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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia attracting more professionals from Down Under

Hong Leong Bank (Cambodia) CEO Joe Farrugia.  SCOTT HOWES
Hong Leong Bank (Cambodia) CEO Joe Farrugia. Scott Howes

Cambodia attracting more professionals from Down Under

Melbourne native Joe Farrugia is one of the growing number of Australian managers involved in Cambodia’s development

As nonprofit, governmental and commercial interactions between Australia and Cambodia continue to deepen, more and more Australian professionals are living and working in the Kingdom – some of them long enough to think of Cambodia as home.

Joe Farrugia, CEO of Hong Leong Bank (Cambodia), embodies this trend, which he says not only provides companies from Australia and elsewhere access to the dynamic Cambodian economy, but also facilitates a large-scale knowledge and skill transfer to the next generation of local management.

“I enjoy being able to share my knowledge and experience with Cambodians and see them grow professionally,” Farrugia said. “What the local talent pool here lacks in experience, it makes up for with passion and commitment.”

Originally from Melbourne, Farrugia first lived in Phnom Penh from 2006 to 2011, during which time he was the head of ANZ Royal’s retail banking division. After a short stint in Vietnam, Farrugia returned to Cambodia in 2012, taking the reins at Malaysian-based Hong Leong’s operations in the Kingdom. He told the Post that he felt privileged to be involved in Cambodia’s development.

“Seven years may not sound like long, but so much has happened during that time,” he said. “All the new buildings and roads and improvements in general infrastructure have been good for the economy. The transformation of the landscape in the last few years has truly been remarkable.”

The last few years have been exciting, but they have also been a time of increased competition, which Farrugia sees as a positive development for Cambodia.

“Greater competition forces everyone to raise their standards and improve the quality of their services or offerings,” he said.

For the time being, Farrugia will be focused on developing Hong Leong’s brand in Cambodia and is working on setting up a community education program for the underprivileged. He is also an active member of the Australian Business Association, Cambodia Business Association and Bankers Association of Cambodia.

“Being actively involved in these associations has given me the opportunity to meet so many nice people from Cambodia and around the globe, and to establish long-term relationships,” he said.

As for the long term, however, Farrugia views his role in Phnom Penh as helping pave the way for a new generation of Cambodian business leaders.

“The Cambodians that I work with approach their jobs with genuine passion. I see junior executives today who will be senior executives in the near future. When I retire, I look forward to passing the torch to Cambodians,” Farrugia said.

Business aside, Phnom Penh is a great place to raise a family, said Farrugia, who lives in the Northbridge Communities. He and his wife are parents of nine-year-old twins that he says feel more connected to Cambodia than to Australia.

“They think of Cambodia as home,” he said. “We’ve travelled all over the country, and they have friends from all walks of life. We absolutely love this place, we have no intention of leaving anytime soon.”

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Marc's picture

As a business professional in Asia and with a couple of investments in the Greater Mekong, I notice that Cambodia has become a refuge for expat staff exited by multinationals. Take the ANZ Bank as an example, after the Bank had no place for several expat staff Cambodia became 'home'. These former ANZ-expats are found in various banks, private consulting and even I.T. in Cambodia's smaller bank segment.

Staring at long-term unemployment or at best dislodged into a part-time retail space outside of banking these expat folk opted not to return to a sharply competitive Australia, Singapore or HongKong.

90% of expat staff encouraged to move on by ANZ Bank - who seconded them to Cambodia for 2 or 3 years - had little choice but to scout around for Tier 2 countries and Tier 3 banks if they needed a job. The latter find it difficult to attract quality expat talent. So it is a win-win situation for all.

I wish Mr Farrugia and others like him well. However his comments are only partly true as he does try to make a virtue out of abject necessity.

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