The third generation wealth curse is something Gabrielle Tan has been hearing about since she was a child. Fondly known as Gabby, the daughter of IGB Corp Bhd managing director Datuk Seri Robert Tan makes it clear that she does not think the notion is true.
“I believe that each individual is in charge of his own future and mine just happened to be in the family business,” says the head of marketing at IGB REIT Management Sdn Bhd.
“I think there is this perception that because the younger generation might not necessarily be interested in the family business and would rather have a different career that the wealth might not stay in the family.”
It all boils down to responsibility, she says. More often than not, it is beyond just family wealth.
“Honestly, I have not heard of any stories about family wealth disappearing in the third generation. If I had, it would give me more impetus, not just to preserve the wealth but also the family name,” says Gabby.
“My grandfather, together with his brother, built this for their children and grandchildren. Being a part of the family business is a way of preserving his legacy.”
Has she ever considered what she would do to prevent the erosion of family wealth over the generations? She admits that these thoughts are always at the back of her mind.
“I think it is all about educating the younger generation to value money and to be responsible with it. My siblings and I were brought up with the understanding that money does not grow on trees and we should not spend it freely. I will pass that on to my children. Wealth must not be taken for granted because it could vanish at any time,” she says.
Having grown up as a member of the third generation of a real estate family business, Gabby says she does not think any of her siblings or cousins joined the business to be “groomed” [as a successor]. “We started out wanting to learn about the business and each of us has different strengths. I think we all have different roles to play in the company. I think the fact that there are third-generation family members in the company is just proof that the business will carry on.”
What did her parents teach her about family wealth when she was a child and how has this influenced her way of living? Gabby recalls that her parents taught her to be very careful with money and not take anything for granted.
“This has followed me through to adulthood as well. Today, my approach to money is exactly what my parents instilled in me when I was a child. The importance of ‘working for your supper’. Hard work pays off and I do not take my role in the company lightly,” she says.
As for what she would teach her children in the future, she says, “I would teach them what my parents taught me. I am not so concerned about family wealth, but more about their personal wealth, be it financially, spiritually or emotionally,” says Gabby.
“I want my children to appreciate the simple things life has to offer. I think most importantly, and I have said it many times, I will teach them to be responsible.”
Her mantra in life is to never treat anyone differently just because they are of a different gender, religion, race or status. These are the things that have shaped who she is today.