OCBC chief in new role as Association of Banks chair

OCBC Bank chief executive Samuel Tsien has taken over as chairman of the 156-member Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS).

He replaces DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta and will serve for two years.

Mr Tsien told the ABS' 46th annual dinner last night at Raffles City Convention Centre: "The banking industry will always be a key industry to drive economic growth.

"It facilitates the flow of funds from people to businesses, and from mature businesses to growth businesses.

"It is therefore an exaggeration that the banking industry has only recently been disrupted. We have always been 'disrupted' and have been adjusting and responding to new demands."

Mr Tsien noted that six years ago, fintech companies were considered a major threat to traditional banks.

"I have said then that using the word 'threat' is not appropriate. We need to work with them and embrace them. We have, and here we are, every one of us is working and partnering with them."

Mr Tsien also pointed out that the ABS is working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to develop a set of new guidelines on environmental risk management for the banking sector.

These will build upon existing ABS guidelines on responsible financing which were issued in 2015.

"We had our first meeting a week ago and a draft of the guidelines should be ready by the end of the year for public consultation."

Outgoing chairman, Mr Gupta, welcomed Mr Tsien to the "hot seat", saying he is "passing on the baton to someone more gifted than I am to take us through the choppy waters ahead".

Mr Gupta said yesterday that two years ago, he had pointed to challenges such as identifying new avenues of growth, the hollowing out of talent in the industry, the responsible use of data and the need for thoughtful regulation and cementing relevant public-private partnerships to ensure the industry had a path forward.

"I am pleased that on my watch, we have been able to negotiate the terrain with some success," he added.

"But the challenges haven't gone away. In some ways, they loom larger than ever. Our financial industry's initiative to transform itself is continuing to bear fruit.

"From my perspective, Singapore banks are in a good position to compete in the new competitive landscape as we started our digitalisation journey early enough and have made steady progress."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'OCBC chief in new role as Association of Banks chair'. Print Edition | Subscribe