subpage banner


Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at The 2017 Enterprise 50 Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner, at Resorts World S

21 Nov 2017

Mr Ong Pang Thye, Chairman, Managing Partner, KPMG in Singapore

Mr Wong Wei Kong, Editor, The Business Times

Mr Samuel Tsien, Group CEO, OCBC Bank

Professor Bernard Yeung, Dean of NUS Business School

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1.    Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to join you for the Enterprise 50 awards. 

a.    For 23 years, the Enterprise 50 awards have celebrated the spirit of enterprise, and built a community of champions for the spirit of enterprise. 

The role of companies: Build capabilities

2.    Some of you may have heard me say this before: Everyone has a stake in the future of our economy, everyone has a critical role to play in this journey, and everyone has to act as one.

a.    As individuals, we must take ownership for how we get and use skills. Business leaders like you can guide your businesses and people to do so.

b.    At the industry level, Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) can find ways to enhance collaboration.

c.    At the Government level, we will continue to maintain macroeconomic stability and fiscal prudence, and strengthen microeconomic foundations to allocate resources efficiently, equitably and sustainably. 

3.    While everyone has a role to play, our enterprises’ efforts are front-and-centre, because companies are the fundamental organising unit for the economy.

4.    If I can sum up the report of the Committee on the Future Economy into one point that is the most relevant to companies, it is this: Important structural and technological changes are happening around us – companies that wish to survive and thrive in this environment must build strong capabilities. The key capabilities are: 

a.    Innovation;
b.    Internationalisation: 
c.    Harnessing technology; and,
d.    Developing human capital.

The Four Key Capabilities

5.    The first of these capabilities is Innovation, the theme of this evening’s dinner. Innovation is when we actively seek out better ways of doing things. Innovative companies experiment and learn, and create new and better processes or products.

a.    To innovate, some companies start their own R&D units, some partner others on R&D. If there are suitable products on the market, they can also adapt these to use in a new way.

6.    The second important capability is Internationalisation. Growing consumer and infrastructure demand in Asia offer opportunities for our companies. 

a.    Internationalisation can be by expanding operations abroad, and by working with overseas partners to break into new markets.

7.    A third capability is how we harness technology. Here, digital technology is especially important, as it cuts across all sectors.  Transformations in digital technology are creating new industries and transforming existing ones.

a.    Companies can adopt digital technologies to improve productivity, or harness technologies to enter new business areas. 

8.    The fourth critical capability is Building Human Capital. Excellent business leaders see human capital as a strategic asset, and recognise that how you grow your business has to do with how you grow your people. As their teams get better at their work and new situations, they can contribute more to their companies.

a.    Companies can run in-house training programmes, or collaborate with educational institutions or government agencies on work-study programmes. 

9.    There are many companies here tonight – some companies are under 10 years old, others are over 50; some companies develop software, others build hardware. What you have in common factor is strong capabilities that help you excel. 

10.    I encourage all companies to build up these four capabilities.  

a.    Make use of the measures that the government has set up, particularly the Industry Transformation Maps.

b.    Work with your TACs and one another, including sharing good practices.

11.    Tonight is a great example of the learning and growth we can get when we come together as a community.  I congratulate The Business Times and KPMG on your leadership in the Enterprise 50 awards.  I encourage the media to keep sharing the successes of Singapore enterprises. And I thank Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Business Federation, Singapore Exchange, and sponsor OCBC for your support.

Spirit of Enterprise

12.    The Enterprise 50 awards celebrate Singapore’s most outstanding companies. Ultimately, it comes down to whether a company’s leadership is convinced that it needs to transform, and whether it has the will to transform.  It comes down to the company’s spirit of enterprise, which is what we are celebrating tonight. What is this spirit of enterprise?

a.    It is not restricted to any particular type or scale of businesses.  Just look at the range of industries covered by the winners tonight.
b.    When I met with business leaders for the CFE, they used one word over and over again. That word is: Change.  Companies recognise that change is happening all around us. 

c.    I heard, broadly speaking, two kinds of reactions to change.  

i.    There are those who see change coming, and those who do not.  
ii.    There are those who look at change and see threats, and those who see opportunities. 
iii.    When changes actually take place, there are those who ask passively, “What will others do to help me?” and those who say proactively, “This is what I’m doing about it.” 

d.    I realised, those who can see change happening, who can see the opportunities in the changes, and who are proactive about things – those are the ones whose companies have a good shot at success. 

13.    The spirit of enterprise is a fighting spirit.  It sees opportunity where others see threat.  It takes ownership for its survival, and it takes action for its success.   

a.    Those who see opportunity where others see threat, can still do so realistically, and calculate their risks. 

b.    Those who take proactive action, instead of waiting passively for answers, can work with others where it makes sense, and tap on available support intelligently.  

14.    Our pioneers had great spirit of enterprise.  That’s why we were able to overcome great challenges to create a relevant economy and vibrant global city out of a resource-poor island. 

15.    We continue to need a spirit of enterprise at every level:

a.    At the Government level, we will continue to support the spirit of enterprise by promoting capabilities development through the ITMs, and build up our people through programmes like Adapt & Grow.
b.    At the industry level, we need the spirit of enterprise to bring companies together to solve industry-wide challenges. 

c.    At the individual level, the spirit of enterprise can prompt entrepreneurs to take calculated risks, and workers to adapt and grow. 

16.    For companies, it is going to be up to corporate leaders to instil, keep alive, and act on a spirit of enterprise.

a.    Companies do not make decisions; company leaders do.  You, the leaders of your companies, have to set the standards of excellence. Your teams look to you for direction and inspiration to achieve distinction.

17.    I am encouraged to see the spirit of enterprise alive among our Enterprise 50 firms. I call on you to keep this spirit burning, by seizing opportunities and leading your companies to strive for excellence.


18.    If I may leave you with a message, it is this:

a.    To stay relevant in the future economy, our companies must build deep capabilities – in innovation, internationalisation, harnessing technology, and human capital development.

b.    More importantly, keep the spirit of enterprise alive in your companies.  

c.    As business leaders, you are best placed to instil a spirit of enterprise and build up the capabilities of your companies.  

19.    My heartiest congratulations again to all the winners.  Thank you.