|Global vision, Asia ties
Thus a new career was launched in the tiny city-state that has become an international banking and finance powerhouse.
Tai is every bit the 21st-century banker. As CFO Asia noted in February 2001, Jackson Tai may not have invented the Internet, but he has certainly embraced it. DBS is a recognized leader in e-commerce and online investor relations. It has also received annual awards for good governance, full and timely disclosure, and accountability to stakeholders, all of which, says Tai, lie at the heart of being world-class.
The metamorphosis of what began in 1968 as a development financing institution into a world-class bank has gathered speed under Tais leadership. With acquisitions such as Dao Heng Bank, DBS has diversified its services, increased market share, and extended its reach through much of Asia. Outside of Japan and Australia, DBS is now the third largest bank in Asia, behind only Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC) and Standard Chartered Bank. But those two banks are headquartered in the United Kingdoma distant time zone. DBS is making its mark as a major Asian bank headquartered in Asia.
That Asian focus doesnt translate into parochialism when it comes to personnel. The bank has been noteworthy for extensive recruitment of international talent. What better way to build an enterprise into the position of global business player?
Diversity of talent, Tai says, is just as critical to building a leading university, one that prepares students to compete across boundaries. As a Rensselaer trustee, he is in a good position to advocate a broad international perspective in student recruitment as well as the curriculum, and he likes what he hears from President Shirley Ann Jackson.
Dr. Jackson is an internationalist, says Tai. She has great peripheral vision, and she is bringing a great sense of excellence to Rensselaer. If we are excellent, we have great relevance, on a national and international scale.
A global vision is key to success in todays economy, says Tai. The best schools, organizations, and companies have a diversity of people and experiences. The best teachers and the best captains of industry have lived overseas. The best have a borderless frame of reference.
Tais own borderless frame of reference coexists comfortably with a commitment to his Asian heritage. He is active on the Committee of 100, a New York-based nonprofit group of influential Chinese-Americans advocating fair treatment of Asians in America. During the Clinton presidency, he was appointed to a 17-member White House Commission on United States-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy. And since his San Francisco days, he has served as a commissioner of the Asian Art Museum, which, he says, has one of the best collections of Asian art in the U.S. He is also on the boards of the Smithsonian Institution and the San Francisco Symphony, and is a director of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.
Jack Tais love of the arts was nourished at Rensselaer, where he played timpani in the orchestra, and it has followed him wherever he has gone since then. So, too, has his belief that success comes to those who take risks, have a point of view, and bring something to the table. That applies in any culture. Whatever country you are in, says Tai, people will accept you as long as you are seen to add value.
His hope for his two children is that all of the familys travel has extended their peripheral vision, so that they are not anchored by local boundaries or narrow interests. They need only look to their father to see where such a borderless frame of reference can lead.
Kathryn Gallien is a freelance writer in Saratoga Springs.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2002|
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