Koh Boon Hwee resigns as chairman of DBS

DBS chairman Koh Boon Hwee will step down in April after more than four years in the job. He will be replaced by Peter Seah Lim Huat.
Koh Boon Hwee
Koh Boon Hwee
Koh Boon Hwee will step down as chairman of DBS after more than four years in the job, the leading Singapore bank said on Friday. He will be replaced by DBS board member and veteran commercial banker Peter Seah Lim Huat.

The changeover will follow the annual general meeting and extraordinary general meeting of the DBS Group Holdings (DBSH) and the DBS Bank board meeting on April 30, 2010. Seah will assume the chairmanship of both boards on May 1.

Koh has steered DBS during a difficult time not just for the global financial industry, but for DBS itself. After Jackson Tai's resignation from the CEO job in late 2007, Koh took on that role as well until the arrival of ex-Citigroup China chief executive Richard Stanley in May 2008. But Stanley was diagnosed with leukaemia and went on medical leave in January 2009. He sadly died in April last year.

Again, Koh filled the gap on a temporary basis until November, when former head of Citi's Southeast Asia Pacific business, Piyush Gupta, came on board as the new CEO.

Koh has been chairman of Singapore Airlines and Singapore Telecom, and was first appointed to the DBS boards in June 2005, taking the top job on January 1, 2006. He is leaving, he said, as the economy has started to recover and with DBS in a healthy condition. The bank reported record revenues and profits for last year.

In a statement on Friday, Koh explained: "During my time as chairman, we've entrenched our positions in Singapore and Hong Kong, and expanded our presence in China, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. DBS has also emerged from the financial crisis in a solid position with strong capital, liquidity and good credit ratings, and is today seen as a worthy competitor in Asian banking."
"The new CEO, Piyush Gupta, is on board and settling in very well, and with Peter Seah agreeing to be chairman of the DBS boards, I am now able to move on, knowing that DBS is in good hands," he added. It's not clear what Koh will do next.

In a comment to the resignation, Gupta said: "It is my privilege to have worked with Boon Hwee [Koh], who has been unstinting with his time and advice in the short time that we've worked together. I believe the entire DBS team will miss his leadership, strong business instincts and incisive wit. We welcome Peter [Seah] as our new chairman and look forward to working closely with him. His industry knowledge, insights and wise counsel will be invaluable as we transform DBS into an Asian bank of choice."
Peter Seah
Peter Seah

Seah was a commercial banker for 33 years before retiring as vice-chairman and CEO of the former Overseas Union Bank (OUB) in 2001. He believed in supporting small and medium-size enterprises and local corporates, and took pride in OUB's support of customers during difficult times. In recent years, Seah has continued to be actively involved in the financial services industry. He has sat on various bank boards and also helped Temasek Holdings in evolving and implementing its financial services strategy.

In a statement, Seah promised that he is "committed to building on the good work that Boon Hwee has done, and working with the board to make DBS the undisputed leader in Asian banking".

DBS is one of the largest regional financial services groups in Asia with operations in 16 markets. The bank plans to expand its pan-Asia franchise, based on its growing presence in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, to intermediate the increasing trade and investment flows between these markets. Likewise, DBS is focused on extending its services in fast-growing countries such as India and Indonesia. 

Photos by AFP (Koh) and DBS (Seah).


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