PEOPLE PERSON

SPENCER FUNG
Group chief operating officer, Li & Fung in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leaders in consumer-goods design, development, sourcing, and distribution

Home Country: China (Hong Kong)

Spencer Fung

The Chinese proverb fu bu guo san dai, which prophesizes that family wealth can’t exceed three generations, doesn’t seem to apply to the Fung family. Fourth-generation Spencer Fung, PA’96, whose great-grandfather started Li & Fung more than 100 years ago during the reign of China’s last emperor, joined the company in 2001, and was recently named group chief operating officer.

What a difference a century makes. What began as one of the first companies established by Chinese merchants to directly export from China is now a global giant in supply-chain management of consumer goods for leading retailers and brands such as WalMart and Target.

Joining the family business was not preordained. “My father wanted us to make our own choices,” says Fung. But after graduating from Harvard, he wasn’t enthusiastic about the available jobs.

“So I talked to my father’s friends, asking what they regretted most about their careers. Half said they wished they had earned an accounting degree. If these wise old men said accounting was important, that was good enough for me.

“I found that Northeastern had the best MS/MBA accounting program in the nation. I went after it and convinced two of my friends to enroll with me,” he says.

He was one of only three MS/MBA students to be offered a residency abroad, working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Shanghai. After graduation and the dotcom bust, he returned to Hong Kong to join Li & Fung, where he is now in charge of the company’s global infrastructure. He was also recently elected to the Northeastern Corporation.

With offices and distribution centers in more than 40 countries and a sourcing network of 15,000 suppliers worldwide, the company wields formidable purchasing power. But part of Fung’s business strategy also recognizes the power of people to create a high-performance company.

“It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is. Once you pick the right people, you will succeed.”

GREEN MACHINE

SULTAN OLAYAN
Analyst at the global financial services company Credit Suisse Hong Kong

Home Country: Saudi Arabia

Sultan Olayan

Figuring out ways to make businesses more sustainable is what gets Sultan Olayan, BA’12, jazzed—particularly in his home country of Saudi Arabia. In September, he’ll get to channel his enthusiasm toward that end when he begins work in the energy equity sector at Credit Suisse Hong Kong.

Why Hong Kong? With interest in alternative energy growing in Asia, Olayan explains, his new job positions him to learn best practices and make his mark in this crucial arena.

“The rise of globalization in business enables the best ideas from everywhere to be seen and shared,” says Olayan. “I want to apply what I learn from this experience to help my country meet the world standard of being green.”

September will hardly mark the start of Olayan’s career, which began two years ago with a co-op at Credit Suisse in New York City.

A second co-op with the financial services giant—this time in Hong Kong—found Olayan charged with putting together a comprehensive analysis of the global energy market, identifying the top competitive countries for liquefied natural gas worldwide. The company published the report, distributing it to more than 5,000 internal investors.

The project’s success, and Olayan’s work ethic, ambition, and passion for corporate sustainability landed him the postgraduation job offer.

As he looks forward to the move to Credit Suisse Hong Kong, Olayan reflects on the benefit of his Northeastern experience. “I look at my Northeastern diploma as a share,” he says, “And it’s only going to keep gaining in value.”
 

FINANCE MEDIA PRO

LAETITIA HOTTINGUER
Partner at SHAN, a communications consulting firm in Paris that specializes in the financial sector

Home Country: France

Laetitia Hottinguer

Laetitia Hottinguer, BA’89, is helping clients weather the financial crises that have pummeled Europe. She advises on global communications and oversees international development as a partner with SHAN, a renowned independent communications consulting firm.

“It’s a fascinating time for the financial sector,” she says, and a successful one for clients who understand the wisdom of good public relations during a downturn.

“SHAN is innovative in the way we act proactively. We’ve been honing our expertise in digital communications strategy, for instance, in advance of our clients seeing this need.”

Hottinguer holds marketing degrees from both Northeastern and the Institut Franco-Américain de Management, a partner school. “Picking Northeastern was simple,” she says. “The best students from IFAM go to Northeastern.”

