Despite economic woes that have beset parts of Asia over the past few months, the region still offers the promise of rapidly expanding markets and new global alliances.

The 2,400 Wharton alumni working in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia are part of Asia’s future. Many are in positions of leadership at a time when executive ability is being tested like never before by volatile currencies, regional recessions, new competition, deregulation and privatization, to mention a few of the more prominent trends.

In the following pages we asked 15 alumni to identify the major challenges facing their companies over the next five years, the attributes they think characterize effective leadership, notable regional business trends and favorite restaurants and hotels.

Through these individual interviews we offer a glimpse of Wharton’s alumni leadership in Asia.

Job Title: Chairman, Plantation Timber Products, Singapore

Principal Responsibility: Creating the vision for the company, overseeing the development of corporate strategy and providing guidance and mentoring to top management

Line of Business: PTP is China’s largest integrated wood products company, with all production oriented to China’s large domestic market

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Establishing a national marketing and distribution system which will effectively enable us to achieve both the market share and the premium position that our superior quality deserves

Attributes of Effective Leadership:

Ability to evaluate people; willingness to delegate; insights into evaluating risks

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: The emergence and evolution of China as a huge market economy. This development is immense, incredibly rapid and will have far-reaching effects. The key requirement for effective development is managers … It is particularly exciting for me to participate in this phenomenon as I spent the first 22 years of my life in China …

Favorite Restaurants in Singapore: Lei Garden (Chinese) and Les Amis (French)

Favorite Hotel in Singapore: Ritz Carlton

Job Title: Principal, McKinsey & Co., Beijing

Principal Responsibility: Building McKinsey’s practice in China to provide top management of leading Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and major multinational corporations (MNCs) with strategic, operational and organizational counsel

Line of Business: Management consulting

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Retaining sufficient talent in China’s dynamic and competitive economy to fully meet burgeoning client demand. Due to the Cultural Revolution, large MNCs have a difficult time finding middle managers for strategic planning, finance, marketing and general management positions. McKinsey’s early-tenure Chinese associates are an attractive source of talent that is much less expensive than expats

Attributes of Effective Leadership: First is focus. Second is inspiration. Emerging from 30+ years in a communist system, middle managers in Chinese SOEs are reluctant to assume accountability. As a result, organizational change comes slowly. Leaders are able to inspire initiative-taking throughout an organization. Third, values. The PRC economy and Chinese SOEs are plagued with corruption from the blatant to the borderline, and many managers look the other way. But leaders communicate standards and then exemplify corporate and personal values in every interaction

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: The most notable trend in Asia not yet widely recognized is the emerging internationalization of China’s leading enterprises, such as CITIC, COSCO, Baoshan Steel and Haier. Over the next 5-25 years, such companies aspire to be on the global Fortune 500 — a “third wave” of Asian-based MNCs behind Japan (such as Sony and Matsushita) and Korea (Samsung and LG)

Favorite Restaurant in Beijing: Lulu’s

Favorite Hotels in Beijing: Palace Hotel, ChinaWorld

Job Title: President & CEO, Suttong Corp., Seoul

Principal Responsibility: To successfully reinvent a 43-year-old manufacturing company into a growth company in the information age

Line of Business: Batteries, plastics and pressure-sensitive adhesive products, household and consumer healthcare products, medical systems

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: To keep a leadership position in our niche business categories through technology-based differentiation and lowest-cost structure

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Flexibility and adaptability to changes in environments, technologies, competitive structures and consumer behaviors

Most Notable Regional Business Trends: Global competition from global players who are armed with sophisticated management skills, well-recognized brands and strong financial muscles; financial instabilities and weak financial institutions throughout the region; westernized consumer behavior and rising spending in luxury goods

Favorite Restaurant in Seoul: Palsun (Chinese)

Favorite Hotel in Seoul: Grand Hyatt

Job Title: President, China Life Insurance Co.; Chairman, Cycloria Inc.; Chairman, Videoland Inc., Taipei

Principal Responsibility: To manage Koos Group China Life Insurance Co. and to supervise the group’s telecommunications business (multiple cable system operation, satellite uplink, cable system construction, cable TV networks, cable TV ad sales)

Line of Business: Life insurance, advertising, public relations, direct mail sales, satellite and cable TV, telecommunications

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Continuing liberalization and internationalization of Taiwan’s economy, which leads to fiercer competition from overseas

