Wee Cho Yaw to retire from UOB board

United Overseas Bank veteran Wee Cho Yaw at the Aseran Business Awards 2017 in Manila, the Philippines, on Sept 6, 2017.
United Overseas Bank veteran Wee Cho Yaw at the Aseran Business Awards 2017 in Manila, the Philippines, on Sept 6, 2017. PHOTO: UOB

SINGAPORE - United Overseas Bank veteran Wee Cho Yaw - one of the giants of Singapore's financial service industry - is retiring after 60 years with the company.

Mr Wee, who turns 89 in January, will step down from the UOB board at the annual shareholders' meeting in April after six decades of dedicated service, the bank said in a statement on Thursday (Nov 2).

A familiar face at UOB shareholders meeting even after he stepped down as chairman six years ago, Mr Wee's presence is likely to be sorely missed after the April event.

He is expected to attend next April's shareholders meeting when he will retire from the board, said a UOB spokesman.

Mr Wee will relinquish all his board responsibilities but retain his chairman emeritus title and will also be appointed honorary adviser to the board in recognition of his many years of leadership and contribution to the group, UOB said.

The board described Mr Wee as one of Singapore's legendary entrepreneurs who has made immense contributions to the development of the banking industry.

"Under his leadership, UOB expanded greatly, both in scale and scope. It grew from a single branch local bank to a major regional player with more than 500 offices in 19 countries and territories, offering a comprehensive suite of financial services to retail, wholesale and global markets," it said in a statement.

He also "guided UOB through several international and regional financial and economic crises, all the while entrenching a culture based on values of thrift, prudence and vigilance".

Mr Wee, who was UOB chairman and chief executive from 1974 to 2007, owns over 18 per cent of the bank, according to the 2016 annual report.

He had joined the United Chinese Bank (UCB) board, the precursor to UOB, in 1958 at age 29 and became UCB managing director in 1960 succeeding his father Wee Kheng Chiang. UCB changed its name to UOB on Jan 23, 1965.

UOB also announced on Thursday that it has nominated former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng to succeed incumbent independent non-executive chairman Hsieh Fu Hua, who will retire next year.

Mr Hsieh, 67, is the first chairman of the bank from outside the Wee family and will have served six years on the board when he steps down on Feb 14, 2018.

Until then, Mr Hsieh will continue to chair the board to oversee matters pertaining to the group's current financial year. Mr Wong, 71, was first appointed as a UOB director in July this year.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has welcomed the continuing process of leadership renewal at UOB.

"MAS looks forward to receiving the board's nomination of Mr Wong Kan Seng as chairman, and to working with the refreshed board in the next phase of UOB's development," said a spokesman.