Meet Nanda Ivens, the new boss of XM

Nanda IvensLast week, Nanda Ivens emerged as the man who would be replacing industry stalwart Paul Soon at the helm of XM Asia Pacific, one of the region’s most highly regarded and well established digital marketing agencies.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella Asia’s editor Robin Hicks, the Indonesian talks about the big shoes he has to fill, how he compares to Paul Soon as a leader, his “crazy CV”, what he sees as his biggest challenge ahead, and the biggest weakness in digital agencies.

You have big shoes to fill in replacing Paul Soon. How differently will you approach running XM to Paul?

Big shoes indeed. What Paul has built is nothing short of amazing, and as the architect and structural engineer of building XM, Paul has laid an extremely strong foundation and structure. I see myself more as the interior decorator compared to Paul. What I will do is strengthen the interior of the company and take on the challenge of continuing on what Paul has built, and finish the building.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in your new role leading XM?

I see every challenge as equally big. Almost all of XM’s offices in Asia Pacific began through acquisitions, having different processes, cultures, visions and missions, and some have been very recently brought into the family. The challenge is to connect all countries and allow them to better collaborate in order to co-create, and not only among XM’s companies, but with all companies within the JWT group.

What do you see as the network’s biggest weakness that you need to fix, and what do you see as XM’s biggest opportunity?

As with every company in this world, our biggest weakness is that we do not communicate with each other on a regular basis or often enough. We are also slow to collaborate. First, let’s focus on improving the way we communicate and collaborate, because what we see now as a weakness can be turned quickly into a strength. We need to realise how each company’s strength can be shared among the other companies who may not have the same capabilities.

How would you describe yourself as a boss?

I am human. Hehehehe. Seriously, I like to think of myself as extremely approachable, there are no need for protocol with me, complete open door and an open book. I am what I am, and some may like it, some may loathe it. I lead by example from the front but I also lead from the back. I do not pretend to know everything, and I am certainly not the smartest person. But overall, I am the servant leader of my team, I serve them in their quest to be “the better and best” their professional as well as personal lives.

Knowing Paul as you do, what do you think his next move will be (he tells us he hasn’t got a job to go to yet)?

Honestly, I haven’t got a clue. He has kept pretty quiet about his next move, but knowing Paul for all these years, whatever he chooses to do, it will be for the right reasons.

In your career, you’ve worked for a PR agency, a media owner, a media agency and are now aligned with a creative agency at XM. Which discipline do you feel is best positioned to take the lead in digital?

I am not sure many people have a crazy CV like I do, but I know for sure that have tried my best to keep my focus in one industry. All my experience has given me the opportunity to understand the communication industry in a holistic way. To be perfectly honest, my time in London working at Mindshare, Economist.com and Neo@Ogilvy has given me a solid base in understanding the complexities of digital advertising, while my PR/digital experience has enhanced my understanding of content and storytelling. Then being acquired by XM in 2012 opened me to the business side. So, all my experiences are equally responsible for who I have become in my career today.

Which digital campaign have you seen this year that impresses you so much you wish XM had created it?

I really love the Ikea “Bookbook” campaign. Genius!!!

What are the main things you want to have achieved in your first 12 months running XM?

Let’s look at the first 100 days instead of 12 months, as a year is a long time in digital. Firstly, I would like to Listen to what my teams have to say, what their concerns are, their challenges, hopes and dreams. Then identify issues to solve, if there are any, and address each issue one by one. Aligning cultures, processes and output is priority. Once all that is done, I would like to begin leveraging the strength of each of our offices and share it across the region, and also get our offices to start to working closer together in pitches and on accounts with our brothers and sisters in the group.


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