HRM Asia Watch List 2018: Chen Fong Tuan

For Chen Fong Tuan, the Chief People Officer for Malaysia's Mah Sing group, helping people build their careers is more than a job - it's a calling.
By: | October 1, 2018

The HRM Asia Watch List 2018 (#hrmwatchlist), brought to you by Armstrong Craven, showcases the brightest next-generation HR leadership talent from across Southeast Asia.



You could say that helping people realise their potential is in Chen Fong Tuan’s blood. Having grown up in a family of teachers, he knows first-hand the importance and impact of nurturing people and helping them grow, whether at school or at work.

HRM Asia Watch List

Chen Fong Tuan

Chief People Officer, Mah Sing Group Berhad

Based in: Kuala Lumpur

HR focus areas: People Analytics, Employee Experience, Talent Acceleration

Favourite aspect of HR: “Being able to make a real difference – one life, one employee at a time – and seeing talent grow, and become truly successful.”

Career-defining moment: “When I decided tinkering with transformers and capacitors [as an engineer] wasn’t my calling, [rather, it was] touching lives and changing behaviours.”

“Seeing how people I have mentored [in my HR career] have gone on to bigger jobs – sometimes bigger than mine! – and progressed in their careers, that has kept me going,” he says. “The opportunity to influence people and help change their lives is gratifying. Work is such a big part of our lives.”

Conversely, “taking away jobs is personally for me the toughest part of what I do, ” he admits.

Chen himself is no slouch. Looking over his résumé, one is struck by the diversity of roles he has taken over the years, at a range of organisations. They include – but are not limited to – stints overseeing talent practice at Willis Tower Watson, regional organisational development at British American Tobacco, and rewards and performance at Maybank.

There is also his turn as Asia-Pacific HR Director for the German medtech, B. Braun. There, Chen led end-to-end HR across 16 different countries, before heading over to his current role as Head of People at property developer Mah Sing Group Berhad.

“One of our strategic priorities right now is in managing performance pro-actively, rather than retrospectively,” he says. “Looking forward rather than backwards, beyond KPIs.”

Looking forward seems to be an apt description of Chen’s own HR career, and one has to wonder what, if anything, is left for him to sink his teeth into.

“CEO?” he says with a laugh, acknowledging that it’s rare for HR leaders to end up in such positions.

“Although a CHRO would make a different kind of CEO,” he notes. “After all, every single part of the business needs people.”

The HRM Asia Watch List aims to showcase the up and coming generation of HR leadership talent in Southeast Asia. The list will be unveiled daily between September 27 and October 19, 2018. Check the dedicated archive for the latest updates, follow #hrmwatchlist on social media, or see below. 

Introduction | Welcome address by Tom Mason

Profile #1: Jaspreet Kakar | Profile #2: Dianne Goette | Profile #3: Chen Fong Tuan

Profile #4: Felicia Teh | Profile #5: Monica Oudang | Profile #6: Evangeline Chua

Profile #7: Agapol Na Songkhla | Profile #8: Clayton Tan | Profile #9: Tony Tan

Profile #10: Vanessa Mercado-Maningas | Profile #11: Jahja Soenarta | Profile #12: Minn Yan

Profile #13: Rudy Afandi | Profile #14: Norazlina Idris

Profile #15: Naveen Chhabra | Profile #16: Monir Azzouzi