Jeffrey Lim: The Man at the Helm of SM Prime

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In November 2018, Mr. Jeffrey Lim, President and Executive Director of SM Prime Holdings, was hailed the first ever Personality of the Year at Lamudi’s The Outlook Awards.

When Mr. Hans Sy surprised the crowd at a company party—eventually shocking the rest of the industry—with his immediate plans to step down as President of SM Prime in 2016, his successor, the then-chief information officer, and executive vice president Mr. Jeffrey Lim was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Lim, who had been with the SM Group for more than two decades thus far, was tasked to steer the largest integrated property developer in the Philippines in terms of market value, and one of the biggest in the whole of Southeast Asia.

The spotlight continued to follow the soft-spoken executive, because, in November of 2018, Lim was awarded Personality of the Year at Lamudi’s The Outlook 2018 for his continuous commitment to improve the quality lives of Filipinos by means of urbanizing large settlements, thereby leading to SM Prime’s outstanding market performance. He was named for the award after an independent panel of judges comprised of esteemed personalities in local real estate evaluated his body of work, resounding influence, and positive contributions to the industry.

Humble beginnings

Lim’s path to becoming an influential figure in Philippine real estate as a whole is one borne of dedication, skill, and vision, coupled with golden opportunities that came his way.

A native of Tawi-Tawi, Lim graduated with a degree in accounting from the University of the East and started his career in SGV & Co. as an auditor. After six years, he moved to Unisys Philippines, an information technology company, to lead the accounting and treasury department. His work at the multinational firm granted him a stint at the Hong Kong office of Unisys, this time as regional manager handling contracts, pricing, and financial planning.

The road to greater things

Lim returned to the Philippines in 1994 and joined SM Prime as vice president for finance at the invitation of then SM Investment Corporation (SMIC) chief finance officer Jose Sio (now chairman) just as it is preparing for its initial public offering (IPO). At the time, the company had four malls in its arsenal. Sure enough, having been there at the early period of SM Prime equipped Lim with the necessities to rear SM’s expansion to China in 2001 and also in playing a vital role in the IPO of SMIC.

While he made significant contributions to the company, Lim also took it upon himself to learn as much as he could from Henry Sy Sr. himself, which instilled in him the ability to think like an owner. And throughout the years, his role expanded and grew as he took on other aspects such as business development, IT, investor relations, to name a few. His work allowed him to think big without sacrificing the small details, which came into play not only in his career but more importantly in his role as a leader.

His work so far led to his being recognized as CFO of the year by Dutch financial giant ING Bank and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (ING FINEX) in 2012. And after years of serving pivotal roles behind the scenes thus far, Lim was called upon to lead the consolidation of all of SM Group’s real estate assets under SM Prime in 2013, which ultimately planted the company’s place in the international scene.

Fast forward to today, under the helm of Lim, SM Prime has a total of 72 malls all over the Philippines and seven in China. Its residential arm, SMDC, has completed 22 projects mostly in Metro Manila and is working to reach the middle markets in Visayas and Mindanao. The Mall of Asia Complex continues on its track to becoming a major business hub, while the Commercial Properties Group scouts for other emerging locations to cater to tech businesses and business process outsourcing companies. Finally, the Hotels and Conventions sector is nurturing a portfolio of 1,514 rooms in properties located in key cities in the country.

Bolstered by his humble background and winning character, it seems Mr. Jeffrey Lim was destined to be in the spotlight.

Sources: SM Prime, De La Salle University, and Inquirer.net

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