Ho Ching to retire as Temasek CEO on Oct 1; Dilhan Pillay named successor

Temasek Holdings chief executive officer Ho Ching (left) will be succeeded by Temasek International CEO Dilhan Pillay.
Temasek Holdings chief executive officer Ho Ching (left) will be succeeded by Temasek International CEO Dilhan Pillay.PHOTOS: REUTERS, TEMASEK

SINGAPORE - Temasek Holdings chief executive Ho Ching will retire on Oct 1 this year, after 17 years in charge, handing over to Mr Dilhan Pillay, 57, who will take the helm on Oct 1. 

The Singaporean is the chief executive of Temasek International, the commercial arm of Temasek driving its investments, and will continue to hold this position. 

At a media briefing on Tuesday (Feb 9), Ms Ho, who is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the organisation has a strong team of many individuals who have deep experience and deep convictions. 

“It’s not a team that are ‘yes men’. They do debate, and this is the strength that I see that Dilhan has been able to do... where he brought (them) together to overcome individual thoughts or individual ideas, but pulled together the different strengths.”

Ms Ho, 67, will retire from Temasek after 17 years at the helm, and step down from its board on the same date.

During her tenure at Temasek, the state investor’s portfolio more than tripled from $90 billion in 2004 to over $300 billion currently. It is a slight dip from the previous year, but has generally risen despite some crises along the way.

For example, last year, Temasek had to come to the rescue of Singapore Airlines, in which it is the largest shareholder.

While Temasek’s portfolio used to be more focused on Singapore, it has diversified its exposure over the past two decades under Ms Ho’s leadership. The Republic now accounts for about 24 per cent of the investor’s portfolio, compared with over 50 per cent in 2004. Meanwhile, its holdings in China have surpassed those at home.

Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng noted that under Ms Ho, the investment firm evolved from a relatively passive shareholder in former government-owned companies in Singapore to a globally recognised investor. 

“It’s hard to call out her many achievements, but perhaps above all else, she will be remembered for her unwavering commitment to build Temasek as a trusted steward, committed to the highest standards of integrity and governance,” said Mr Lim. 

At the same time, leadership succession is a “strategic responsibility” of the board, he said. 

Ms Ho has been very much part of this process, he added, and this involves identifying potential successors both inside and outside of Temasek. A key decision on Mr Pillay was made about two years ago, when he was tasked to head Temasek International.

Mr Pillay joined Temasek in 2010 from law firm WongPartnership, where he was managing partner. He has more than 20 years of legal experience, mainly focusing on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and corporate law.

He has since played several key roles in Temasek, including a two-year stint as head of Americas, based in New York.

He became TI CEO in 2019, in charge of the group's investor role in Temasek and managing its investment and portfolio activities.

Mr Lim said: “As he progressed in different portfolios within Temasek, all of us could see that he could deliver. And not deliver in the sense of himself, but pulling together the rest of the team to achieve that. That is why we’re convinced that Dilhan is the right candidate to succeed Ho Ching.”

Mr Lee Theng Kiat, Temasek executive director and Temasek International chairman, will also retire from his executive role at the same time but will stay as a non-executive member of Temasek’s board and as the non-executive chairman of Temasek International.

Mr Pillay said that he is grateful to Ms Ho and Mr Lee “for laying down a strong foundation for Temasek as it navigates a world of continuous change, increasing complexity and ambiguity”. 

Mr Ho Meng Kit, senior adviser at the Singapore Business Federation, said that Temasek, under Ms Ho’s leadership, has also focused on the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) alongside its larger portfolio firms. 

Temasek’s wholly-owned subsidiary Heliconia Capital Management has also investing in some promising SMEs, Mr Ho noted. 

“I think this focus of not just looking after the top but the whole base of our business community will continue with Dilhan Pillay’s leadership of Temasek,” he said.