Australia’s Lendlease has filled out the succession picture for its top job in Asia, elevating a longtime company finance exec, and reaching into big four accounting firms to find new leadership for its talent efforts.
The real estate group announced last Thursday that it is promoting regional chief financial officer Justin Gabbani to Asia CEO effective 1 June. Gabbani, who will continue to be based in Singapore, replaces former regional boss Tony Lombardo, who in February was named Lendlease’s group chief executive.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Justin and Deb on their respective appointments,” McCann said. “Their demonstrated skills and expertise will bring valuable new perspectives to Lendlease’s global leadership team as the group continues to execute against its record $110 billion global development pipeline.”
Lendlease also appointed Deborah Yates, most recently of KPMG, as the group’s chief people officer, based at the Sydney headquarters.
Groomed for Success
“Justin has been based in Singapore since 2011 and is well credentialed to lead our Asia business as we progress a range of significant opportunities across the region,” Lombardo said. He added that, “Commencing his career at Lendlease in 2003 as part of our graduate programme, Justin has held a number of strategic roles across the group including the past four and a half years as our Asia CFO.”
Lombardo had also come from Lendlease’s finance department, having served as group CFO in Sydney before taking the helm in Asia in 2016, with the trained accountant moving being named to the top spot earlier this year when outgoing chief executive Steve McCann announced his retirement. McCann had served as Lendlease’s group finance director before taking over the top role in 2009.
Gabbani, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Bond University in Queensland and received further executive education from the Wharton School and INSEAD, joined Lendlease in 2003 as a project accountant in Brisbane.
During his climb to the Asia CFO role, the chartered accountant held several management positions in Sydney before relocating to Singapore to become head of investment and capital markets for Asia (later Asia and Europe).
As chief financial officer for Asia, Gabbani was responsible for key functions such as finance, investment, capital markets, research and strategy.
In her current role as KPMG Australia’s national managing partner for people and corporate affairs, Yates has led the professional services firm’s people strategy with a focus on creating a mentally healthy culture that empowers people to successfully execute the organisation’s strategy.
Yates will take over her new desk on 1 July, replacing Lendlease’s group head of people and culture, Alex Christie, who resigned.
Before joining KPMG, Yates was chief HR officer of Reckitt Benckiser. Her career with the consumer goods multinational began in Australia and took her to the Netherlands, the US and the UK. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Macquarie University and a master’s degree in commerce from Western Sydney University.
“Deb comes to Lendlease with more than 25 years’ experience leading the people functions of a range of high-profile organisations and companies,” Lombardo said. “Deb’s strong track record in working alongside people to develop their skills and capabilities, as well as driving inclusion and diversity, makes her well placed to make a significant contribution to our 9,500-strong global workforce.”
Building the Asia Team
Sydney-headquartered Lendlease increasingly sees its future through an Asian lens. The ASX-listed firm announced in February that Singapore-based Lombardo would head to Sydney to become the group’s new chief executive from 31 May.
Lombardo’s promotion followed several staffing moves made by Lendlease in 2020 to beef up its Asia Pacific leadership team.
In March of last year, the group brought aboard former Global Switch managing director Sam Lee as managing director for data centres, based in Singapore, as Lendlease sought to expand into the server farm market across Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
In April, Lendlease announced the hiring of former Ikea executive Hui Ding as managing director for China, where the company has plans to build senior living projects. And in May, the group selected Gan Chong Min, a former managing director for fund management at CapitaLand China, as Lendlease’s managing director for investment management in Asia.