Temasek “needs a new leader”

The issue of a succession plan for Temasek boss Ho Ching has reared its head once more, following a management restructuring at the Singapore state investment firm.
Temasek “needs a new leader”

This week’s reshuffle at Temasek may show that the Singapore state investor is ready to make changes in response to a challenging environment – but there remains a widespread feeling that it must go further.

Temasek, which has S$266 billion ($197 billion) under management, said on Tuesday it would strengthen its in-house investment and risk management capability with a restructuring that will take effect on May 1.

However, one senior fund manager in Singapore said nothing would really change until Ho Ching was replaced as chief executive, voicing a view that is commonly held in the investment industry.

“Temasek needs a new leader for new value creating and synergistic investment strategy ideas,” he told AsianInvestor. “It should look for a professional with global experience and education. Ho Ching is already 63 and she is from a different business era.”

The latest shuffle at Temasek saw two joint heads of investment – Chia Song Hwee and Dilhan Pillay – named as presidents. Pillay will take over as head of Americas from Boon Sim, who will step down for family reasons but continue to advise the firm.

Temasek has also promoted Fidah Alsagoff, Png Chin Yee and Juliet Teo (all managing directors of investments), as well as managing director of strategy Michael Buchanan, to senior managing directors.

As part of the process, Temasek plans to combine its sector and market investment teams under a single investment group and create a new portfolio strategy and risk group (PSRG).

Commenting on the changes, Lee Theng Kiat, CEO of Temasek International, said: “We are operating in challenging times, with many uncertainties in the global economy. It highlights to all of us at Temasek the need to focus on protecting and working our portfolio.”

Asked to elaborate on the strategic plan and the operational changes that would result, Lee told AsianInvestor that the new PSRG group would “bring an increased focus to the resilience of our portfolio, which continues to grow in size, breadth and complexity”.

“By bringing together our capabilities in portfolio construction, risk, strategy and analytics within the PSRG group, we can better focus on building our competencies in these functions, and ensure we adapt and develop the right portfolio strategies at any point in time,” he added.

He declined to comment on the extent to which this might result in a whole new portfolio strategy and asset allocation.

Speculation about changes at the top of Temasek intensified early last year, when Ho took six months’ leave in 2015 following the death of her father-in-law, Lee Kuan Yew.

During this hiatus, Lee Theng Kiat was appointed CEO of Temasek International and in April this year he was made a director of the investment firm’s board. This was widely seen as a first step in a succession plan.

The previous such plan – under which Ho would pass control to BHP Billiton CEO Charles ‘Chip’ Goodyear in 2009 – collapsed, as reported. It is thought that Goodyear had found it impossible to implement his desired management and portfolio changes, allegedly owing to interference from Ho, who joined Temasek in 2002 and has been CEO since 2004. She said at a subsequent speech that a succession review remained on the agenda.

Spokesman Stephen Forshaw told AsianInvestor that Ho continued to remain engaged in the business.

Singapore’s other big state fund, GIC, announced management changes of its own last week, among them naming group CIO Lim Chow Kiat as deputy group president and president of public markets Jeffrey Jaensubhakij as deputy group CIO, effective June 1. It also made several other promotions to newly created CIO posts.

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