At least 10 major Singapore companies have new chiefs this year

(Clockwise from top left) Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Mr Nikhil Eapen, Ms Helen Wong, Mr Vincent Phang Heng Wee, Mr Gary Ho Hock Yong, Mr Lee Ghai Keen, Mr Kerry Mok, Mr Nicholas Chua and Ms Anthea Lee. PHOTOS: JASON QUAH, KUA CHEE SIONG, HO BEE LAND, KEPPEL DC REIT, NANOFILM, SATS, SINGPOST, STARHUB, VENTURE CORP

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - This year saw a bumper crop of at least 10 major companies in Singapore shaking up their top leadership with changes to their chief executive officer (CEO) postings.

The list of companies includes Temasek Holdings, Singtel, OCBC Bank, Singapore Post (SingPost), Sats, StarHub, Venture Corporation, Nanofilm Technologies International, Ho Bee Land, as well as Keppel DC Reit's manager.

As 2021 comes to a close, here is a look at the slew of appointments that streamed in over the course of the year.

Temasek

Ms Ho Ching, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on Oct 1 stepped down as CEO of Singapore's investment company after 17 years at the helm.

Succeeding her was Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, a corporate lawyer who joined Temasek 10 years ago. The 57-year-old now holds a dual role as CEO of both Temasek and its commercial arm Temasek International.

Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara now holds a dual role as CEO of both Temasek and its commercial arm Temasek International. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

When announcing Mr Pillay's appointment on Feb 9, Temasek had said Ms Ho, 68, would be appointed to Temasek Trust's board of directors, and will, from April 1, 2022, take over as chairman of the trust, succeeding Mr S. Dhanabalan.

Meanwhile, Mr Dhanabalan, formerly Singapore's trade and industry minister, will remain on the board as chairman emeritus.

At a briefing held at Temasek's Dhoby Ghaut office on Feb 9, Mr Pillay indicated Temasek's focus and biggest consideration would be climate change, which he said is impacting businesses "in every sector, in every part of the world".

"We have to think what that means for the various geographies that we're operating in," he said at that time.

Singtel

Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, 54, on Jan 1, 2021, took over the reins at the telecommunications conglomerate from Ms Chua Sock Koong, who served as its group CEO for 13 years.

Under Mr Yuen - who was CEO of Singtel's Singapore consumer business and the chief digital officer - Singtel has announced a "strategic reset" aimed at capturing digital growth in the 5G era, sharpening the group's focus and improving shareholder value.

Mr Yuen Kuan Moon took over the reins at Singtel on Jan 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The change in leadership was announced on Oct 1 last year, with the telco stating that Ms Chua, 63, who had held the post since April 2007, was retiring after 31 years with the company.

According to Singtel, Mr Yuen's appointment comes after a global search that considered both internal and external candidates. Board chairman Lee Theng Kiat told the press that "we threw up a total of nine names" and shortlisted two candidates.

Singtel shares have traded in a range of $2.21 to $2.63 since Mr Yuen's appointment, higher than a five-year low of $2, which was recorded on Oct 30 and Nov 2 last year. They closed flat at $2.32 on Thursday (Dec 23).

Starhub

Also starting his first day as CEO of a mainboard-listed telco on Jan 1, 2021 was Mr Nikhil Eapen, 49, the former deputy CEO of StarHub's parent company ST Telemedia. He replaced Mr Peter Kaliaropoulos, 62, who stepped down on Oct 31 last year in the wake of a family member's serious health problems.

At his first annual general meeting since becoming CEO in April, Mr Eapen said StarHub expects to see some improvements in its mobile business, especially as 5G products and services come on stream. In the meantime, StarHub will double down on its ongoing transformation strategy and eye inorganic enterprise business expansion.

Mr Nikhil Eapen took over as Starhub CEO on Jan 1, 2021. PHOTO: STARHUB

In an interview with The Business Times in September, Mr Eapen indicated his plans for mergers and acquisitions: "We want to bolster the cyber business, we want to bolster the ICT business. We want to make them both more 'cloudy' so there's an element of scale, footprint, but also capability."

StarHub's shares are up 2.3 per cent this year, closing on Thursday at $1.34.

OCBC

Ms Helen Wong, the former CEO of HSBC in Greater China, took over as OCBC's new group CEO from April 15, becoming the first woman to head a Singapore bank.

The 60-year-old, who joined OCBC in February last year as deputy president and head of global wholesale banking, replaced Mr Samuel Tsien, 67, who will retire after 14 years with the bank, nine of them as group CEO.

Announcing the appointment in January, OCBC said Mr Tsien had significantly built the bank's franchise into a "much more diversified and resilient" business.

Ms Helen Wong is the first woman to head a Singapore bank. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Meanwhile, an analyst noted that Ms Wong's appointment signals the bank's continued focus on Greater China given her decades of experience in the region.

Indeed, since helming OCBC from April, Ms Wong has shaped her leadership role in connecting China-Asean flows and in capitalising on the bank's network strength.

Shares of OCBC have risen 12 per cent this year, closing on Thursday at $11.31.

SingPost

The mainboard-listed mail carrier named logistics industry veteran Vincent Phang Heng Wee as group CEO on Aug 13. The previous CEO, Mr Paul Coutts, 64, had resigned after four years at the helm to "pursue other opportunities".

