On working with passion and prioritising balance
PLEASE CAN YOU GIVE US A LITTLE BACKGROUND INTO THE BUSINESS OF AEON CO. (M) BHD. IN MALAYSIA?
AEON Co. (M) Bhd. (“AEON”) is a part of the AEON group of companies in Malaysia which is owned by its parent company, AEON Co. Ltd., based in Japan. AEON was set up on 15 September 1984, in response to the Malaysian Government‘s invitation to help modernise the country’s retail industry.
AEON currently manages and operates 28 AEON malls, a retail chain of 34 AEON departmental stores, 9 AEON Maxvalu Prime supermarkets, 65 AEON Wellness pharmacies and 41 Daiso flat-price outlets with an extensive range of products such as daily essentials, household items, apparel, pharmaceuticals, flat-price items and other merchandise. AEON also offers Personal Shopper Services, DriveThru Services and Delivery Services via its myAEON2go e-commerce platform for fast, efficient and minimal contact shopping for its customers.
In line with AEON’s “Customer First” policy, we endeavour to surpass our customers’ expectations and enhance their shopping experience with us.
NOW, ON TO YOUR BACKGROUND – WHAT WERE YOUR STEPPING STONES TO REACHING THE POSITION OF HEAD OF LEGAL AT AEON, AND WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THIS ROLE BEEN LIKE THUS FAR?
I was admitted as an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya in 1994. I hold a Bachelor and Master of Laws degree and obtained my Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2016. I was a practicing lawyer before joining AEON as the Legal Manager in 2000. From my accumulation of legal and retail experiences at AEON, I was entrusted the current position as the General Manager/Head of the Legal Department from 2011 until now.
During my years in practice, I was blessed with great mentors and was exposed to various areas in litigation, conveyancing and corporate matters. This has definitely assisted my career as an in-house counsel as many would agree with me that an in-house counsel is required to be an all-rounder in order to flourish in this career.
Further, I am also grateful for the opportunities and trust given to me by my superiors in AEON. The trust was gained over time by assisting AEON and its internal stakeholders in resolving their issues. With such opportunities, I was able to work diligently and reach my position as the General Manager/Head of Legal of AEON today.
With Team Members
As the General Manager/Head of Legal of AEON, I have accumulated years of experience with many ups and downs. My passion in my work allows me to use the sweet memories as motivation to work harder in accomplishing the company’s goals, while using the least encouraging ones for self-improvement.
WE KNOW THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS BEEN A ROLLERCOASTER, AND A DIFFERENT RIDE DEPENDING ON THE INDUSTRY! IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT CHALLENGES ARE CURRENTLY FACED IN THE RETAIL AND HEALTHCARE INDUSTRIES (PANDEMIC DRIVEN OR OTHERWISE)?
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail and healthcare industries have faced many challenges due to the changes in customers’ shopping behaviours. This would include customers’ preference towards online shopping compared to shopping at physical stores. This has resulted in higher operating costs as retailers need to adapt quickly towards the implementation of e-commerce platforms and prioritisation of cashless transaction, in addition to the existing costs of operating the physical stores. Therefore, retailers must invest to adapt to the new norms of the fast changing and competitive business environment, for which we are pleased to mention that AEON has implemented its own “myAEON2go” e-commerce platform. This will lead to further increase in costs for logistics in the form of hiring personal shoppers and drivers for the collection and delivery of the goods to the customers.
Besides that, there is also a shift in consumers’ spending habits. Consumers are more wary in their spending due to the increased cost of living caused by the pandemic and inflation. As AEON has always prioritised its services based on its valued customers’ voices, we continue to find ways to ease the burdens of our customers by offering various promotions such as “AEON Jimat Poket”, also known as AEON Pocket Saver, which provides essential items at reduced and affordable prices.
My passion in my work allows me to use the sweet memories as motivation to work harder in accomplishing the company’s goals, while using the least encouraging ones for self improvement.
AS HEAD OF LEGAL, YOU ARE REQUIRED TO CAREFULLY BALANCE THE CONSIDERATIONS OF MULTIPLE STAKEHOLDERS, BOTH WITHIN AND BEYOND THE BUSINESS. WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO ADVISING THE INTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS OF AEON?
As Head of Legal in AEON, I am accountable to various internal stakeholders in the company such as the board of directors, management and AEON internal departments. Therefore, my approach here would differ based on the background of the respective internal stakeholders.