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Modesty, which on the part of the leader can lead to harmony and unity within the company; honesty, which builds credibility among clients; foresight, which allows a leader to either take the initiative or take protective measures in advance

Most Notable Regional Business Trends: Deregulation and privatization

Favorite Restaurant in Taipei: At the Ambassador Hotel

Favorite Hotel in Taipei: Grand Hotel

Job Title: Group Executive Chairman, Konsortium Perkapalan Bhd., Kuala Lumpur

Principal Responsibility: To provide leadership to the group by formulating a realistic vision, developing short and long-term objectives, building and motivating an effective team that can implement policies that will result in the group achieving our objectives

Line of Business: Multi-modal logistics service provider. We are focusing on providing the expertise and resources to design and implement effective inventory management systems for companies. This involves using the company’s and our own transportation and storage assets to smooth the flow of in-bound and out-bound inventory. We operate in ASEAN, South Asia and South Africa and are looking to cover the entire Asia-Pacific region as well as the Indian Ocean rim countries

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: To position the group to compete effectively as markets deregulate, infrastructure improves, new competition emerges and technology develops

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Listen well, act decisively, behave ethically always

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: As companies concentrate on developing their skills and expertise in product development, the manufacturing process and marketing, they look to outsource certain functions to specialist organizations. They stand to gain through better and more cost-effective service and better utilization of resources. Distribution is one such area. In Asia, the cost of distribution is high. Companies that can lower the cost of distribution, or better still, work on reducing their client’s cost of inventory, are best placed to benefit from this trend.

Favorite Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur: Mango Tree

Favorite Hotel in Kuala Lumpur: Equatorial Hotel

Job Title: Director of the Board, Executive President, Shanghai International Trust & Investment Corp., Shanghai

Principal Responsibility: In charge of investment banking division, fund investment division, and international trading and consulting division

Line of Business: The company is a financial institution but covers other industries as well, including real estate, international trading and investing

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: As the Trust Law is promulgated in the near future, the company has to adjust to the trust and investment banking business

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Creativeness; persuasiveness; perseverance

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: The stock and M&A markets will develop more rapidly because of the reformation of state-owned-enterprises

Favorite Restaurants in Shanghai: Gap (Jin-Ting) for Chinese; Jax for Western cuisine

Favorite Hotels in Shanghai: Sheraton-Hua Ting and Holiday Inn

Job Title: Founder, President and CEO, Asset Plus Securities Co., Ltd., Bangkok

Principal Responsibility: In charge of overall operations of the firm, with an emphasis on marketing

Line of Business: Investment banking — domestic and cross-border, M&As, restructuring, new listing sponsorship, fundraising, general advisory; stockbroking and research; investments, both direct and portfolio investment

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Maintaining efficiency of operations and the entrepreneurial spirit of the company as the business grows. These are key factors that will help us compete successfully against large international investment banks and securities houses

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Vision and the ability to transfer that vision to others; human resource management; risk taking

Most Notable Regional Business Trends: Further consolidation within the region and more cross-border deals among Asian companies

Favorite Restaurant in Bangkok: The Golden Lotus

Favorite Hotel in Bangkok: Regent

Job Title: President and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs (Asia) L.L.C., Hong Kong

Principal Responsibility: Overseeing Goldman Sachs’ activities in Asia, outside of Japan

Line of Business: Full-service investment banking and securities firm

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Balancing global expertise with local knowledge

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Honesty; clear vision; leadership by example

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: Funding Asia’s macroeconomic growth and infrastructure requirements

Favorite Restaurant in Hong Kong: La Bodega

Favorite Hotel in Hong Kong: The Regent

Job Title: Director & General Manager, The Nomura Securities Co., Ltd., Tokyo

Principal Responsibility: Risk management

Line of Business: Securities brokerage & investment banking

Major Challenges Over the Next Five Years: Competition with overseas investment banks in Japan; competition in the global market with major world players

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Vision; clear message; balanced strategy

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: Deregulation of Japan’s financial and capital markets

Favorite Restaurant in Tokyo: Kikuya

Favorite Hotel in Tokyo: Four Seasons

Job Title: Executive Vice-President, JG Summit Holdings, Inc.; Executive Vice-President & General Manager of Branded Foods Division (Universal Robina Corp.), Quezon City

