Copyright © 2024 Swire Pacific Limited. All rights reserved.
28 Jun 2024
Committed to innovation

As John Swire & Sons Limited’s Chief Digital Officer, David Jones, together with his team, is at the forefront of digital implementation across the Swire Group. Here, we find out how the Group’s operating companies are innovating through technology. We also learn about SwireX, a recent, internal emerging tech competition, that showcased the entrepreneurial spirit of Swire’s people.

Please start by telling readers about your career journey at Swire, and how you got into the digital space.
I have always worked in or around technology. I started at Swire in London six years ago after a decade at an oil major, where I worked across their global customer facing businesses. In 2016 while working as a divisional Chief Information Officer, the then-Chief Marketing Officer and I decided to start a digital programme to give our customers a great experience. After two years, we started extending the approach into wider functions.

I joined Swire for a different type of challenge. I really enjoy working with diverse teams in different industries and you can't get much more diverse than with Swire! I began my journey at the private group in London in 2018 when I was appointed Chief Digital Officer. I am still based in the British capital, but my role frequently takes me to Hong Kong.

Swire has always been innovative. How can the Group best embrace innovation to give it the edge in today’s business environment?
Great question! All technology change starts and ends with people. People, be they customers, partners, suppliers or users, are key to making any change work. I think our strength as a Group is both the depth of knowledge combined with our passion for great products. Therefore, the ideas and opportunities to innovate come from everyone in our business, as well as outside. We saw recently during the SwireX competition that great, digitally enabled ideas come from all over Swire, not just technologists.

Our people make us special, therefore absorbing ideas from all over Swire and helping people to embrace the change is how we use our strength.

As Chief Digital Officer, you and your team are at the forefront of digital implementation across the Group. What excites you most about this?
Every company in the Group is using digital technology to enable their strategy in different ways. The excitement for me is seeing the teams in each company move from concept to product. This includes all our Operating Companies, but also Head Office.

Cathay Pacific is our front-runner at becoming data-driven decision makers. The company has been building data hubs around key areas, such as Cargo and Customer. These are the “data infrastructure” for many AI machine learning products already built, and many more will come in the future.

At Swire Coca-Cola, digital technology is being used to bridge B2B and B2C – a strategy I've used before. Afterall, you can help your business partners and customers be more successful if you know more about end-consumer behaviour.

Swire Properties is working on using technology to deliver seamless and engaging experiences across its portfolio, including mixed-use developments in the Chinese Mainland and here in Hong Kong, which you can see in action every day at Taikoo Place. Also, I'm really excited how the team is leveraging emerging technologies in the construction phase of our new developments, including in Xi’an, and also in taking retail digital engagement to the next level in Sanya.

HAECO has been using digital to deepen its customer experience through its Customer Gateway product. Customer “stickiness” is an area where digital can really have an impact by innovating for and with customers. Lots of data show us how customers feel a strong affinity with companies that innovate in collaboration with them.


Swire’s inaugural SwireX competition recently concluded and was  well received. What impressed you the most about the entries?
SwireX was launched so that people in the Group who have innovative ideas can help shape the direction of tech within their Operating Companies. The competition was open to everyone across Swire Pacific’s Group Companies, as well as Head Office, and ran from last summer until May this year.

The spirit of the SwireX competition is to transform ideas into action. We had submissions from all across the Group and it was hugely inspiring for me to see how deep our innovation culture runs in our DNA. I attended each and every pitch and the teams presenting far exceeded our expectations.

Some of the ideas included a Generative AI platform for creating marketing collaterals at Swire Coca-Cola, using lasers and AI to inspect engine rotors at HAECO, an AI tool for forecasting tenant sales and managing sales risks at Swire Properties, and a Cathay mobile app specifically aimed at the elderly featuring tailored AI suggestions. These are just some of the many pitches.

SwireX was a success, not just because of all the amazing ideas it generated from across the Group, but also because of the team behind it who gave their time to making it work.

Swire Coca-Cola’s SwireX winners gathered for a group photo to celebrate and share their happiness.

What can we expect next from Swire’s digital strategy?
I'm a firm believer that we don’t need a “digital strategy” per se. Digital is just one enabler of a business strategy. What is exciting about new technologies, such as Generative AI, is that they provide new tools to enable parts of a strategy we didn't previously think were possible.

I very much believe that Generative AI is a game-changer, the likes of which we've not seen in my three decades in technology (the internet only just pre-dates me!). The first opportunity is in productivity. Using the tools to make our day jobs easier, whether we are in finance, commercial or operations, we all have days when we need to write a document or a plan based on data and experience. This is where we start. Where we end, I don’t yet know!