Advising clients such as asset managers, private equity firms, and banks on media relations draws on all her previous experience: from her first job in financial communications and marketing support at French commercial real estate company Sofibus, to handling communications at Banque Hottinguer, to heading up corporate communications for Credit Suisse-France after the family bank was acquired.

“For growth, especially in Europe, you need to have customers outside the local market,” says Hottinguer, who notes that her international experience has helped her immensely. One measure of her outlook: She says she’ll push her sons—now ages nine and 11—to study abroad.

21st CENTURY ENTREPRENEUR

PHILIPPE HOTTINGUER
Co-founder and managing director of the investment firm H. et Associés in Paris

Home Country: France

Philippe Hottinguer

The same entrepreneurial spirit that led Philippe Hottinguer, BA’91, to start his own investment firm in France spurred him to follow in the footsteps of his sister, Laetitia (see above), and come to Northeastern to pursue a degree—his in finance and insurance.

“I wanted to have an international experience, and I wanted an American education,” he says. “[Being at Northeastern] opened my eyes to a different culture. I learned to work with people from different nationalities.” He also has a master’s from Université Paris IX, Dauphine; having both, as he describes it, is “absolutely a fantastic experience.”

Hottinguer is managing director of H. et Associés, an investment banking and financial advisory services company he cofounded in 2003 against cultural odds. “It’s not easy for entrepreneurs in France,” he says. Government regulations, taxes, and other obstacles can hobble small-business owners. But with numerous clients in France, Hottinguer persevered, and has made his business thrive in his home country.

An advantage of the high-performing company’s small size is “we can be nimble and efficient,” he says.

Earlier in his career, Hottinguer worked as a trader of equities and equity derivatives. He then joined his family’s bank to pitch in during a challenging period before its sale, and split his time between investment banking and finance work at the new entity, Credit Suisse-Hottinguer.

From a family that has been in the banking business since the 19th century, finance may be second nature to Hottinguer, but his professional expertise is decidedly 21st century.

INFORMED RISK TAKER

ABDULAZIZ GHAZI ALNAFISI
Head of investments at commercial real estate company, Salhia, in Kuwait; board member and director at Crossbridge Capital in London

Home Country: Kuwait

Abdulaziz Ghazi Alnafisi

Real estate is complex, even during the best of times. But the way to navigate that complexity is to focus on fundamentals, says Abdulaziz Ghazi Alnafisi, BA’98, head of investments at the high-end commercial real estate company Salhia.

That’s what he did to help secure Salhia—the company his family cofounded—following the burst of the real estate bubble five years ago. He relied, he says, on the skill set his Northeastern accounting degree and co-op experiences provided—to evaluate opportunities, analyze an organization’s finances, and weigh risk.

Not to mention, keep a global perspective.

“We focused on our core portfolio and income stream,” recalls Alnafisi. “And the company decided a couple of decades ago that half its holdings should be in the United Kingdom and Europe.” As a board member and director at investment boutique Crossbridge Capital in London, he’s also been able to keep his finger on the pulse of Europe’s real estate landscape.

The strategy worked: Salhia has thrived despite what continues to be a challenging global economic climate.

For Alnafisi, the global experience Northeastern gave him—he cites his co-op at global commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle as a favorite—was invaluable. He also worked for two years on the mergers and acquisition team at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, which hired him after graduation. He earned his MBA, then he spent four years at Credit Suisse First Boston, where he was vice president of private client services.

It was the lure of directing his global experience toward the success of the company his father started that drew him back to his home country in 2007. “I know that globalization is a crucial element for any growth-oriented, forward-looking business.”

REAL ESTATE INSIDER

LESTER LAM
Executive director and CEO of property development and investment firm Lai Fung Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong

Home Country: China (Hong Kong)

Lester Lam

With his passion for travel, boating, and race car driving, it’s safe to say that Lester Lam, BA’04, is in the fast lane.

