Profit with a Purpose: Investment Innovations with Dr. Victor Tay

In this episode of Business Beyond Borders, we chat with Dr. Victor Tay, an influential business figure leading three joint venture firms. Dr. Victor takes us through his day-to-day activities, which mainly involve assisting clients with mergers and acquisitions, as well as public listings.

He also shares insights into his firms, RHT Consulting Asia, Stout, and Global Catalyst Advisory. Notably, Global Catalyst Advisory focuses on philanthropy and assisting organizations that support persons with special needs. 

*The responses provided here have been rephrased for brevity and clarity. For the exact answers and a comprehensive understanding, we strongly recommend watching the full video podcast or tuning into the audio podcast.

Q: Could you walk us through a typical day for you, juggling three different roles?

While it may look like I wear three distinct hats, the roles are quite interconnected. Let's start with RHT Consulting Group Asia. Here, we address client issues beyond legal matters. Clients often approach us with challenges ranging from startup phases to international expansions or even mergers and public listings.

Next is the collaboration with Stout, an investment banking firm headquartered in Chicago. We recently signed an MoU to tackle multinational M&A. This partnership extends beyond Singapore and ASEAN, offering collaborative opportunities worldwide.

Finally, Global Catalyst Advisory, a PPP entity aligned with people, planet, and profit. Our work involves contributions to society, such as supporting charities and NGOs. So, my days involve navigating these realms, ensuring a balance between legalities, financial strategies, and societal contributions.

Q: Reflecting on your career, it's evident that you've taken a unique and diverse path. Could you share key milestones that you believe shaped your current roles?

Certainly, my journey has been a bit unconventional. Starting from strategy consulting, transitioning to government roles allowed me to grasp macro perspectives. Managing industry clusters and focusing on global competitiveness at Enterprise Singapore, MTI, and EDB added another layer to my understanding. Moving into the NGO sector deepened my insight into societal needs and environmental causes.

Later, in university roles, I gained insights into education and research. Now, in investment banking, my diverse experiences allow me to view businesses holistically, not just from a financial perspective but as integral parts of industries and economies.

Q: You mentioned the importance of sustainability. How does this factor into your business approach, especially with Rebel Labs?

Sustainability, to me, is paramount. In the Rebel Labs initiative, we've supported ventures like Air Carbon Exchange, a carbon credit license exchange, aligning with global shifts towards carbon neutrality. We've also delved into tokenizing assets through the Singapore Digital Asset Exchange, a move toward more sustainable and efficient financial models.

Q: Your recent award as "The Most Influential Sustainable Business CEO in Southeast Asia 2023" is commendable. What does this recognition mean to you personally and professionally?

Thank you. The award holds significance as it acknowledges our commitment to the triple bottom line. It's not just about financial success but also about contributing to society and maintaining environmental responsibility. This aligns with my passion for sustainable business practices, which has been a constant thread in my career since 2005. The recognition encourages me to persist in the pursuit of balanced and impactful business strategies.

Q: Sustainability is a global concern, and your roles, especially with the UN Global Compact, reflect a commitment to this cause. How can professionals contribute to sustainability on an international scale, and what mindset should they adopt?

Contributing to sustainability on an international scale requires a mindset of openness and continuous learning. Professionals should approach it as a mission rather than a job, understanding that their efforts contribute to a larger global goal. This mindset allows them to navigate challenges with resilience and determination, understanding that the impact of their work extends far beyond individual roles.

Q: For those considering an international career, especially with a sustainability focus, what advice would you offer?

Exploring an international career, especially with a focus on sustainability, is indeed a journey worth considering. Often, individuals hesitate, fearing they might lose what they have at their current location. My advice is to shift this perspective—going to a new place means gaining more opportunities with less to lose. While Singapore is a fantastic and international place, experiencing other parts of the world opens your eyes to different cultures, operations, and ways of doing things.

Q: You spoke about the close ties between China and ASEAN. Can you elaborate on how these regions can collaborate?

China and ASEAN stand as each other's largest bilateral trading partners, and the annual meetings are instrumental in fostering governmental collaboration. These interactions lead to initiatives and projects that strengthen our ties. I also highlighted the significance of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), signed in 2020. This agreement facilitates free trade and mutual recognition agreements, creating a promising landscape for collaboration, particularly in areas like financial technology and consumer tech.

Over the last three decades, both China and ASEAN have seen remarkable growth. I pointed out the emergence of numerous unicorns in the Southeast Asian region and stressed the collaborative potential not only in technological exchange but also in the sheer market size—2 billion people, a quarter or even a third of the world's population. With RCEP providing a platform for free trade, there's an opportunity for businesses to explore and test markets across borders. I see this collaboration as a natural extension of a 2-billion population market, making it a significant force in the global business landscape.

Q: Your extensive travels to over 40 countries is impressive. How has this global exposure influenced your advice to clients and your approach to projects?

Traveling extensively has been humbling. It taught me that solutions effective in Singapore might not apply elsewhere. Cultural nuances matter, and being open-minded is key. I've learned to appreciate diverse approaches, seeing how different countries address challenges uniquely. This has greatly influenced my advisory role, emphasizing tailored solutions rather than one-size-fits-all approaches.

Understanding cultural contexts is vital. For instance, advising Thailand's Ministry of Industry requires appreciating their emphasis on agriculture and tourism over manufacturing. It's about respecting each country's strengths and constraints. I've learned not to impose but to collaborate, recognizing that what works in one place might not be suitable elsewhere.

Q: Reflecting on your extensive international experience, what advice do you have for professionals aiming to expand their international footprint?

In building networks internationally, I think the value of relationships beyond a purely business perspective is important. I encourage professionals to view international connections as friendships, focusing on the human aspect. It's vital to look at people not just in terms of their current positions but to understand their strengths and values, fostering long-term connections. I also highlighted the importance of a global mindset and the portability of skills, especially for professionals in Singapore.

Q: Lastly, for those contemplating international careers, how can they balance the excitement of the journey with the uncertainties it might bring?

A: Balancing the excitement of an international career with uncertainties involves viewing it as a transformative journey. Professionals should embrace the unknown, understanding that challenges come with growth. Rather than expecting immediate returns, focus on the long-term value of the experience. The ability to adapt, learn, and thrive in unfamiliar territories is a skill that goes beyond professional development—it's a life skill.

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