new interchangeable strap system ensures maximum versatility for busy lifestyles.
Discover the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore collection here.
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