Young leaders step up to take over business empires

The children of Vietnamese entrepreneurs have been increasingly returning from abroad in the last five years and taking over key responsibilities at their companies.

Vietnam, business empires, young leaders, corporate leaders, family business

Tran Hung Huy became the youngest chairman in the country’s banking history when, in 2012 he took over at the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) at the age of 34. The bank was co-founded by his father, Tran Mong Hung.

Armed with an MBA from the U.S., he started out as an analyst at the bank at the age of 24, became a board member at 30 and deputy general manager at 32.

While he said he lacked experience and preparation to take over as chairman, top managers at the bank publicly said he was suitable for the job and described him as "capable."

Starting out small, studying abroad and dreaming big are some of the common traits the next generation of corporate leaders who are following in the footsteps of their parents possess. Many have set their sights on expanding their business empires.

At least 10 major corporations – in banking, real estate and jewelry among others – have seen a transition of power within the family in the last five years. Most of the new leaders are in their 30s or 40s and are working alongside their parents in growing their corporation.

The most high-profile include Tran Ngoc Phuong Thao, 36, who is a board member at Phu Nhuan Jewelry, one of the biggest jewelry companies in Vietnam, and Do Quang Vinh, 31, deputy director of retail at the Saigon-Hanoi Bank (SHB).

Thao, who has a PhD in economics from Harvard University, joined the board, of which her mother Cao Thi Ngoc Dung is the chairwoman, in June this year.

Having worked at the headquarters of Australian bank ANZ in Melbourne for years, Thao decided to return to Vietnam last year when she thought she could make a bigger impact in her home country than abroad.

She plans to use her expertise in digital transformation to make PNJ, which boasts strong finances and a large market share, more flexible.

Vietnam, business empires, young leaders, corporate leaders, family business

From (L), female: Le Thu Thuy, 37, CEO of lender SeABank; Tran Uyen Phuong, 39, deputy general manager of beverage producer Tan Hiep Phat; Tran Ngoc Phuong Thao, 36, board member of Phu Nhuan Jewelry; male: Nguyen Ngoc Thai Binh, 40, board member of household appliances maker REE; Doan Quoc Huy, 36, deputy chairman of diversified corporation BIM Group; and Le Viet Hieu, 28, CEO of construction group HBC.

Vinh is used to being in the shadow of his father, Do Quang Hien, SHB chairman and one of the most high-profile entrepreneurs in Vietnam.

But he is trying to make a name for himself by gearing the company toward a new group of customers -- young and successful businesspeople -- by focusing on technology.

"Maybe in future people will stop referring to me as the son of Do Quang Hien and instead call him the father of Do Quang Vinh," he says tongue-in-cheek.

Vinh is trying to harmonize his preferred practices with those of other managers, most of whom were born in the 1960s and 70s.

A consistent quality among the next generation of corporate leaders is their courage to aim high.

Tran Nam Dung, deputy CEO of accounting firm Ernst & Young, said these people "dare to identify clear and high business goals and they are always pondering about how to achieve those goals."

He said the majority of these leaders were educated in the west and have an innovative bent of mind and solid knowledge about business management.

He said they do not bother much with the questions "what?" and "how?" but instead focus on finding the answers to "why?" and how the current business environment and corporate culture could be tweaked to suit the next generation of employees.

Their business acumen has been proven by their companies’ figures, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, he added.

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