Young Sohn's move creates platform for further growth

It is hard to overstate the achievements South Korea-listed conglomerates have made over the past few decades in dominating a host of industries, particularly microchips and electronics.

The progression from fast follower to leader requires a mindset shift in how to create markets as well as outperform or scale up innovations created elsewhere.

Samsung has had inspiring leadership in this realm under corporate president and chief strategy officer of its electronics division, Young Sohn, since 2012. Sohn initiated and led the $8bn acquisition of Harman, the largest M&A purchase by a Korean company, “firmly placing Samsung in the vanguard of the audio and automotive industry,” as he says in his LinkedIn profile.

Sohn has also lead Samsung’s Catalyst corporate venturing programme and so has been responsible for a $2bn fund investing in emerging businesses worldwide in areas including artificial intelligence, digital health, the internet of things and data-driven technology.

His vision has also been to include the wider industry, as chairman of the GCV Leadership Society’s advisory board for a two-year term and to build up a strong team under co-heads of the Catalyst fund in managing directors Francis Ho and Shankar Chandran.

As he prepared to retire, Sohn has also brought in and groomed talent in Sean Kae, now acting head of Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, which runs Catalyst for Samsung’s device solutions division.

Samsung more broadly is preparing new talent with ideas for changes to maintain this lead having hired David Lee for Samsung Next, which invests on behalf of its consumer electronics and mobile business unit, and disbanding Luc Julia’s data-centric team.

The aftermath of some record quarterly results last year might seem a surprising time to shake up its US corporate venturing and innovation units, but innovation feeds off new energy and ideas while recognising its accomplishments and history.