TO commemorate Singapore’s 50th anniversary, I have decided to dedicate this column to my favorite city-state and to write about Singapore’s richest siblings, the brothers Robert and Philip Ng.
Rated amongst the best cities to live
But first, let me briefly describe Singapore. Because of my coaching work (real estate and family business) in the Asean region, I have used Singapore as my hub for most family business sessions. Singapore is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, the fourth-largest financial center and one of the top two busiest container ports in the world, at least for the past ten years. Its globalized and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially manufacturing, which accounted for around 30 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 2013.
Singapore places high in international rankings with regard to standard of living, education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness and it has one of the highest per capita income and one of the longest overall life expectancy in the world. The country is also one of nine countries in the world with top AAA rating from all credit rating agencies. The Philippines is several notches below, with a fairly credible BBB rating.
Robert and Philip Ng: when siblings unite
Brothers Robert and Philip Ng are sons of real estate tycoon Ng Teng Fong and inherited their father’s real estate empire and continued to bring it to greater heights. Robert Ng is not only a property tycoon, but also a trained lawyer while Philip has a degree in city planning, as well as civil and geotechnical engineering.
The Ng family today builds one in six houses in Singapore. They are known as the HDB (Housing Development Board) of condominiums. There are different routes to success, and although their wealth might not be entirely self-made, their story is still nonetheless impressive.
Forbes listed the two as the 30th richest people in the world in 1997. As of January 2015, Robert, together with his brother, Philip Ng, has an estimated net worth of $11.5 billion. Seems like the Ng brothers are unbeatable when they join forces.
The Ng family owns property giants Far East Organization and Sino Group. Their late father, Ng Teng Fong, developed Far East Organization into a conglomerate with over 700 malls, hotels and condos in Singapore and Hong Kong worth over $6 billion. After their father’s demise in 2010 due to cerebral hemorrhage, the brothers worked together to grow the business.
When the real estate market in Singapore and Hong Kong slumped, the Ng brothers remained unfazed despite their revenues declining by nearly $1 billion to $4.6 billion. They diversified their investments and proceeded to purchase real estate in Australia.
Philip Ng is a Christian and believes in involving Christ in the workplace and practicing Christ-centered leadership. He said, “My people and I would go to our project sites on Sundays, to inspect and ensure the quality of our delivery. But I was making my employees work on a Sunday. It never occurred to me before that it isn’t right because I wasn’t a Christian then. I realized that when I became a Christian and I told everybody that they would no longer work on Sundays, which is a day of rest. What’s so amazing is that I did not know until a couple of months later that the wives of some of my Christian colleagues had been praying for their husbands to be released from this curse. God does amazing things. This is a small anecdote, but I think it had a large impact on the organization.”
Despite their massive wealth, the brothers have not forgotten their roots. In 2011, the Jurong General Hospital was renamed as Ng Teng Fong Hospital after the Ng brothers donated $125 million to the hospital. Philip Ng said, “the gift served to give back to the Singapore community as well as leave a lasting memory of our father”.
Not everyone is born with a silver spoon – some might be luckier than others.
Take Ng Teng Fong, the father of Robert and Philip, who made it from zero to hero, the epitome of a rags to riches tale. He had no rich father, no degree, but made it with determination, hard work and foresight. When he unfortunately passed on, he left behind a legacy succeeded by his sons, who helped expand the business.
Happy SG 50!