Meet AMCHAM’S 2017 Board Pres­i­dent, Jeff Ny­gaard

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Contents -

Jef­frey Ny­gaard is Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Global Op­er­a­tions and Thai­land Coun­try Man­ager for Sea­gate Tech­nol­ogy, the global leader in data stor­age solutions. Sea­gate Thai­land op­er­a­tions were es­tab­lished in 1983 and cur­rently have 14,000 em­ploy­ees. In June 2015, Sea­gate Thai­land op­er­a­tions reg­is­tered ex­port sales of USD 3.4 bil­lion. Jeff is re­spon­si­ble for Sea­gate’s highly au­to­mated, data- driven op­er­a­tions across sites in Thai­land, Malaysia, China, North­ern Ire­land and the United States. Jeff also over­sees Sea­gate’s An­a­lyt­ics or­ga­ni­za­tion and is the ex­ec­u­tive lead for Cap­i­tal and Op­er­a­tions Ca­pac­ity. Jeff joined Sea­gate in 1994 and over the last twenty years has held a va­ri­ety of man­age­rial and ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions of in­creas­ing scope in De­vel­op­ment and Op­er­a­tions across Asia, Europe and the U. S.

Jeff be­came a mem­ber of the AMCHAM Board in 2012. He served two two- year terms and af­ter a man­dated one- year break was re­elected to the AMCHAM Board for 2017. Due to his ex­pe­ri­ence and lead­er­ship, Jeff was unan­i­mously elected to serve as Pres­i­dent of the 2017 Board. Be­fore he as­sumes this position, Jeff kindly agreed to an­swer our ques­tions about his out­look for the Thai econ­omy, the role of Amer­i­can busi­ness in Thai­land, and the di­rec­tion he wants to take the Cham­ber dur­ing his pres­i­dency.

De­scribe the jour­ney that brought you to Sea­gate Thai­land and AMCHAM.

When I was grow­ing up, I al­ways thought it would be ex­cit­ing to go over­seas to learn and ex­pe­ri­ence new cul­tures. Sea­gate in­tro­duced me to South­east Asia in the mid- 1990s by ask­ing me to lead a project in Thai­land. At that time, prod­ucts were de­vel­oped in the U. S. and trans­ferred to Thai­land, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia for man­u­fac­tur­ing. Large teams would go to the man­u­fac­tur­ing lo­ca­tion for one or two months to help sta­bi­lize the prod­uct in man­u­fac­tur­ing. In 2001, I moved to Thai­land for a one- and- a- half year as­sign­ment as an en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­tor at Sea­gate’s Teparuk fa­cil­ity, in the sub­urbs of Bangkok. Our mis­sion was to trans­form the assem­bly and test pro­cesses, from man­ual to fully au­to­mated. Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion, I repa­tri­ated to Sea­gate’s U. S. prod­uct de­sign cen­ters.

Sub­se­quently, I re­turned to Thai­land in Au­gust 2006 as the Vice Pres­i­dent and Coun­try Man­ager for Sea­gate’s Thai­land op­er­a­tions. In June 2009, my role was ex­panded to in­clude Pe­nang Op­er­a­tions. In 2013, I was pro­moted to Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of Global Head Op­er­a­tions with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for Sea­gate’s wafer fab­ri­ca­tion op­er­a­tions in the U. S. and North-

ern Ire­land, and the nano- tech­nol­ogy and fin­ished prod­uct man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in Thai­land, Malaysia and China.

I joined AMCHAM to widen my net­work and knowl­edge about Thai­land. AMCHAM pro­vided many net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and its mem­bers shared in­valu­able lo­cal mar­ket knowl­edge and ad­vice.

Last year Sea­gate an­nounced that it planned to in­vest Baht 15.3 bil­lion ( USD 470 mil­lion) in Thai­land over the next five years. What is the ba­sis for Sea­gate’s con­tin­ued con­fi­dence in Thai­land?

We are op­ti­mistic about the future of Thai­land as one of our pri­mary op­er­a­tional hubs. We are build­ing upon the key strengths we have fo­cused on over the years: peo­ple, gov­ern­ment sup­port, sup­ply chain, cost and lo­gis­tics. We have de­vel­oped a strong lo­cal ta­lent pool within Sea­gate; we have very few ex­pa­tri­ates within our work­force in Thai­land. We work closely with the Thai gov­ern­ment and uni­ver­si­ties to de­velop our peo­ple and the tech­nol­ogy our prod­ucts re­quire. We worked with key sup­ply part­ners to de­velop a strong sup­ply chain in Thai­land over the past thirty years. Thai­land has a fa­vor­able cost struc­ture and good la­bor force. We are able to find and train peo­ple in Thai­land who can de­sign, main­tain and use highly au­to­mated equip­ment. Thai­land also has a strong lo­gis­ti­cal con­nec­tion within Asia and to the rest of the world.

What is your out­look on the cur­rent busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment in Thai­land? Do you fore­see any ma­jor chal­lenges to Thai­land’s econ­omy in the near future? How do global changes and move­ments im­pact Thai­land from an eco­nomic and com­mer­cial per­spec­tive?

Our con­tin­ued con­fi­dence in Thai­land is also un­der­pinned by the Thai gov­ern­ment’s poli­cies which con­tinue to position Thai­land as a pro- busi­ness and pro- in­vest­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­no­va­tion hub in Asia. From my per­spec­tive, the Thai gov­ern­ment is lis­ten­ing to busi­ness in­put and bal­anc­ing it with their pol­icy pri­or­i­ties. Not ev­ery­thing moves quickly. But, the global land­scape is chang­ing and there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for Thai­land to be a lead­ing hub in Asia through poli­cies fa­vor­able for busi­ness and in­vest­ment.

