Adrian Cheng

CEO | New World Development Company

Hospitality, Real Estate, Retail, and Finance 

Hong Kong

Adrian Cheng: The Hong Kong–based CEO Running a $20.7B empire that includes Rosewood Hotels & Resorts on the Future of Hospitality, Real Estate, Retail, and Giving Back

Adrian Cheng is the heir to New World Development and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, a $20.7B empire. As the Chief Executive Officer of New World Development Company, Cheng oversees the group’s strategy and operation, which includes property development, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, New World China Land, NWS Holdings, and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group. In 2019, Cheng unveiled Victoria Dockside, a $2.6B, 3-million-square-foot global art and design district conceived and created by himself in collaboration with 100 creative powers to reinvigorate Hong Kong’s iconic Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Through the development project, Cheng’s vision is to build the “Silicon Valley of Culture” in Greater China, injecting culture, art, architecture, design, nature, and technology into different forms of commerce, forming a unique culture-commerce ecosystem that conserves traditional art and culture while incubating new ideas and innovation. In 2020, Cheng announced his ground-breaking vision of CSV (Creating Shared Value) for New World Development, based on three main business pillars: empowering culture and creativity; supporting social innovations; and creating sustainable way of living, with an aim of striking out in a new direction for the group by connecting business success with social progress, thus enabling us to thrive in partnership with society.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

When the first wave of COVID-19 hit China, I witnessed so many members of my greater community fall victim to the outbreak, with little access to the essential gear they needed to properly protect themselves and 
their loved ones. Naturally, my largest business concern, and personal concern, for that matter, was to find a way to leverage our group’s expertise, resources, and network to provide our staff and those at risk with the essential safety materials that have been shown to slow the spread of this virus. This line of reasoning has fuelled our efforts since the outbreak began, which include providing financial support (we were the first corporate in Hong Kong to set up a RMB 50M [about $7M] anti-epidemic fund) and other material resources (to-date, we have donated and distributed more than 18 million face masks, including 500,000 masks to UNICEF that will be distributed to vulnerable children most in needto our global community 

The K11 Musea in Hong Kong combines art, culture, and retail.

In terms of business, it’s a challenging time for everyone. But I’m glad to see that we have a very united team and the morale of our staff is still very strong. With many people stuck at home due to the social distancing policy that was introduced in February, consumer patterns have totally changed. As a corporation, we have needed to adapt very quickly and reinvent our business model in order to cater to the evolving needs of the customers. For example, we launched our WeChat mini-programme called “K11 Online Store” within 1 month, along with several thematic livestreaming channels to convert online traffic into sales for tenants in specific categories. Such innovation was very well received by the public. In Guangzhou K11 alone, for instance“K11 Online Store” attracted over 200,000 visitors within the first two weeks of its launch, generating millions of RMB in sales. It is a big test for our businesses, but I’d like to see it as a good opportunity to change the mindset of our staff and the status quo of our businesses in order to create new opportunities and revenues. Thanks to the creativity and dedication of our versatile staff, we have done well weathering the crisis at this point. And we are hopeful that the market will slowly recover in this fall.  

Inside the K11 Musea.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? 

As the pandemic continuously evolves, my team and I are constantly adapting to the current stage at hand, while simultaneously preparing ourselves for what lies ahead. More offices, shops and restaurants are reopening every day in Hong Kong thanks to the relaxation of the city’s coronavirus social distancing measures, so right now we are focusing on finding the best strategies to reengage consumers on the ground in a way that is safe, sustainable, and accommodating, and makes this slow shift back to semi-normalcy as smooth and efficient as possible.  

We are focusing on finding the best strategies to reengage consumers on the ground in a way that is safe, sustainable, and accommodating, and makes this slow shift back to semi-normalcy as smooth and efficient as possible.  

So far, I’m pleased to say that we have been successful in several of our digitalization approaches to consumer engagement and are seeing the emergence of revenge consumption as of AprilWith the launch of the K11 Online Store, livestream shopping, Cloud Art Exhibitions on Little Red Book (or Xiaohongshu), Alibaba TmallTikTokMafengwo, and online courses in our open learning platform K11 Kulture Academy, we have managed to stay connected with our customers during the pandemic, and to continue our mission to enrich their daily lives through the power of culture, creativity and innovation. I am incredibly proud of the outcome of these initiatives, as it truly showcases the agile, creative and innovative capabilities of our talented team at NWD to adapt to new reality. 

The NWD Mask Dispenser.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?

The whole world has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, but I am still very confident in the long-term future of China and our ability to thrive in this market, especially given our diversified business ecosystem and localized approach to serving our communities.  

In the midst of these challenging times, I believe there will be paradigm shift in the post-COVID-19 world. For example, with our residential customers, we are seeing that their tastes and priorities have changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic. They are looking for something different now: they want to live well and healthy. They want properties that feel safe. They want the properties that are closer to nature. And they want high-quality property management services. They are willing to pay a premium in order to have a well-balanced life. As a property developer, that’s something that we have to adapt to very quickly. 