Upon request for legal advice by our internal stakeholders, I will address the issue by obtaining the relevant facts and understanding their commercial concerns and needs first. Thereafter, I will highlight the CONTINUED My passion in my work allows me to use the sweet memories as motivation to work harder in accomplishing the company’s goals, while using the least encouraging ones for self improvement, potential risks and provide several options of resolution, including the pros and cons of such options, for the consideration of the internal stakeholders. The internal stakeholders will then be able to understand and manage the risks by choosing the most appropriate option after taking into account both the legal and commercial standpoints.
IN-HOUSE LEGAL TEAMS ARE, OF COURSE, OFTEN ALSO REQUIRED TO ENJOIN THE SERVICES OF EXTERNAL LAW FIRMS AND, AS AN EXTENSION OF THE TEAM SO TO SPEAK, HAVING A GOOD FIT IS IMPORTANT. WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO CRITERIA FOR SELECTING SUCH EXTERNAL COUNSEL?
We have a panel of external law firms for our internal stakeholders to select. In the selection for our panel of external law firms, we will look at several criteria as follows:
Firstly, our external counsel have to be expedient in their works. As we often work with limited time frames, we expect efficient and expedient services and legal advice within the stipulated time period, without compromising on the quality and accuracy of their services.
Further, our external counsel would need to possess strong communication skills. They would have to be proactive in sharing with us their strategy and the status of ongoing case(s), and also be able to explain to us and the internal stakeholders on the same in a simple yet accurate manner.
We also take into account the scale of legal fees charged by our external counsel. The legal fees should be reasonable and reflective of the quality of work required by us. In the event that the legal fees charged are above the average industry rates, we expect our external counsel’s legal expertise to be above and beyond their contemporaries in the industry.
THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS AN EVOLVING ONE. IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD CHANGE FOR THE BETTER FOR THE IN-HOUSE LEGAL PROFESSION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The Legal Professional Qualifying Board of Malaysia requires compulsory registration of all advocates and solicitors in Malaysia. This provides a certain standard of recognition for practicing lawyers in Malaysia as they are governed by an independent body.
However, unlike practicing lawyers, there is no such requirement for in-house counsel to join any body or association, such as the Malaysian Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) whereby the registration of membership is voluntary. Thus, there is no body or association to govern or check on the registration of in-house counsel in Malaysia. It would be encouraging to see similar levels of recognition for in-house counsel as those provided to practicing lawyers.
WHAT LESSON/S HAVE YOU HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE OF LEARNING IN YOUR CAREER THAT MIGHT BE OF VALUE TO LAWYERS ASPIRING TO A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP SUCH AS YOURS?
Among the most important values that I have learned is that we must have passion in our work. Guided by our passion, I believe that our dedication to work allows us to focus on the task at hand at all times, and also helps us to sail through the hard and challenging times in our career.
Further, we should also have close communication with the respective business units to understand the nature of the business of the company itself, as a strong understanding of the commercial aspect of the company would lead to a more comprehensive and high quality of work as an in-house counsel.
In addition, we should strive to be more hands-on in all of our work by taking a more active role, including managing our work. Apart from the hard skills in our legal work, we could also learn and broaden our experience in various soft skills such as communication, coordination, reporting, management and leadership. I believe that these soft skills will be valuable and help to enhance our value as an in-house counsel.
We also need to have the courage to change our services and adapt based on the changes in our working environment, including change in management, outbreak of pandemics, and growing demands of digitalisation which may require different approaches based on the circumstances. Therefore, we should be proactive in taking the initiative to adjust our approach in providing legal services to the company.
WHAT DOES WORK-LIFE BALANCE MEAN TO YOU? IS IT ACHIEVABLE?
Work-life balance is a state where I am able to achieve a balance between my personal and career growth without compromising on either. Such balance is very important to me as I need my personal space to recharge and refresh myself after working, which in turn enables me to contribute better to the company.
Work-life balance is a state where I am able to achieve a balance between my personal and career growth without compromising on either.
I believe that such balance can be achieved with proper planning and effective communication. As I always share with my team members, we need to have proper planning to manage our work well.
In the event of extraordinary situations or urgent ad-hoc work, we will also communicate and work closely with our team members to meet such challenges, which requires strong teamwork and dedication among the team members.
This article was published in the September, 22 issue of the IHC Magazine. To read the fill magazine, please click here