VietNamNet Bridge – The appointment of foreigners into the key posts at
Vietnamese businesses has always been the “hot news” for the public. However,
foreign CEOs do not always bring the things businesses expect.
The wave of hiring foreign CEOs
A foreigner, David Alexander Newbigging, has been nominated for the post of the
member of the board of directors of REE (Refrigeration Engineering Enterprise).
He does not hold REE shares now, but has been nominated by the big shareholder
who holds 27.65 million REE shares, Platium Victory Pte Ltd.
More and more foreign businessmen have been assigned important positions at
Vietnamese businesses recently.
The wave of hiring foreign CEOs began 3 years ago, when Techcombank, one of the
biggest joint stock banks in Vietnam, replaced the then CEO Nguyen Duc Vinh, who
had been on the post for 12 years by that time, with a British CEO, Simon
Though Vinh very succeeded on his post, Techcombank still believed that it needs
a new CEO for the new development stage. The foreign banker, with impressive
profile on his career, was supported by the key personnel of the bank. He was
believed to help preserve the high growth rate of the bank in a more competitive
In March 2012, Maritime Bank announced the appointment of an Indian, Atul Malik,
to the post of CEO, hoping that the foreign businessman would help improve the
corporate governance and make it come closer to the international practice.
However, Lau Boo Tuan, Singaporean nationality, is considered the first bank CEO
in Vietnam. He worked for Mekong Bank, headquartered in Tien Giang province.
In Suk Ko, former Deputy President of South Korean Hyundai Group and CEO of
Hyundai Investment, was appointed as the CEO of Vietnamese Bitexco, a real
estate group in early 2011.
Mar Laude, French nationality, became the CEO of Dong Tam Group in 2008. Chad
Ovel, US nationality, was appointed as the CEO of the AA Construction and
Architecture JSC. Japanese Ogawa Takeo became FPT Japan Company in early 2010,
while Madhur Maini CEO and member of the board of directors of Masan Group, a
consumer goods manufacturer.
Will foreign CEOs help?
The rapid development of Masan Group and the sharp increase in the asset value
of Mekong Bank show the ability of the foreign CEOs.
However, observers have commented that they still cannot see the “personal
hallmarks” of the foreign businessmen in Vietnamese businesses. In other words,
what the foreign CEOs have brought are not as high as businesses expected.
A lot of foreign CEOs have very impressive curriculum vitas, but they still
cannot do anything “impressive,” or make any breakthrough to Vietnamese
businesses. Some commercial banks with foreign CEOs still have reported
unsatisfactory business results.
Explaining this, experts say foreigners may have good experiences in doing
business in the international market, but still have deep knowledge about the
Vietnamese business environment.
The foreign CEO was hoped to help Maritime Bank improve the corporate governance
skills. However, investors keep complaining that the bank’s reports have not
To date, investors still have not been informed about the business performance
of the bank in 2012, and the first six months of 2012. Only the annual 2011
report was exposed which showed the sharp decrease in its profits.