The young commercial real estate CEO, who graduated with a business management major and marketing minor, is always on the go—flying weekly to one of 20 countries on nearly every continent. The trips aren’t simply to meet with other business leaders; he also soaks up the culture and customs of thriving cities around the globe to help grow business.

This intercontinental, intercultural approach has led to enormous success for Lam. Recently, he upgraded a flagship shopping mall in Shanghai, bringing in leading upscale international brands like Cartier and Apple. The formerly overlooked shopping center is now a destination retail hub, with the surrounding area’s revitalization following suit.

Lam attributes his eye for retail and marketing to co-op experiences at Northeastern. On a promotion and marketing co-op at Avalon, he helped with the Boston nightclub’s multicity expansion, starting with New York. On co-op in Hong Kong, he further refined his marketing expertise working for the Chinese clothing brand Crocodile.

Both co-ops, combined with excellent foundational business classes, taught him essential people and problem-solving skills and how to operate in completely different cultural environments.

“Because of my co-ops and international education, I didn’t have to waste much time evolving into working on a global stage; I could just step right in.”

GLOBAL TEAM PLAYER

VANESSA TORTOLEDO
Lead financial analyst at Sandoz, manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals in New Jersey

Home Country: Venezuela

Vanessa Tortoledo

As part of a global team at Sandoz, the generic pharmaceuticals division of multinational Novartis, Vanessa Tortoledo, MBA’09, monitors product profitability and the company’s overall financial performance. She works locally and cross-continentally with senior management, finance, operations, and marketing to closely manage the company’s financial statements, assessing risks and opportunities to keep profitability on track, which translates into the development of future high-quality and affordable generic drugs.

“Being the point of contact for multiple people in the United States and abroad makes me feel that I’m an important part of Sandoz and Novartis,” she says.

It’s a fitting role for Tortoledo, who has all the traits of a global business leader. For starters, she’s analytical and willing to take risks. She evaluated the advantages of staying in her native Venezuela or uprooting herself to the United States to study, ultimately realizing that earning an advanced degree at Northeastern would make her more valuable in the market.

She’s also goal-oriented. At one point, Tortoledo thought she’d follow her father’s career path into medicine. But the healthcare industry is only one of her interests; her other passion is business. At Northeastern, she discovered a way to combine both through the Corporate Residency program.

“This six-month program afforded me an opportunity to demonstrate my skills in real-world scenarios. I’m now working for the same company where I did my residency.”

The global nature of the business has brought ever-expanding responsibilities for the lead financial analyst, who has higher aspirations. “With globalization, I always leave the door open to any opportunity with another Sandoz or Novartis entity outside of the U.S.”

CORPORATE BRIDGE BUILDER

HERMIEN SARENGAT
Retired president director of GE Technology in Indonesia, an advanced technology, services, and finance company

Home Country: Indonesia

Hermien Sarengat

Hermien Sarengat, ME’91, holds a unique place in the industrialization of modern Indonesia. In 1999, she became the first female president director of  GE Technology in that country—a true visionary in one of the world’s most innovative companies.

“I was a perfect match for GE,” she says of her role as the bridge between the company in Indonesia and the maze of governmental ministries that approved business proposals.

As president director, she capitalized on GE’s strengths in energy, health, and transportation to develop new business for the country and her employer. That includes her most significant accomplishment: the formation of a joint venture among GE and several state-owned enterprises to build the first locomotive produced and assembled entirely in Indonesia, a feat personally recognized by then President Suharto.

Sarengat was a wife and mother of two when she received a scholarship to study in Boston. Her husband had also been accepted at Northeastern, so the whole family moved to the United States. She caught GE’s attention on co-op there. After graduation, the multinational company wanted Sarengat not only for her technical expertise in industrial engineering, but for something even more valuable: her knowledge of American business and culture.

“In business development, I dealt with five government ministries, each with an agenda,” she says. “I relied on my inner strength and strong business relationships and believed that nothing is impossible.”