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Consistently excellent: Neil Howard

Taking a business into an initial public offering is often the culmination of years of grind and focus. For many it can also be a watershed moment; a summit has been reached and an aspirational career goal achieved. However, for Neil Howard, CEO and Executive Chairman of IBI Group, the 2016 listing of the company was the continuation of an already successful story.


IBI Group was founded in 1997 during a period of significant political change in Hong Kong. Neil joined the company in 2006 and is now the company’s CEO, Executive Director and Chair.

Today, IBI Group is one of the leading building contractor and renovation services companies in Hong Kong and operates two core businesses: interior fit-outs and building refurbishment. As a project-based business, having a consistent stream of tendering opportunities is key to IBI Group’s profitability and success.

The quality of the company’s project teams also plays a major role in its ability to consistently deliver high-quality projects. “Our project teams are undoubtedly among the highest quality professionals in the industry,” Neil explains proudly.

“Our project teams are undoubtedly among the highest quality professionals in the industry.”

“They’re extremely proficient at handling highly complex projects. Our company success has been driven by our consistent service and our commitment to clients that their projects will be delivered on time, every time.

“One of our proudest achievements was to successfully list the company on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October 2016,” Neil remembers. “The listing application process was one of the most demanding experiences we’ve encountered. The level of analysis and investigation carried out was breathtaking.

“All of the efforts we’d made over the previous decade in developing our systems and maintaining a high level of corporate integrity came good. Our core group of senior executives worked tirelessly during the eight-month listing exercise. Without their professionalism and sheer hard work, the listing would not have been possible.”

Apart from the higher profile that the listing has provided to the company, Neil believes it has given the Group financial stability far beyond most of its direct competitors. “This is extremely comforting to our clients and is something we continually reinforce during tender interviews,” he explains.

His pride in his team runs deep and as a result his leadership style is very much about delegating and placing trust in them. “I’m fortunate to have a highly experienced and skilled senior management team. I respect their decision-making and implicitly trust them as individuals,” Neil states.


“I have a very ‘hands-off’ approach to my role. I don’t burden the team with endless requests for formal reporting. In fact, most of our information sharing comes from just chatting casually.

“I’m very fortunate to work with such talented and hardworking professionals. Their dedication is extraordinary and it’s a privilege for me to work alongside them.”

The renovation service industry requires working closely with subcontractors and suppliers, and the importance of these relationships is integral to the ongoing success of any company. For IBI Group, many of their supplier relationships are long running and have been in place for more than a decade.

“We have a great deal of respect for our business partners and recognise and appreciate the experience and skill they bring to each project,” says Neil. “In fact, all our long-term partners have direct access to our senior management should they need it. This helps the relationship to stay balanced and mutually beneficial to both parties.

“Our partner relationships are key to our ability to deliver challenging projects in a timely fashion.”

The future is looking bright for IBI Group as the company looks for opportunities to increase revenue, diversify risk and work with like-minded partners who share the same values and corporate ideals.

But it’s the internal culture that truly defines the company in this very competitive and challenging industry. “As a team we will always succeed. We promote a culture of team and personal responsibility,” says Neil.

“Our people are often under a great deal of stress, so it’s important they understand their senior management team is there to help resolve problems and not focus on blame. We have zero tolerance of negative politics.”

With the industry facing the challenge of an increasingly ageing workforce and, of more immediate concern, the instability caused by the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong, IBI Group needs to be ready to adapt by attracting a younger generation of skilled tradespeople.

“Our partner relationships are key to our ability to deliver challenging projects in a timely fashion.”

“Risk management in the construction industry is paramount,” Neil explains. “We’ve continually reinforced our systems to improve the quality of our delivery while managing risk. Our focus on this has been fundamental to our steady and controlled growth.”

But for Neil it’s not only about pride in the company’s efficient processes, quality and operation but in the final result for their clients. “It’s always wonderful to see the completed projects and see the designer’s inspiration turned from a drawing into real life,” he smiles.

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Li Ling Decoration Engineering Company

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