Why so few local CEOs?

In a pow wow session of local banks, most of the CEOs present were foreigners. Even the top local bank is represented by a foreigner who ‘may have just turned citizen.’ Sitting at the discussion panel organized by the Institute of Banking and Finance were ‘Lester Gray, CEO, Asia Pacific, Schroder Investment Management; Loh Boon Chye, managing director, head of corporate and investment bank, Asia Pacific, Deutsche Bank; Piyush Gupta, group CEO, DBS Bank; and Ray Ferguson, regional CEO, Singapore and South East Asia, Standard Chartered Bank.’

The only local sitting in the panel of CEOs was only a MD. A participant asked why there were so few local CEOs and the replied was that the banks were not concerned with nationalities but with experience. So the daft Singaporeans would still need to wait to be experienced. And hopefully someone will give them the experience and the chance to make mistakes. The Sinkie culture is not to take risk and not to try out the locals. On the other hand, foreigners were given all the opportunities to gain experience and make mistakes, even in Singapore.

So, how are Singaporeans going to gain experience and become CEOs when they are not even given the chance to gain experience? By the way things are developing, in the next 30 years or more, the daft Singaporeans will all be waiting to gain experience to become CEOs, even of local banks. And very likely during this period, all the local banks will be headed by foreign CEOs. The only exception is UOB if it is not forced to put a foreign CEO to take over the banking empire that Wee Cho Yaw has built.

Kind of embarrassing isn’t it? Actually it is not embarrassing. It is stupidity of the extreme kind. Our locals better go overseas to try to be CEOs there and hope that those countries are stupid enough, like us, to let them gain experience and make mistakes as CEOs.

I am waiting to see who will be the next foreign CEO to take over UOB.


Anonymous said...

Mr Goh Keng Swee implemented the localization of top management in the 1960s and 1970s. Many Singaporeans gained valuable experience and became top honchos.

Late 1990s and 2000s onward Old Man reversed policy with FT, basically Angmoh Tua Kee except for very talented relatives, "solid" Papp members.....honchos for GLCs, Stat boards & Gahmen. still remembered in-thing to have at least an angmoh in board?

Now not only FT Whites but FT Indians in banks, etc. Most of the past FT banks' hire CEOs messed up...John Olds, Phillippe, SGX guy, etc but collected big money. MADNESS.

Without given chances can Yang Yang became Singtel, CEO?

We should ask GKS to come back if possible.

Anonymous said...

Ex-CEO SGx angmoh was my broker in chicago before he became SGX CEO. Very Big jump...angmoh FT...Huat! Huat!

Anonymous said...

The angmos were former colonial masters and the older Singaporeans are still kow-towing(paying obeisance) to them mah. In any case, don't see any wrong in having them, at least many locals prefer to work with/under angmos.

The said...

The FT policy was one of the most disastrous policy. It is sad that after decades of relying on Singaporeans and growing Singapore by leaps and bounds, someone had the mistaken notion that we need fallen talents, oops, foreign talents.

The results were disastrous. The FT at NOL, SGX, local banks, etc basically laughed all the way to the banks, while the companies coasted along.

DBS had a succession of FT CEOS who basically screwed up and paid huge amount for acquisitions. The FT leaders beget more FT kakis. The FT senior staff are paid investment banker salaries, and do the talking, while the locals are paid pittance and are the ones doing the real work and heavy lifting.

But there is poetic justice after all. Of the 3 local banks, 2 are helmed by FTs, while 1 is helmed by locals. Guess which bank was least hit during the financial crisis? Which bank has the least amount of exposure to toxic products? And which banks have all these years produced the highest ROA and ROE among the local banks? Hint, hint, it is the one with 4 vertical bars crossed by 1 horizontal bar.

Anonymous said...

Wee Cho Yaw is a local talent. Beats all the angmohs hand down.

Anonymous said...

QE I of the British Empire colonised the world. QE II returned everything.

Looks like the first generation created all the wealth and the next generation squandering them away.

Chow said...

Not a chane in hell. Next thirty years all the CEO positions are going to the China Chinese. If you are local and hoping, forget it. They dug a hole too deep to stop now. The only solution is to keep digging and hope to come out on the other side of the world.

The said...

/// The only solution is to keep digging and hope to come out on the other side of the world. ///

And come out somewhere in China!!!

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Chow, welcome to the blog.

What is sure is that the future CEOs are likely to be foreigners or new citizens.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

If Singapore were not run by locals and continued to be run by the British, would we be better today?

I think we will be better if the British talents continued to run the island instead as they were foreign talents. What a pity they let the lesser local talents run this place. We could be much better off.

Anonymous said...

it is noticed that two major banks in a neighbouring country, with strong presence here, are helmed by their native CEOs and they are apparently as good as any established ones elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Had the British not given the little rock to the locals, the locals would still be working for them just liked they worked for the Jeps before. Where the hell can any local become lord of this rock?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Right, it was the local talents that brought us here today. Unfortunately the conventional wisdom today is that local talents are mainly duds, with a handful of exceptions. So it is of prime importance to import foreign talents to do the jobs.

Another unfortunate thing is that many of the foreign talents are nothing better than our locals, and many are here learning to be CEOs, firt time appointed into such positions, to take risk and gain experience which is exactly what locals need.

If this is not sell out, what is? Pay more peanuts for more monkeys?

southernglory1 said...

The founders of all local banks were Singaporeans. How is it all these banks are now being staffed by foreign CEOs and directors. What has gone wrong? Singaporeans better wake up and do some soul searching and insist that the government stop this anomaly . Has it anything to do with local governance that favours foreign talents or are the local talents cannot be trusted to head these financial institutions or are there any skeletons to hide from Singaporeans? It is really frightening. Foreign talents are raping Singapore banks and financial institutions like SGX.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Did Singaporeans ask for it or were fixed up? Still can't understand why we don't give the opportunity for Singaporeans to learn and gain experience in the top jobs and must hand them in silver platters to foreigners who are also here to learn on the job.