Prior to his appointment, Mr Phang, 47, was SingPost's CEO for postal services and Singapore. He joined the company in April 2019 with experience as group CEO of ST Logistics and executive vice-president of Toll Global Logistics Singapore.

Mr Phang's appointment came shortly after SingPost reported a 2 per cent drop in its earnings before income and taxation to $21 million for its first quarter ended June 30, due to declines in the international post and parcel business.

SingPost named logistics industry veteran Vincent Phang Heng Wee as group CEO on Aug 13, 2021. PHOTO: SINGPOST

In his new role, Mr Phang said he is committed to leading SingPost's transformation into a "leading logistics player" in its markets.

Shares of SingPost have been relatively rangebound since Mr Phang's appointment. The counter closed at 65 cents on Thursday.

Nanofilm

The mainboard-listed tech manufacturer, which specialises in nanotechnology solutions such as coatings for premium consumer electronics, on Oct 14 announced that Mr Gary Ho Hock Yong, 49, will lead Nanofilm as group CEO with effect from Jan 1, 2022.

He takes over the role from founder and executive chairman Shi Xu, who was appointed interim CEO in June after its previous CEO Lee Liang Huang, 60, resigned due to health reasons. Dr Shi was CEO of the group from 1999 to 2017.

Mr Gary Ho Hock Yong will lead Nanofilm as group CEO with effect from Jan 1, 2022. PHOTO: NANOFILM

News of Mr Ho's appointment came a day after Nanofilm's shares closed at their lowest point this year, hitting $3.70, from a high of $6.67, after investor confidence was shaken by management changes and financials that disappointed. Share prices have yet to recover substantially, closing at $3.76 on Thursday.

Mr Ho was deputy CEO and chief commercial officer at Nanofilm before taking the top post. He served as the group's chief marketing officer from 2018 to July 2020.

Venture Corp

The electronics manufacturing services company announced on Nov 5 that its chief operating officer Lee Ghai Keen, 66, will take over from Mr Wong Ngit Liong, 80, as CEO from Jan 1, 2022.

The changes are in line with Venture Corp's plans to deepen its participation in selected technology domains such as life sciences, healthcare, genomics, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence and semiconductor-related equipment, the company said.

Mr Lee Ghai Keen will take over as Venture Corp CEO from Jan 1, 2022. PHOTO: VENTURE CORP

Mr Wong will, however, stay on as executive chairman of the board and continue to provide stewardship and strategic direction to the board, while remaining "accessible" to share his industry experience with Mr Lee.

Shares of the counter closed at $18.16 on Thursday, at the lower end of its 52-week range of $17.37 to $20.79.

Sats

Mr Kerry Mok, who joined Sats as the chief executive of its food solutions business in 2018, was appointed president and CEO for the ground handler and caterer, effective Dec 15.

Mr Mok, who is 50, replaces Mr Alex Hungate, who resigned in October after eight years at the helm. Mr Hungate left to join Grab as its chief operating officer from Jan 4.

Mr Kerry Mok became president and CEO of Sats on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: SATS

Before Mr Mok joined Sats, he had been CEO of supply chain management company YCH Group and acting CEO and chief operating officer of Goodpack, a provider of intermediate bulk containers. He had also held senior roles at Accenture and DHL.

Shares of the counter are down 10 per cent since the announcement on Oct 22, and ended Thursday at $3.85.

Ho Bee Land

Mr Nicholas Chua, most recently the deputy CEO of Ho Bee Land, was named its new CEO and executive director with effect from January next year.

Announcing this on Nov 9, the mainboard-listed real estate developer said his father, Mr Chua Thian Poh, 73, who is currently chairman and CEO, will be redesignated as executive chairman.

Mr Nicholas Chua will assume his role as Ho Bee Land's CEO and executive director with effect from January next year. PHOTO: HO BEE LAND

In his new role, the younger Mr Chua, 45, will implement the group's overall strategies and policies set by the board, as well as manage the group's development and investment portfolio, Ho Bee Land said.

Shares of Ho Bee closed at $2.78 on Thursday, nearer to the higher end of its 52-week range of between $2.35 and $3.02.

Keppel DC Reit

Ms Anthea Lee, 47, deputy CEO and head of investment at Keppel DC Reit's manager since 2018, took over as CEO from Feb 15. She succeeds Mr Chua Hsien Yang, 44, who went on to take up a senior appointment in Keppel Corp.

Ms Anthea Lee took over as CEO of Keppel DC Reit Management from Feb 15, 2021. PHOTO: KEPPEL DC REIT

Ms Lee was previously vice-president of investment at Keppel Reit Management. Her experience also includes senior positions at JTC Corporation and Ascendas Land, managing business development, assets, and projects for industrial and business park facilities.

When Ms Lee's appointment was announced, Keppel Capital's CEO Christina Tan had thanked the outgoing Mr Chua for his effective leadership since the Reit was listed in 2014, noting that the fund's portfolio had grown from $1 billion then to $2.9 billion as at Sep 30, 2020. Units of the Reit closed at $2.40 on Thursday, at the lower end of its 52-week range of $2.32 to $3.04.

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