Lunch with Guy, Chief Executive of Swire Properties
It was a pleasure to meet with Guy Bradley, Chief Executive of Swire Properties, one of the most respected companies in Hong Kong known not only for its commitment to quality, but its involvement in the arts, the community and the environment. We had lunch with Guy, who was according to the volunteers, “surprisingly down-to-earth and genuine”. So we took the chance to pick his brains on practically anything, from his views on climate change, architecture to career advice.
You’ve worked and lived in so many locations, including Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, United States and the Middle East. Which one was the most difficult?
“Papua New Guinea, which was the first location I was assigned to after graduating from university and joining Swire. We had a small presence which means that it gave me great exposure to lots of different things and businesses. It was great training for me to be a general manager, as you need to be involved in every aspect and see the big picture.”
You seemed to be able to dive into a new sector, a new location and thrive, from managing Swire Beverages in China to being the Regional Head of Swire Pacific in the Middle East. What is your secret to success?
“Keep an open mind and be curious. In a new country, it’s important to learn about the local culture and language. When I joined Swire Properties in 2006, I studied to become a Chartered Surveyor even though it was not required, as it was the fastest way to learn the technical side of things.”
This was helpful to Pierre, one of the volunteers, as he shares, “I have genuine interest in real estate but wasn’t sure if Chartered Surveyor would add value to my background as a Chartered Financial Analyst. Guy shared about how valuable it is for him to deep dive and attain his professional qualification. This has definitely made me more determined and excited to work towards a chartered surveyor qualification.”
What advice do you have for us?
“Don’t settle down so early, travel and try more things when you’re young!”
Says Guy when he commented on how competitive it is in the job market nowadays, and reminded us that life experiences are just as valuable and not to lose sight of.
He also reminded us in comparison to many places in the world, we’re in a unique position:
“Hong Kong is a unique and exciting city like no other place in the world. Be aware and embrace opportunities that arise from being connected to China.”
What is the culture at Swire like?
“Our culture is all about Teamwork! We have a very flat hierarchy and diverse teams in the company, which feels like a big family.”
This sense of flat hierarchy also helps Swire in innovating, as this is how ideas such as blueprint came about — a co-working space and an incubator program for B2B startups, an idea brought to Swire Properties’ top management by two Management Trainees. One of whom was Henry Bott, who took the volunteers on a tour of blueprint after lunch.
In designing blueprint, Swire has been very thoughtful to incorporate creative elements and adapt the office space to fit the needs of tech companies.
They have also designed the space with supercool furnitures like airline seats (courtesy of Cathay Pacific) that lined the wall at the communal lounge area & scattered recycled and refurbished plane artifacts around!
While Swire has worked with many internationally renowned architects — such as Frank Gehry on OPUS HONG KONG, they are also committed to supporting & grooming local artists and architects. A prime example is The Upper House, a boutique hotel that was designed by Hong Kong-based architect Andre Fu.
This is especially valuable to young architects such as Vincent, one of the volunteers, who shared “Being a young architect is tough in HK and getting the chance to build architecture at a young age is like trying to win a lottery. I am happy to hear that Swire is doing something to reach out and find young architects.”
Lastly, we are very thankful to have the support from the Swire Properties’ Public Affairs team who has helped made this meeting with Guy a reality! Behind the scenes, they have generously prepared a mini-lunch buffet and souvenirs bag for each of our volunteers.
Thank you Guy for donating a lunch hour to Time Auction Hong Kong, and the team at Swire Properties for the arrangement, which has indirectly contributed 159 volunteer hours to YMCA, Soap Cycling, Christian Action Ethnic Minority Centre, Pathfinders, Special Olympics Hong Kong, Lifelong Animal Protection, Hands On Hong Kong, Society for the Deaf and more.
Let’s hear it from the volunteers:
“I have always been fascinated by city planning. During the past few years of my career working on critical land programmes for the Government, my assignments have included long-term strategic planning for Hong Kong, as well as implementing land rezoning for residential development. “Conflict” and “Land” are always around me.
Today, as a participant of Time Auction, I met Guy face to face and talked about his view on some of the issues in Hong Kong. I have always wanted to meet him to chat about his philosophy in managing successful property company, in having work-life balance; and how he sees the positioning of Hong Kong in China’s story. Guy’s international perspective has inspired me on my career development.
As interesting as each of the topic we talked about, what I really like is having the opportunity to chat with such a very friendly CEO with his very engaged team. I can feel that he and his team really appreciate Swire’s corporate culture and are truly proud of working together. I enjoyed the time with Guy very much.”
“Thank you to Time Auction, a very meaningful organization. If it wasn’t for your time and effort, we entrepreneurs would probably never would get such a chance to sit and talk with Guy Bradley. I sincerely want to say thank you to the Time Auction team.
Getting a chance to talk with Guy would let us hear what great minds would think and do while they are on their good times and down times. It would allow us to relate and see what we have to do when we struggle. I guess everyone needs mentor especially in business during life. Guy definitely makes one great mentor. He is very down to earth, friendly, approachable, funny and have a lot of charisma. It was very nice of him to sit down with us and share his views and thoughts to our questions. I really appreciated that he has given us his precious time through his super busy schedule. I will definitely remember his words to me is “Hang in there and don’t give up!”
