Former top civil servant dies, 84

Mr Alphonsus Tan Chok Kian solidified POSB's role as the People's Bank.
Mr Alphonsus Tan Chok Kian solidified POSB's role as the People's Bank.

A former top civil servant who helped make banking more convenient for people by introducing ATMs, died on Sunday.

Mr Alphonsus Tan Chok Kian was 84, and suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

"(The disease) caused his lungs to have scarring, resulting in breathing difficulties," said his daughter Natalia, 51, a business consultant.

"My father was very principled, humble and upright - he had a strong sense of right and wrong," she said last night. Many of his former colleagues "told us how much he taught them'' and that they respected him highly, she added.

Mr Tan was permanent secretary in the national development, finance and social affairs ministries in the 1970s, as well as POSB chairman (1972-1986).

DBS Singapore country head Sim S. Lim said the POSB was the first local bank to computerise savings accounts records, and introduce an ATM network.

He said Mr Tan "will always be remembered for his role in shaping the nation's banking landscape and for solidifying POSB's role as the People's Bank".

His contributions in education were also significant. He was tasked to get Chinese-medium Nanyang University to hold joint classes at English-medium University of Singapore.

Professor Cham Tao Soon, founding president of Nanyang Technological Institute in 1981 before it became Nanyang Technological University in 1991, said Mr Tan had acute judgment, and was supportive of student development.

Mr Tan's civil service career spanned 30 years, from 1956 to 1986. He was also Singapore Sports Council deputy chairman from 1975 to 1977, Central Provident Fund Board chairman from 1980 to 1986, and Singapore Exchange executive chairman from 1986 to 1989.

Mr Tan leaves behind his wife, two sons and a daughter, as well as eight grandchildren. His wake is at the Church of St Teresa. He will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Former top civil servant dies, 84'. Print Edition | Subscribe