HEAH KOK SOON as a Vistage Chair, oversees and facilitates VCE-1 Group, comprising 18 CEO members, most of whom have stayed in the group since Heah became its Chair 14 years ago. Heah has thus far won ten Chair Excellence Awards, a Speaker-of-The-Year Award for 2016, the Robert Nourse Founder’s Award as well as the life-time Master Chair Award, and believes all these can be attributed to his possessing and constantly practising his four personal tenets for successful and powerful Vistage chairing viz. Heart, Empathy, Accountability, and Humour.
Recruited from UMW in 1994 by BTR plc, UK, Heah spent a total of some seven and half years helming its manufacturing group, Nylex Malaysia Berhad, that produced and marketed polymer films and coated fabrics, industrial electric switchgear, building materials and glass containers, and which is listed on the Main Board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The highlight at this time would have been the Management Buy-out (‘MBO’) initiative that he successfully undertook of Nylex Malaysia in late 1999.
After two years at Esso Standard Malaya, he joined UMW in 1973 as the Financial Operations Manager and was eventually appointed as UMW Group’s Executive Director in 1988. All in all, Heah spent a total of 21 rewarding and enjoyable years at UMW before leaving and moving on to Nylex in 1994. In a career that was richly-filled with challenges, crises and excitement, the most memorable UMW episode for Heah was the major financial restructuring of the UMW Group that he led and negotiated with 18 creditor banks to a successful conclusion, during the 1985-87 economic crisis. Under UMW’s sponsorship, Heah attended and completed the Program for Management Development (‘PMD’) at the Harvard Business School, Massachusetts, USA in 1980. He was also admitted as a Member of the Association of Corporate Treasurers, United Kingdom (‘MCT’).
Apart from his corporate interests, Heah has also been much involved in activities linked to community and social services. Deepest of his commitments has been his keenness to promote the image and activity level of the Malaysian Mensa Society, both on the local front and globally. To this end, Heah has led Malaysian Mensa as its Chairman for several terms now, from 1991 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2001, and was until 2006, still active on the Society’s Executive Committee as its Immediate Past Chairman. Today he still participates as the National Ombudsman for Malaysian Mensa.
In addition, Heah acts as Business Advisor to companies positioning themselves for eventual listing on Bursa Malaysia, and is also involved in merger and acquisition, as well as management buy-out transactions. As a Certified Adizes Associate, he is particularly committed to advising and guiding companies to experience organizational change and transformation, in any organisation’s pursuit of Prime.
To unwind, Heah tries not to miss out on his daily 25-minute walk/jog regimen, sore knees notwithstanding, and his regular week-end golf outing. On a less exacting, but no less interesting front, Heah enjoys reading, music, playing chess, and collecting chess-sets (33, so far, with chessmen made out of a variety of different materials), as well as wrestling with cryptic crossword puzzles.