In terms of corporations, feel that profit-generation will no longer be the sole goal for which businesses should strive. As a business leader, believe that we do have a rolemore than a rolea callingto push ourselves and empower our businesses to create shared value to all those around us through culture, creativity, social innovation, and sustainabilityIt is only through connecting business success with people’s wellness and social progress that we can continue to thrive in partnership with society, and this is a new reality that we should all get ourselves prepared for. 

The new Rosewood Yangon in Myanmar.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

As humans, we’re all bound to make mistakes. What makes us different and unique is how we are going to learn from them so that we can keep moving forward with our new-found wisdom. Last year, we saw one of the most turbulent times in Hong Kong’s history due to the social movementDuring this time, one lesson that we learned in the process is how we should stay focused on our core values and ensure that we don’t lose our way in times of uncertainty. In the midst of challenging times, I strongly believe that businesses have a role to play in society to serve the needs of our community. Driven by our group’s commitment to “Creating Shared Value” for our society, we always assume a long-term outlook in order to balance the interests of our shareholders and stakeholders. Therefore, to me, our COVID-19 relief efforts are much more than a traditional CSR donation or philanthropic move. In fact, it is something that is embedded within our business mission to share our expertise, intelligence and resources with our global partners and stakeholders to contribute innovative and sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing problems in today’s world. Over the past year, I am proud that our Group has taken the lead in launching a series of relief measures (for example, a donation of 3 million square feet of farmland to the Hong Kong government and toward charity to help solve the city’s housing problem) and public cultural events (such as the Festival de Cannes Film Week at K11 Musea), with an aim to unite our people through the power of love and culture.  

We’re all in this together, and we shall do our part to make the world a better place for our next generation. 

Hong Kong–based Adrian Cheng is the CEO of New World Development.

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime


Morning routine?
When working from home, usually start my day by reading the news in the morning. After breakfast I hold Zoom meetings with my senior management teams to get important updates on different projects and make sure that everything is on the right track despite the social distancing. always try to make time for some exercise in between meetings too to keep myself rejuvenated, upbeat, and energetic. 

Currently binging? 
I don’t get a chance to watch as many shows as I used tobut I was recently watching The Last Dance, the documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan, and I found it to be really inspiring as it covers many untold stories about his intriguing personaThere are some quotes from Michael Jordan that particularly struck me, for example, Some people want it to happen. Some wish it would happen. Others make it happen!” … “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,etc. At a time when many people are struggling with the stay-home orders, I think it is very important to stay positive and keep our minds sharp by learning from the success (and also failureof the GREATEST of all time. 

Currently reading?
I am currently reading a book called Leadership in War: Essential Lessons from Those Who Made History, in which the award-winning author Andrew Roberts presents a brilliant look into nine key figures in modern history including Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Margaret Thatcheramong others.  

In light of the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been thinking a lot about how leadership can impact not just an organization, but also the world, for the better. And I think this book has offered some good insight into some of the most important qualities that make a great leader in times of struggle, unease and discord like now. What I have also learned from this book about leadership is that it is always less about the ability of the leader himself to win a war than it is about the magic art of infusing your own positive, can-do spirit into others and, through empowerment, inspire them to fight for a better future together. 

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
Recently, I had a chance to take a closer look at my own art collection and found an extraordinarily rare Luo Dian (a millennia-old craft in lacquerware and woodwork using inlays of shell to decorate pieces) that I previously acquired through K11 Craft & Guild FoundationThe piece just reminds me that there is so much to enjoy and treasure when we focus on appreciating every little detail in life; and what real blessing it is to be able to share the beauty of art and craftsmanship with our loved ones. 

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically? 
Personally, I try to meditate every day and have been doing that for quite some time nowjust to slow down and take time out from a busy life. When I take this time to quiet my mind, I am able to think critically about what is going on around the worldsee the full picture of different things and pull all the ideas together that other people probably don’t see. I think it is actually quite a good exercise to take the time to purify yourself in this sense, so that you can reclaim your authentic self and stay focused on things that truly matter, whether for yourself, your family and loved ones, your company and staff or society at large. 

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I haven’t had a chance to visit Rosewood Yangon, our Group’s latest hotel in Yangon which is the commercial capital and largest city of Myanmar. Housed in a stunning heritage building designed by Scottish architect Thomas Oliphant Foster in 1927, the luxury landmark hotel was originally established as the New Law Courts for British Burma. Following Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the building was used variously as the Police Commissioner’s office, Parliament’s Chamber of Nationalities and the headquarters of the Burmese Socialist Programme Party. This architectural gem has then been meticulously restored to incorporate every contemporary amenity and comfort while simultaneously preserving the essence and splendour of the building’s storied past. Given all the beautiful glittering Buddhist pagodas, stately heritage architecture and templescolourful markets, parks, lakes and the long riverfront in the cityI am sure it will be an unforgettable trip.