Being a young architect is tough in HK and getting the chance to build architecture at a young age is like trying to win a lottery. I am happy to hear that Swire is doing something to reach out and find young architects. Please let Mr.Bradley knows that I would Hang in there and won’t give up. I look forward and determined to design an architecture for Swire one day and hoping to get a chance to work with Mr.Bradley himself very soon.
Once again, Thank you very much!”
“Dear Mr. Bradley and Time Auction,
This is Yuki. It was so great to meet you all on the lunch meeting at the blueprint. Before the meeting, I was curious and interested in Swire management styles. When I arrived blueprint I realised that it was more into an open space and casual interior design than I was not imagined to be. From the design of blueprint, I can imagine that Blueprint is unlike the traditional kind of company but accept innovative/ creative ideas.
From the meeting, I have learned two key points.
1) Management style of Mr. Bradley / blueprint:
As you have mentioned, Chinese market is growing. In order to be successful working at different countries with different cultures, we have to be curious all the time. You have reminded me that attitudes to learn and be humble to learn is crucial. I strongly agree with your point. These days what I see from my generation is that they easily quit when ‘things’ do not work out as what they were expected. That may means most of the time, they act before they consider the consequences. However, I believe that it is never too late to change and be willing to learn starting from today. I think a company like Swire/ blueprint with a business culture of trusts, share, and openness can be a good encouragement/ an education for young generation. Certainly, the leader of the team has to be open minded and willing to listen too. Then, being a general leader is important too. General leader should be able to understand everyone’s roles in order to create a common value.
As you also mentioned, most Asians are group-oriented (i.e. Japan or China). It is understandable that we may want to stay in our comfort zone. However, that might be a burden for us to explore the world. Now, from your advice, I will think what I can do differently everyday when I wake up.
2) Giving opportunities to young generations:
A meeting from Time Auction was a great opportunity for young generation. I had a great chance meeting with people from different industries. We can learn from each other as well. Throughout the conversation, it may have reminded me to be more aware of the global issues/the importance of taking care of our community. For instance, Bobo asked whether there is a CSR department in my hotel that I am working at or not. My hotel do not have a CSR department and I did not realised it. If I did not have such conversation I may not even start consider it and would like to suggest to my company. This opportunity has widen my vision from understanding each other’s experience and stories.
Finally, thank you Guy and Time Auction for the opportunity to meet and greet. I learned more than what I have mentioned above. Now I am in a journey of ‘finding myself’. Hope I could inspire others like what you did on the lunch meeting in near future.
Thank you. See you again in the future.
Yukiji Fukuda (Yuki)”
“It was an amazing experience to meet with Mr Bradley, who is a successful man in the Swire Group. I thought he’d be a very serious person before I met him in person, however he turned out to be a very friendly and approachable man as he answered questions from all of us patiently, sincerely and also in a humourous way. With his advice, I will face my challenges in life in a positive way. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, Mr Bradley!”
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Bradley and the Swire Properties team for their time and effort in organising this lunch meeting. It had been a privilege to participate in this meeting and the whole experience was great. Mr. Bradley is a very down-to-earth person who is very willing to share. His insights in current business environment has prompted us to ponder over how we can take ourselves further. His ideas are very positive and encouraging. It was a pleasure to take part in this event and looking forward to meeting him again!”
Hiu Ting Lee
“The lunch meeting was so good. Though I may not have a lot of stories that can be shared with Mr. Bradley , I’ve learned a lot from him. His personal suggestions were constructive and helpful for me because I feel confused about my future career path, deciding whether I should embark on a career in Hong Kong or jump out from my comfort zone to other countries. My main takeaway was that there is a lot of possible ways to success. I should open my mind and keep enhancing my competitiveness, for example learning a new language. Thank you so much Mr. Bradley!”
“It was such a short yet fruitful meeting with you, Mr. Bradley! I can feel how all of us (the participants) are so passionate about having this conversation with you. Each of us has different interest of you that we wanted to know, shown by questions that we asked. It just went smoothly as you answered them one-by-one, and linked one to another. I was just really really glad to hear your sincere sharing on the meeting, thank you for that! Oh, it was also new for me to know that actually Swire has this community ambassador program, and hence it has supported Time Auction initiatives so much. That is great, hope to see more and more social impacts made by Swire Properties in the near future!”
“What an experience! Guy is interesting, informative, inspirational and impressive.
I have genuine interest in real estate but wasn’t sure if Chartered Surveyor would add value to my background as a Chartered Financial Analyst. Guy shared about how valuable it is for him to deep dive and attain his professional qualification. He also shared with us his insights into business leadership and gave us valuable career advices. This has definitely made me more determined and excited to work towards a chartered surveyor qualification.
It was a wonderful yet all-too-short experience! I wish to express my sincere thanks to Guy, the Swire team and Time Auction for your tremendous input into making this meeting successful.”
For more auctions, visit Time Auction Hong Kong, a platform that connects you with inspiring mentors while encouraging volunteerism.
This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium: https://medium.com/time-auction/lunch-with-guy-chief-executive-of-swire-properties-e4dccc6a7e76