The global land­scape has un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic changes in Europe and the Amer­i­cas in 2016, with some in Asia as well. These changes will have an im­pact on Asia as the bal­ance of power shifts. The eco­nomic land­scape in Asia is chang­ing as China ex­erts stronger eco­nomic in­flu­ence in Asia ( One Belt One Road ini­tia­tive, the Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship ( RCEP) and some economies in Asia may tend to veer to­wards pro­tec­tion­ism in their eco­nomic and trade poli­cies as a means to grow their lo­cal economies. Thai­land should take a bal­anced ap­proach and con­tinue to main­tain its pro- busi­ness and pro- in­vest­ment poli­cies so that the coun­try can con­tinue to grow and position it­self as an at­trac­tive in­vest­ment lo­ca­tion in Asia. Thai­land should also pro­vide com­pet­i­tive in­cen­tives to at­tract new in­vest­ments and shape it­self into Asia’s lead­ing ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­no­va­tion hub.

How do you see the role and im­pact of Amer­i­can busi­ness in Thai­land?

We are a huge trade and in­vest­ment part­ner with Thai­land. The United States is Thai­land’s third- largest bi­lat­eral trad­ing part­ner, af­ter Ja­pan and China. The United States is also one of the largest in­vestors in Thai­land, with over USD 14 bil­lion in for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment. Through AMCHAM, we have the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions that we be­lieve can im­prove the busi­ness com­pet­i­tive­ness in Thai­land. So­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is im­por­tant to Amer­i­can busi­ness as well. We value the peo­ple, the com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment that we op­er­ate in.

What prompted you to be­come an ac­tive mem­ber in, and ul­ti­mately the Pres­i­dent of, AMCHAM Thai­land?

I started to be­come more ac­tive in AMCHAM af­ter I be­gan serv­ing on its Board of Gov­er­nors. Through that op­por­tu­nity, I bet­ter un­der­stood the role of AMCHAM and learned about the val­ues the Cham­ber es­pouses and pro­motes. AMCHAM helps con­nect Amer­i­can and Thai peo­ple, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. It pro­motes cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ( CSR); AMCHAM and Amer­i­can busi­ness con­ducts many CSR ac­tiv­i­ties an­nu­ally. AMCHAM also pro­vides a plat­form for Amer­i­can busi­nesses to col­lec­tively in­ter­act with the Thai gov­ern­ment on things that can be done to im­prove busi­ness in Thai­land. And, it cer­tainly helps mem­bers net­work.

In which di­rec­tion are you plan­ning to take the Cham­ber dur­ing your pres­i­dency? Are there any par­tic­u­lar ini­tia­tives you would like to see im­ple­mented? What do you see as AMCHAM’S big­gest ac­com­plish­ments and chal­lenges?

Ad­vo­cacy is one key area that I will fo­cus on as it is at the heart of how we can help the busi­ness com­mu­nity in Thai­land. It of­fers us a chance to un­der­stand the chal­lenges that busi­nesses en­counter. It brings peo­ple to­gether to for­mu­late and then ad­vo­cate an im­proved path. The suc­cess of Thai­land is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the suc­cess of the re­gion. I be­lieve the busi­ness com­mu­nity, through AMCHAM, can pro­vide valu­able in­puts to both the Thai gov­ern­ment and the U. S. Em­bassy, which will help to pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of the lo­cal Thai econ­omy, ex­ports and bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Thai­land and the U. S.

An­other area of fo­cus for AMCHAM will be cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ac­tiv­i­ties. Amer­i­can busi­nesses bring a foun­da­tion of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to our com­mu­nity in Thai­land and to the re­gion. We need to con­tinue to pro­mote re­spon­si­ble busi­ness prac­tices and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment.

AMCHAM’S great­est achieve­ment is its abil­ity to be the voice of Amer­i­can busi­nesses in Thai­land. We are of­ten con­sulted by the Thai gov­ern­ment and the U. S. Em­bassy to give feed­back on the poli­cies with re­spects to Thai­land’s busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. AMCHAM needs to con­tinue to be the voice of Amer­i­can busi­nesses in Thai­land and we need to work closely with the Thai gov­ern­ment to en­sure that Thai­land con­tin­ues to be pro- busi­ness and pro- in­vest­ment, so that the coun­try re­mains a top in­vest­ment and busi­ness des­ti­na­tion in Asia.

How do you spend your free time? What do you like about liv­ing in Thai­land? What are your fa­vorite spots in Bangkok and places in Thai­land?

Af­ter I fin­ish work, I usu­ally play ten­nis on Satur­days and Sun­days morn­ings for ex­er­cise. Fol­low­ing ten­nis, I will head to the cof­fee shop to en­joy a book over a cup of cof­fee. In the mean­time, my wife drops off our two boys at their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. While the kids are at their ac­tiv­i­ties, my wife and I meet for lunch. Sun­day is fam­ily time. We go out for lunch to­gether and then we hang out at home. In the early even­ings, my two boys ride their bikes while I jog along­side. Oc­ca­sion­ally, we take fam­ily trips to Hua Hin and Pat­taya.

Thai­land is an amaz­ing coun­try with so many dif­fer­ent sights and its peo­ple are also very friendly and tal­ented. It is a great place for fam­ily, busi­ness and leisure.

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