September 2017
Driving Growth in China

Recently, Swire Pacific appointed David Cogman, previously a Partner at McKinsey & Company, to the position of Development Director. Swire News talks to John Slosar, Chairman of Swire Pacific, who explains how David Cogman's experience in China will contribute to Swire's growth. David Cogman also discusses why there is plenty of scope for optimism about investing more in China.

Watch the interview with John Slosar and David Cogman.
Watch the interview with John Slosar and David Cogman.
Swire has an accomplished history of cultivating its leaders from within. So when it was announced recently that David Cogman would be appointed to fill the role of Development Director and Executive Director to the Swire Pacific board, it was clear that the decision had been based on his unique personal experience and expertise, which will be instrumental in shaping the future direction of the group.

"We are excited to have David on the Swire Pacific board. Most of our businesses are here in Greater China where David has a great deal of very relevant experience. We think that will open up opportunities for us going forward," says John Slosar. "In his capacity as Development Director, he will ultimately be responsible for assessing how Swire Pacific approaches growing its businesses. This will include making cases for investing more money in our businesses, considering which businesses the company should buy or sell, and deciding if the strategies currently in place are the right ones to ensure expansion and profitability."

"The genesis of this role is interesting," he continues. "In 2014, Martin Cubbon came back to Swire Pacific from Swire Properties as the Corporate Development and Finance Director, a dual role. But with Martin's upcoming retirement after a fabulous career with Swire, it made sense to look at splitting these roles, which are actually quite separate in terms of responsibility. We felt that the position of Development Director requires the attention of a dedicated person as there is plenty of work to be done," says Mr Slosar.

Cogman, who is originally from the UK, relishes his new responsibilities. "I'm tremendously excited to have this opportunity. Swire is a legendary company with more than 200 years of history and is well-known across China, where I have worked for a long time. When you look at our portfolio and the sectors we are in, we have built extremely high-quality, well-regarded businesses, which all have tremendous growth potential," he says.

Until Cogman joined Swire Pacific, he spent most of his career working for the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company. "I joined them in the mid ‘90s after a spell in banking. The majority of my work there was to do with transactions – which included acquisitions, due diligence, joint venture negotiations, divestitures and investment strategies" he says.

David (Front) is fond of sports like hiking and diving. Photo taken in the Alps.

David (front) is fond of sports like hiking and diving. Photo taken in the Alps.
Throughout his career, Cogman has worked in Mainland China. While living in Shanghai, he met his wife, Crystal, a project finance lawyer from Harbin. He also developed a deep understanding of the country's business landscape. He reports that, "My clients included local Chinese companies, state-owned enterprises and financial investors as well as MNCs, each of which looks at opportunities in different ways. I was fortunate enough to work across a very broad range of industries and sectors, which gives me a breadth of perspective that I hope it will be helpful in my work at Swire."

Today, Mainland China is at the heart of the global business landscape, but when Cogman first worked there, the perception within his industry was somewhat different. "At that time, it was not regarded as the place to be and many of my peers wanted to work in developed markets. But to me, it was clearly the location where the most exciting opportunities would arise over the next decade. The pace of change in China has been phenomenal – not just in the economy, but also within society, in the cities and the lives of the people. This rapid development has shaped the way I think about business, too," he says.

Despite the recent slowdown in China's economy, Cogman sees every reason for Swire to remain optimistic: "It needs to be viewed in context. China is still growing at a much faster rate than most developing countries, and will continue to do so for the next 15 or 20 years. Swire's position in China has always been very strong, and we should remain confident. I see a wealth of opportunities for us."

It is this insight, gained over the best part of two decades, which will be hugely beneficial for developing Swire's businesses across the region and, indeed, globally. "In the short term, I hope to help the group make better investments – in how we prioritise where we put our capital, and how we develop our businesses. Further ahead, I hope to contribute to the group's decision-making about how we create long-term growth – which businesses we enter, which new directions we take and even which new geographies we go into," says Cogman.

Mr Slosar adds, "When we look at Mainland China, Greater China and Southeast Asia, the pace of development is still very good and there are plenty of opportunities. From the point of view of Swire Pacific, we want to find the best opportunities for us and make sound investments that will grow our businesses and, ultimately, generate more profits."
Swire News - September 2017
Download this issue in PDF