Principal Responsibility: Manage URC branded consumer foods unit — the Philippines’ largest snack, chocolate and candy manufacturer — and Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ first low-cost airline and now its second largest and fastest growing

Line of Business: URC — branded consumer foods; Cebu Pacific Air — low fare airline; JG Summit — holding company in food, banking, textile, property, cement, telecom, petrochemical and air transport business

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Looking for and developing management team and company culture that will enable company to achieve continued revenue and profitability growth, particularly in volatile Southeast Asian environment

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Creating and communicating clear vision and culture; developing strong, dedicated management team; staying focused while remaining receptive to innovation and new ideas

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: Increasing competition in all businesses due to globalization/information/deregulation

Favorite Restaurant in Quezon City: Flavors and Spices (Thai)

Favorite Hotel in Quezon City: Manila Galleria Suites

Job Title: President & CEO, Cresco, Ltd., Tokyo

Principal Responsibility: All

Line of Business: Systems integration focusing on networks and financial applications

Major Challenges Over the Next Five Years: To increase productivity in developing computer software and to recruit enough skilled systems engineers and programmers

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Vision; knowledge of human history; good health

Most Notable Regional Business Trends: Financial deregulation and adaptation to new information technology

Favorite Restaurant in Tokyo: Sushi–Iwa (Tsukiji)

Favorite Hotel in Tokyo: The Palace Hotel

Job Title: Group Chairman and CEO, Navatanee Group of Companies, Bangkok

Principal Responsibility: Policy making and long-term planning

Line of Business: Real estate, golf course, investing

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Overcoming current economic recession

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Vision; motivation; good human relations

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: Slow economic recovery from current recession

Favorite Restaurant in Bangkok: Mayflower (Chinese)

Favorite Hotel in Bangkok: Oriental Hotel

Job Title: Executive Vice-President, Member of the Board, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Osaka

Principal Responsibility: Responsible for overseas operations and external affairs

Line of Business: Manufacture and sale of electronic equipment, home and industrial electric equipment and appliances, computer and communications, semiconductors and electronic components

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: Globalization of our operations

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Ability to place the right person at the right post; insight and knowledge from a long-term and global point of view

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: Development of a more borderless and globally harmonized business environment

Favorite Restaurant in Osaka: Kiccho

Favorite Hotel in Osaka: Rihga Royal Hotel

Job Title: Vice President, General Reinsurance Corp., Shanghai Representative Office, Chief Representative, Shanghai

Principal Responsibility: Explore China market

Line of Business: Reinsurance

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: To obtain operating license from the Chinese government, to upgrade staffs and to acquire a major share in China’s reinsurance market

Attributes of Effective Leadership: Farsightedness, integrity, prompt and decisive action

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: China will continue its high growth rate (9–12 percent a year), U.S. investment in China will increase and China-Hong Kong-Taiwan will become one of the world’s great economic centers

Favorite Restaurant in Shanghai: Mei Long Zhen

Favorite Hotels in Shanghai: Portman, Hilton and Garden Hotels

Job Title: Director, McKinsey & Co., New Delhi

Principal Responsibility: To build a pre-eminent position for McKinsey in India by achieving sustained impact for clients; and to provide leadership and direction in the firm, helping build McKinsey in such a way that the institution has long-lasting impact on society, the economy and business enterprise

Line of Business: Focusing on helping think through and resolve the issues faced by top management in terms of strategy, operations improvement and redesign, and organizational performance

Major Challenge Over the Next Five Years: To evolve rapidly enough that we continue to be the sort of exciting and stimulating place that attracts talented individuals. We need to ensure that such people continue to be attracted to the firm, develop in the firm and become future leaders of the firm

Attributes of Effective Leadership: A strong belief that something can be made from the raw material, that you can make a difference; perseverance, focusing on the goal but enjoying the path that takes you there; concern for people. I bond to my clients because of who they are as human beings. I find it very difficult to serve them well without this

Most Notable Regional Business Trend: The increasing number of mergers and acquisitions. This activity could quadruple over the coming decade to more than $100 billion. This will come about because of the convergence of several forces: 1) deregulation of the Asian capital markets as a result of structural over-capacity in a number of industries; 2) the continuing trend towards privatization and disinvestment; 3) the restructuring of family-owned businesses and conglomerates; 4) the consolidation of highly fragmented supply bases

Favorite Restaurant in New Delhi: Blue Elephant

Favorite Hotel in New Delhi: The Oberoi