DBS Chairman Sacked?

The minibond and High Notes mess, should be more than enough to send any Chairman for a long permanent vacation in 2008. The response came but 2 years late.

I would submit that it has now completely lost the leadership it had in its own home ground. BILLIONS AFTER BILLIONS AFTER BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WASTED ALREADY.

We have forgotten the billions of dollars of past mistakes: the POSB integration, the Dao Heng Bank goodwill write-off, Thai Danu Bank write-down, the Thai Military Bank fiasco, that Indian finance company that Rajan Raju messed up. The Bank of the Philippine Islands sitting on the shelf. That is why the current situation that the bank is in is completely untenable.

In our annual assessment for the various awards that we give to banks, we see data that suggests that DBS market share in a number of its core businesses is eroding very quickly. It’s ROA is falling, its market share especially in Hong Kong is falling. It’s really a business without a rudder.

I see in this tragedy that is DBS, the cushy, small minded, compliant microcosm that the Singaporean corporate scene has become today. This is NOT the country that is going to give rise to the global corporate giants of the future.

Objectively, I have no gripe with Mr Koh Boon Hwee personally. He is entitled to be anything he wants to be. My concern stems from DBS Bank finding itself in a position of being influenced by someone who, appointed as a non-executive chairman, engineeers his way to the most executives of roles without any experience.

If you take that journey that started in 1997 when the stated intention from the very top was to revamp Singapore's financial services sector, the comings and goings of John Olds, Jackson Tai, Philippe Paillart and several sundry others, shaped the scene for better or for worse.

At the very least, you would expect there to be someone, anyone, up there in the Singapore system who keeps track of the evolution of this very expensive asset of the country and who connects the dots, so that we don't keep building on mistake after mistake.

I am just saying that Mr Koh Boon Hwee, by virtue of his activist personality, his previous track record and the fact that he has no experience in the financial services industry raises alarm bells in me that tells me that he is not going to serve the future of this industry well.
Peter Seah to take over as DBS chairman from May 1

SINGAPORE: DBS chairman Koh Boon Hwee is to step down on April 30, according to a statement from the lender. He will be replaced by a board member Peter Seah from May 1.

Mr Koh is a well-known corporate figure, who was formerly chairman of Singapore Airlines and Singapore Telecom. He was first appointed to the DBS boards in June 2005 and assumed the role of DBS chairman in January 2006.

DBS said Mr Koh steered DBS during a tumultuous time for the global financial industry, and is stepping down with the economy having turned the corner.

It said despite challenging economic conditions last year, DBS' strong customer franchise enabled the bank to report record full-year revenues and profit before allowances.

Mr Seah is no stranger to the banking world, having been a commercial banker for 33 years before retiring as vice-chairman and CEO of the former Overseas Union Bank in 2001. Under his watch, Mr Seah transformed OUB into a leader in consumer banking.

Most market watchers took the change in their stride, saying that the move is not likely to disrupt or derail DBS from its growth.

Analysts said Mr Seah's hands-on experience in running a bank will be an asset to DBS.

They suggested that the new chairman could focus on things like expanding the bank's loan-to-deposit ratio and growing its market position in Singapore, for instance, by leveraging on its POSB franchise to raise efficiency and provide a wider range of services.

Observers also expect Mr Seah to stick with the roadmap laid out recently by DBS CEO Piyush Gupta for the short term.

Mr Gupta had earlier said that the bank plans to expand its Asian footprint and garner more revenue from India and Southeast Asia, while keeping Singapore as its core market.

That said, analysts said they are waiting to hear from Mr Seah about his plans for the bank.

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