Executive Education

Peer Talk Profile: Him Chuan Lim

Him Chuan Lim, managing director of Development Bank of Singapore and a 2014 participant in Chicago Booth's Accelerated Development Program, Singapore, doesn't live by the adage "Work smarter, not harder."

"You need to come with a lot of 'heart' work,” Him Chuan told Executive Edge. “By doing your work in that way, you are always quite well focused and know what's important for you and your organization. There is really no shortcut in being effective."

"Hard work is not about spending more time. With heart work, you can work smarter also."

Him Chuan has developed many frameworks as a leader at DBS, named the safest bank in Asia by Global Finance magazine for six consecutive years and named one of the world’s safest commercial banks. With a low 1.1% ratio of nonperforming loans overall for DBS Group at the end of 2013, DBS knows about working smarter.

As part of business leadership training, Him Chuan enrolled in Chicago Booth's Executive Education Program in 2014. Booth's Accelerated Development Program in Singapore, operated at the school's beautiful campus in Singapore, delivered what DBS management and Him Chuan were looking for.

"The faculty was commercial and willing to listen," he said. "They came from the Western world, but they were willing to listen and understand the different contexts we operate in. The Asian context is not homogenous. There are many different cultures, many different ways of doing things. Whether they were addressing the Singaporean way, or the Chinese or Japanese way, the faculty adjusted their delivery and content to be most effective."

The thorough curriculum provided many "reality checks," Him Chuan said, and was rooted in the business world, backed by research that underpins academic theory.

"The content of the program covered the whole spectrum of what a senior executive needs to be equipped with: the financial aspect, marketing, leadership, and storytelling aspects," he noted.

Before the program began, he was eager to meet the professors, who all flew in from Chicago to deliver a uniquely Booth experience.

"I have a lot of respect for that school and wanted to meet the faculty," Him Chuan said. "They approached us as colleagues, not academics. They provided a lot of good examples of how to apply theory, with a lot of data to support them. Very commercial. I have to congratulate the professors."

Him Chuan also appreciated the schedule of the three-month program, which required one full week in school each month. "That gave me a lot of flexibility to apply what I've learned to work, then go back to school again, learn, and link back whatever I've learned to work. It was a great iterative process."

The lessons in class apply to many aspects, Him Chuan noted. He used them when providing training to managers at DBS. He applied them while creating his 2015 plans and priorities, even when conducting performance evaluations to assess a leader's effectiveness.

"When I reflect on the takeaways from three weeks of training, there were two key points which I shared with the class at the course: the big "L" and the little "l," Him Chuan said. "The big 'L' is leadership—macromanagement of your company in your industry. The small 'l' is an individual leader, how you make things happen by developing constructive relationships."

In various management roles since joining DBS in 2001, Him Chuan has learned a lot on the job. But, he said, Booth's Executive Education Program added a new dimension.

"It is useful to step back and learn about best practices outside the organization and why companies succeed and grow," he said. "It's also about reaching out to a bigger community of people that I’m able to learn from. Learning is a lifelong journey."