Piloting Maersk Vietnam, Bich will stay the course

April 29, 2013 | 11:00
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With her new position as general director of Danish-backed Maersk Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Bich talks to VIR’s Thanh Tung about how she will take this firm to bigger success in Vietnam.

Do you think your leadership will be something different from that of Maersk Vietnam’s previous general directors, who were all men?

I am lucky to inherit a great foundation that my precedecessors have established, a high performance organisation with great people. Having been part of the current organisation for many years, I will continue all the good things made by my precedecessors.

I have the advantage of being Vietnamese and I believe I have strong insights of our people and culture that would help me continue leading the organisation more successfully. In the international business environment, I do not think it makes much difference between male and female leaders, but mainly in the way you choose to lead the organisation to achieve the target in the most effective way.

Thomas Riber Knudsen, chief executive officer for Maersk Line Asia Pacific region, said Vietnam was strategically important and therefore, the group would need a strong, experienced and skilled leader. What do you think about this?

A great position comes with a great responsibility. Therefore, I also felt quite intrigued and excited by the major challenge of becoming accountable for 170 people across Vietnam and Cambodia.

I have been working very closely with Peter Smidt-Nielsen, former general director of Maersk Vietnam for the past four years, and have learnt a lot from him. Not only has he been a good coach but also a valuable sparring partner. During these years, I have had opportunities observing how a top leader works strategically, tactically and operationally. And I feel capable and ready for doing same. 

I inherit a very solid management team with strong experience and in-depth market knowledge. They all have individual tracking records of continuous high performance and, more importantly, are known for their excellent teamwork and synergy creation. I strongly believe we will continue delivering great results.

I also inherit a very strong organisation with talented employees. All our employees have been well trained and working with a strong customer focus mindset. Everyone is eager to continuously learn and develop.

How does Vietnam’s current unstable economic situation affect Maersk Vietnam? What will you do to help the company ride out the storm?

The current global economy situation is not a pleasant story. Excluding intra-Asia, Europe and Pacific are the two biggest export markets for Vietnam. These two markets have been experiencing very limited growth and even recession over the past years. This can thus be quite harmful for other countries dealing directly with these – to which Vietnam is an example – as well as companies and industries operating in the same context.

For Maersk Line, our operating trade lanes do not include intra-Asia markets that make us even more vulnerable to negative developments within economies outside Asia. That being said, however, Vietnam is still considered an attractive sourcing destination with competitive advantages in competitive labour costs and a strategically sound geographical location.

By By Thanh Tung

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