The Conner never sleeps

Ex-Citibanker takes over the helm of OCBC.

David Conner, the new CEO of OCBC would be well advised to stay off the cover of FinanceAsia magazine.

Readers will recall that when we put Alex Au on the cover last October he resigned the day after publication. (One has to be frank about one's cock ups, and that was certainly one of ours.)

Conner joins OCBC as a veteran of Citibank and after an extensive five month search for a CEO. Conner was reckoned to fit the bill, having run Citi's corporate bank in Singapore for a five year stint in the 1990s, and having been one of Citibank's able crew of senior management.

A 20-year veteran of Citi, the most amusing thing is how at home he feels. For those who don't know, OCBC is nicknamed the 'Old Citi Bankers Club' thanks to some of its most senior management having come from the venerable US bank.

As the bank's CFO, Chris Matten said about yesterday's meeting with senior management: "I don't think David was being introduced to them, so much as re-introduced."

Senior figures that come from Citi include Wong Nang Jang, Tan Ngiap Joo, Lai Teck Po, and Albert Yeoh. Little wonder many consider Citi to be the nearest thing in Asia to a 'financial services university'.

OCBC has undergone major changes under its previous CEO, Hong Konger, Alex Au, who revolutionized its attitude to technology, kicked off Singapore's bank consolidation process and brought a very defined consumer banking skillset from Hang Seng Bank.

Indeed, OCBC has arguably the most innovative approach to consumer banking among Singapore's big three. Some of its branches have Starbuckesque cafes in them and meanwhile, the raunchy "Do anything?" ads, which feature a naked Singaporean husband and wife lying on their silk-sheeted, Queen-sized bed helps break up the day as you walk around the Lion City by wondering just how kinky this couple will get with their overdraft.

Conner will have a mandate to grow the bank further. As the smallest of the big three, and still controlled by the Lee family, it has it sights set on becoming a major regional player. So when it comes to expanding beyond its borders, Conner might well ask 'Do anything?' and get the answer he wants to hear from the board.