HR in the hot seat: Sebastian Tan, CHRO at Frasers Centrepoint

We chat with Fraser Centrepoint's CHRO about globalisation, understanding the business, and his ten years in teaching

HR in the hot seat: Sebastian Tan, CHRO at Frasers Centrepoint
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
I'm the CHRO at Fraser Centrepoint. I came to this role after a request from my predecessor to come and succeed him.
What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
The business, the opportunities and the value of my contribution. I guess the exciting part about this job is the growth opportunities. The company is undergoing tremendous growth globally and therefore its somewhat more interesting than just a local job.
What is unique about HR at Frasers Centrepoint?
I think what is really special is the bunch of people here – they are very caring. I can’t really use any other word to describe them, they are very engaging people and very caring.
What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year?
At Frasers our priorities are:
  • Preparing the company for globalisation
  • HR systems, policies and processes must be aligned and updated
  • Learning how to operate in the new countries that we have business in
  • Refining the organisation’s structure to align with strategy
  • Growing and developing our talent base
If you appreciate the background of Frasers Centrepoint, we actually are a very Singapore centric company. The bulk of our business used to be just Singapore, and now that we are going overseas we have to start appreciating the differences in the governments, laws, people, culture – everything is different.

We have gone big into Australia, we have also gone big into UK, and we are already in China. So everywhere that we go, the places are different, the people are different, the culture is different, the practices are different. We really need to prepare ourselves and be able to embrace all these differences.
If there was one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be?
I teach in SMU (Singapore Management University), I’ve been teaching there for ten years – I have students in my class that are 19 years old, all the way up to the oldest guy I’ve ever taught – who was 72.

This is the advice that I give to my students: I tell them that if they want to be excellent HR practitioners, the first thing is not to know the HR stuff – the first thing that they really need to do is to understand the organisation’s business. Because without that understanding, no matter what they do, it will be irrelevant. That’s my number one advice to them: know the business first, before you know your HR stuff.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
Teaching is my first love. Essentially that allows me to leave a legacy – whatever I have learned over my 30 years of experience, I can now share it and hope that the next generation of practitioners will be able to benefit from my experience. That’s my number one.

One thing that I really do for fun is fishing. I like to go out fishing just to be out on a boat somewhere, smelling the fresh air, catching and eating the fish. To me that’s fun. I go all over for fishing – I go to Australia, Malaysia. I go everywhere.
Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why?
It depends on your purpose. In Singapore we are actually spoilt for choice – you can find anything, anywhere and you have so many options, so it depends.

To me what is more important is the people that you’re with. If you are with the kind of people that you like, or you love, then even the simplest of arrangements will be good enough.

When I entertain overseas guests, I take them for seafood at Long Beach King. They serve very nice seafood, so I usually bring all my foreign friends there to eat and they enjoy it. The chilli crab is really good. But there are also many other places that I enjoy.

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