Pauline Goh, CEO Singapore and South East Asia, CBRE, is the first woman in Singapore to have held the reins of the world’s largest commercial real estate firm in Singapore and South East Asia. She was appointed Managing Director of CBRE Singapore a decade ago in 2005 and very swiftly promoted to CEO in 2010 when the Singapore office was established as the regional SEA hub for CBRE. Her quick rise to CEO-ship was not surprising, given that Ms Goh rose through the ranks in rapid succession since she joined the firm, then known as Richard Ellis, in 1983 as an executive. In 1987 she was appointed Director in the commercial leasing team. In 1991, Pauline joined the ranks of senior leadership as Executive Director. Her entrepreneur leadership was hard to ignore amongst the global leaders of the business.
Pauline has steadily built up the CBRE brand to be the leading property services firm in Singapore as well as in South East Asia. Singapore’s Commercial leasing team is recognized as one of the best in Asia. Pauline is also directly responsible for the success of the CBRE Residential business over the years. The team has launched an unrivalled number of projects since 1993 when she took over the team, securing sole agency instructions for some of the republic’s most prestigious and prominent developments.
A successful entrepreneur at work, she is also adept at raising four children, all of whom are now in their twenties. Her typical workday starts very early, “I have always enjoyed an early start to the day but I try to leave the office in good time for me to be home for dinner with the family. It had been almost a ritual that we had to have our family dinner at 7.30pm but even now with the children grown and often away, we still try to maintain that discipline.”
Pauline Goh, born in Singapore, educated in Singapore in Catholic mission schools right up to junior college, and educated at National University of Singapore’s Department of Real Estate,
from which she graduated in 1981. She did a pre-medicine course at junior collegue but chose real estate over medicine. Passion for her real estate career found root and grew deeper. “Passion is what makes you come up with innovative solutions beyond the tried and tested. Pursue your passion, and everything else will fall into place. This is not being romantic. This is the highest order of pragmatism. To borrow the words of a wise man, Confucius – “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
Another source of inspiration for Pauline is the role models that came along her way in her career – David Lawrence, the Managing Director of CB Richard Ellis in the 1990s as well as Willy Shee, one of the veterans in real estate in Singapore, now Chairman of the Asia business.
In her role as CEO, Pauline is responsible for CBRE’s business activities in Singapore and the rest of South East Asia including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and, Philippines. She is also a member of the company’s Asia Pacific Strategic Group and Asia Management Board. She has seen the company through several downturns including 2003, during the SARS outbreak, the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and onset of the Global Financial Crisis and 2010 when the Singapore government began implementing a slew of property measures that has impacted home prices and sales volume. During the earlier downturns, she led the way in taking pay cuts and was able to persuade her other senior leaders because of the strong rapport she has with them.
CBRE Singapore has steadily built up its capabilities as the firm’s SEA hub. In the brief five years since being appointed CEO of SEA, Pauline steered the firm in its acquisition of two affiliates Vietnam in 2012 and Thailand in 2014 . The company’s revenue has grown five times in the past 10 years from $20million in 2004 to just about $100million last year. As CEO of the Singapore hub, she oversees 19 business lines that operate out of Singapore.
Under her watch, CBRE steadily built up its platform of services at a regional level. It established Capital Advisory service offering to tap on the vast amounts of global capital sourcing real estate across the globe. The International Project Marketing was established to market Australian and London properties. During her stint as MD of Singapore, she oversaw the setting up the firm’s 500-strong Residential Sales Agency, CBRE Realty Associates and Luxury Homes, a dedicated business line to market Good Class Bungalows.
Since taking on responsibility as CEO Singapore & South East Asia, the firm has won a number of awards including Best Property Consultancy, Asia Pacific Property Awards (2015), Winner, People Centric Award, Built Environment Industry (2014), Best Property Consultancy Singapore in the South East Asia Property Awards (2012), Winner of the Euromoney Awards (2011).
Pauline’s collaborative consultative leadership style is the hall mark of the Singapore team culture. While she makes decisions on behalf of the company, she ensures that she gets the buy-in from colleagues. “It makes it a lot easier for me to move forward”, she was quoted in a recent media interview. Besides fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork, Pauline motivates staff by being accessible to her colleagues at all levels. This culture is a key reason the firm has many long-serving staff members and continues to attract many younger talented brokers and professionals. As a firm believer in team spirit, she ensures this culture permeates throughout the company.
She leads CBRE in a crowded competitive landscape, paying careful attention to clients so that they keep coming back for more – establish a thorough client care development programme by identifying account managers to manage key clients; stand out from the crowd by offering niche services.
In such a business, hiring and retaining top talent is a key pillar for growth. Creating a highly attractive workplace culture, both physical and emotionally – Workplace 360 gives CBRE employees a work environment that builds positive team culture and collaboration. Perhaps the best reflection of this is echoed in the speech she made to graduates recently: Fan your passion, follow your instinct, allow yourselves to make mistakes and have good mentors. “I offer you a personal challenge: to nurture your spirit by expanding the world’s definition of the word “service.” To always be creating. To always be seeking and finding and then seeking anew. To not blame others for your own mistakes. Because making mistakes is essential to growth and to progress. A challenge to do something remarkable, something more than the ordinary with your life. “
CBRE Singapore was the first property consultancy in Singapore to be certified an Eco-Office by the Singapore Environment Council in 2012, in recognition of its sustainable workplace practices. The firm It was re-certified twice after in 2012 and 2014.
The CBRE Singapore office has been an ardent supporter of various charities. In her first year as CEO, Singapore & South East Asia, the company pledged $50,000 to help children with Down Syndrome, supporting the various educational programmes the charity put in place to help children with special needs. CBRE Singapore was also one of the key countries in the CBRE-wide initiative “Walk for A Wish”. Last year’s efforts saw CBRE raise three times its initial target. In all, $120,000 was raised for underprivileged children..
Charting the vision for the next 50 years is a key focus for the current leaders of CBRE Inc. President and Chief Executive Bob Sulentic envisions a CBRE that will have to transition from best in class to world class. The capabilities the firm has built up in the last 50 years in Singapore have made CBRE the sector leader, but the firm is looking to transform the way it conducts business and elevating it to a new level of excellence.