Your Haas Network
Alan Seigrist, MBA 96
CFO, The Executive Centre
Alan Seigrist, MBA 96, doesn't need to delve too deep into family history to figure out where his rebellious streak comes from. His great-grandfather was Sun Yat Sen, considered the founder of modern China. Sun organized a series of uprisings against the imperial government, and when China's last dynasty fell in 1911, became president of the new republic. Seigrist says this heritage provides daily inspiration for his own life.
"He kept pushing to unify the country against all odds over the course of his entire life," Seigrist says. "So when people say, 'You can't do this,' I just say, 'I'm going to find a way to make it work anyway.' If some unknown from southern China can overthrow 4,000 years of imperial rule and set up a democracy, I can be successful, too."
That contrarian streak courses through Seigrist's life and career. As a child, he lived in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand while his father flew for the Central Intelligence Agency in Laos during the Vietnam War. He returned to the United States and graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering from Berkeley in 1988. After six years at Bechtel, he decided to go back to business school and learn how to run a company -- with the goal of eventually finding his way back across the Pacific.
After graduating from Haas in 1996, Seigrist left dot-com fever behind for a job in private equity that would take him to the Philippines, Australia, and Vietnam. "There's enough of a rebel in me that I usually avoid doing what everybody else is doing," he says.
In 1999, Seigrist's career took another turn when he and a business partner raised $20 million to set up The Executive Centre, a Hong Kong-based company that provides flexible office space and services. The Executive Centre has grown from what Seigrist calls a "mom-and-pop shop" with just two locations in Singapore and Hong Kong to a Pan-Asian company with 30 offices and such clients as Google and Morgan Stanley. Its annual revenue has soared from $2 million to nearly $60 million in less than a decade.
As CFO, Seigrist recently spearheaded a management-led buyout of the original shareholders in 2007, backed by $9 billion New York real estate fund Marathon Asset Management. The company's biggest focus now is geographic expansion. It's fast multiplying office locations in Greater China and plans to open its first Indian office in Mumbai within six months.
Seigrist says The Executive Centre distinguishes itself from competitors through high quality and a strong focus on client service -- areas where local rivals remain weak. "The Chinese are masters at cranking out products like inexpensive shoes," he says, "but I'm in the hundred-dollar shoe business."