Dato Leong Sir Ley’s stirring speech at the end of our interview was as inspiring as her demeanour. In person, the Founder and Chairman of Sheng Tai International, cuts the figure of a very capable woman with steely determination and a can-do approach to life and work. Yet at the same time, she exudes charm and charisma – a lethal combination indeed and fitting for the rare femme fatale in the property industry.
Indeed, her speech struck a chord with all those who listened – it was the pearls of wisdom gained from her years of experience, her innate common sense and savviness.
At the core of her speech was the importance of maintaining harmony at work and in business.
“Whatever disagreements we have, let’s set aside our egos and focus on the common goal to achieve the big vision. Once you have this attitude, things will proceed smoothly. Harmony is very important in a team to achieve big things ‘ Sir Ley also emphasised on being appreciative towards those who have helped us in business and life. “This will bring great rewards for us as the goodwill will boomerang back to us,” she remarks in perfect Cantonese.
The maverick developer appears to have walked her talk. The lower family law and conveyancing lawyer has done few or no other woman has done in Malaysia. She has steered her property development firm from a small setup in Ipoh, Perak, into an internationally recognised property development firm that’s forging footprint across half the globe, from Hong Kong and Japan, to Europe and the Middle East.
Her grand vision is to reenact the glory of Melaka’s heydays in the 15th century into today’s cosmopolitan community, all in the confines of Sheng Tai’s latest RM6.5 biI project. The Sail. It’s a historic moment as the nine towers which are connected by a sky ring, represent globalisation and the convergence of people from all over the world to this part of the world.
A Knight is Born
Back to Sir Ley, as a young girl, her father allowed her the freedom to do whatever that caught her fancy. She chose the legal profession and did so well that she eventually opened a few branches. As she dealt a lot with property transactions at that time, her interest was piqued. She dwelt deeper into it and discovered a passion for property development.
But instead of doing it the easy way, she chose the hardest path to enter the sector – by rescuing an abandoned project in Melaka Most, if not all. developers would steer clear of abandoned projects. But not Sir Ley 一 she and her team took on the nearly impossible task and managed to revive it in record time, earning the praise and appreciation of the buyers. That abundance of goodwill has translated into loyal customers today who later became repeat buyers.
The abandoned project became what is AMES Hotel today, one of the best 5-star hotels in Melaka. Subsequently, she revived a few more abandoned projects in Melaka, earning much goodwill along the way.
Being a white knight seems Io be in her DNA -she’s walking the talk of a leader who is willing Io sacrifice her own ego and comfort for the greater good of the community. The seed of greatness was already evident in her early years as a developer.
“My vision is to enable property investors to come and experience the lifestyle here first and fall in love with Malaysia before they make the decision to buy a property.”
When the property market started cooling down in 2012 after an unprecedented boom, Sir Ley and her partner, Collin Tan, Director of Sheng Tai, decided to venture overseas to attract foreign buyers. Their first stop was Hong Kong – they got burnt the first three times by unscrupulous partners. But they did not give up, and their resilience paid off when during their fourth attempt, they managed to forge a successful partnership with a local.
The rest is history as the partnership successfully brought thousands of Hong Kong buyers to Malaysia to view properties and get a taste of the lifestyle here. “When we first mooted the idea of property tourism to the Hong Kongers, we were told that property & tourism were two separate things. That was one of the challenges we faced in our early days – the perception. My vision was to enable property investors to come and experience the lifestyle here first and fall in love with Malaysia before they make the decision to buy a property. We worked out their itinerary where they get to experience the food, weather, sights and the people here.”