SMRT confirms ex-general Neo Kian Hong as new CEO

SMRT has announced that Neo Kian Hong (right) will succeed Desmond Kuek as chief executive from Aug 1. PHOTOS: ST FILE, PUBLIC SERVICE DIVISION

SINGAPORE - SMRT confirmed on Wednesday (April 18) that Neo Kian Hong will succeed Desmond Kuek as chief executive from Aug 1, a day after The Straits Times reported the news.

SMRT chairman Seah Moon Ming said Mr Neo, a former general and permanent secretary, was chosen following a global search.

The Straits Times understands around 20 candidates were considered.

Mr Seah said in a statement on Wednesday: "On behalf of the board, I welcome Kian Hong as the next group CEO of SMRT. The board was impressed with Kian Hong's appreciation of interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as his vision and experience in leveraging new technologies for public service.

"I have had the opportunity to work alongside Kian Hong during the Sars crisis and witnessed his sense of mission, hands-on approach to problem-solving and decisive leadership."

He said the board is "confident that he will be able to lead SMRT towards achieving operation excellence".

Currently the Permanent Secretary for Defence Development at the Ministry of Defence, Mr Neo was Singapore's seventh Chief of Defence Force in the SAF.

Mr Neo will be retiring from the Administrative Service after 35 years to join SMRT.

Mr Neo said in the statement: "I am conscious that there will be challenges ahead. I know the public expects safe and reliable train services. I will work very hard to meet their expectations. I also recognise that successive generations of board, management and staff have worked very hard to deliver a good system. I will do my best to build on their foundation, and work with the SMRT team at all levels, as well as with Land Transport Authority, to continue to deliver, and improve on, a reliable and sustainable system."

Mr Seah also thanked Mr Kuek, who has helmed the rail operator since October 2012, for his contributions.

"The board would also like to express its appreciation to Desmond for his deep commitment and significant contributions to strengthen SMRT's overall capabilities over the last six years," he said.

"Desmond had set in motion many initiatives to deliver a more robust service, including the multi-year renewal and upgrading of rail assets."

He said Mr Kuek had "intensified recruitment and upskilling to deepen the engineering and operational capabilities of the SMRT team, and initiated rigorous training programmes to reinforce the service and safety culture of the company".

Mr Kuek said that it had been his privilege to serve alongside "a most professional and dedicated team in SMRT" and to have led the company through a critical period of organisational transformation and system renewal.

It is not known what his plans are after leaving SMRT.

Employees The Straits Times spoke with said Mr Kuek was well liked by the rank and file.

"He gave us a decent pay rise across the board when he came in," said one staff member who wanted to remain anonymous.

Senior staff praised him for being personable and giving equal importance to people and processes.

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