Veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw to retire from UOB board
News From Todayonline.com
SINGAPORE — Dr Wee Cho Yaw, 88, chairman emeritus of United Overseas Bank (UOB), will retire from the UOB board and relinquish all his responsibilities there after 60 years with the bank.
As part of the changes to the board announced by UOB on Thursday (Nov 2), former Cabinet Minister Wong Kan Seng, 71, has been nominated by the board of directors to succeed Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, 67, as chairman of the bank. Mr Hsieh will retire next February.
Dr Wee will step down at the bank’s annual general meeting next April, but will retain his title as chairman emeritus. He is to be honorary adviser to the board in recognition of his many years of leadership and contribution to the group, UOB said.
The changes, which UOB said are part of its “ongoing renewal and succession plan”, come after it announced in March that it would enlarge its board from nine to 12 members, to handle the growing complexity of managing a bank.
UOB, which was set up as United Chinese Bank in 1935 by Dr Wee’s father Wee Kheng Chiang, is Singapore’s third-largest bank after DBS and OCBC.
Dr Wee was asked by his father to join the bank in the 1950s when he was in his 20s, and handled the bank’s daily operations. The bank changed its name to UOB in 1965, and Dr Wee diversified the business into the real estate, insurance and hotel industries, among others.
The Wee family still owns close to 20 per cent of bank.
Dr Wee, who led UOB as chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) from 1974 to 2007, oversaw a number of acquisitions, including the S$22 million takeover of Chung Khiaw Bank in 1971, and the S$10 billion takeover of Overseas Union Bank in 2001.
Paying tribute to Dr Wee, the board described him as “one of Singapore’s legendary entrepreneurs who has made immense contributions to the development of the banking industry”.
“Under his leadership… (UOB) grew from a single-branch local bank to a major regional player with more than 500 offices in 19 countries and territories,” it said.
Dr Wee also guided the bank through several international and regional financial and economic crises, “all the while entrenching a culture based on values of thrift, prudence and vigilance”, it added.
Responding to the news of his retirement, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) acknowledged Dr Wee’s “six decades of remarkable service to the bank and to Singapore’s financial industry”.
“He led UOB on a path that made the bank a major player in the region, and among the safest banks in the world,” MAS told TODAY.
It noted that Dr Wee began the process of leadership renewal in 2007. At the time, the role of CEO went to Mr Wee Ee Cheong, his oldest son.
Then, in 2013, Dr Wee handed over chairmanship of the bank to Mr Hsieh, who became the first chairman of the bank from outside the Wee family.
At present, Dr Wee also serves as advisor to Far Eastern Bank — where he was CEO from 1984 to 2007 — and is chairman of UOL Group, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Haw Par Corporation, Marina Centre Holdings, and United Industrial Corporation.
He is the Pro-Chancellor of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and the honorary president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, and Chung Cheng High School.
In recognition of his longstanding support of education, community welfare and the business community, he received Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Letters from the National University of Singapore in 2008 and from NTU in 2014.
Dr Wee, who studied at Hwa Chong Institution after World War II but later joined Chung Cheng High School, was conferred the Distinguished Service Order, Singapore’s highest National Day Awards, in 2011. This was in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the economy, education, and social and community development in Singapore.
Moving ahead, MAS said that it looks forward to working with UOB’s “refreshed board” in the next phase of its development.
Until his retirement, Mr Hsieh will continue to chair the board to oversee matters pertaining to the group’s present financial year. MAS noted that Mr Hsieh has “played a key role in setting the bank’s strategic direction, building up robust board processes and corporate governance”, while UOB said that he has contributed to strengthening its risk management framework and lending full support to the bank’s technology initiatives.
On Mr Wong’s appointment as chairman, the UOB board said that he brings with him “a wealth of public service and business experience and contacts across Asia, particularly in China, where the bank continues to build up its regional franchise”.
Mr Wong, who was formerly Deputy Prime Minister, Home Affairs Minister and Foreign Minister, joined the UOB board in July this year.