SINGAPORE: Ms Ho Ching will retire as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Temasek Holdings and step down from its board on Oct 1, the state investor said on Tuesday (Feb 9).
Taking her place is Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, who will succeed her as CEO and executive director on the same day.
"Leadership succession is a strategic responsibility of the board," said Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng. "We have had in place an annual review since the early 2000s. This is to enable the board to be prepared for all eventualities, with various succession options over different time horizons."
Mr Lim said Ms Ho "has been very much part of this process".
"Indeed, she has been very active, working over the years to identify various potential successors both inside and outside of Temasek. She has also played a key role in nurturing a strong leadership bench in Temasek, several of whom have gone on to CEO appointments beyond Temasek," he said.
Mr Lim described Mr Pillay as an established leading corporate lawyer, who joined Temasek 10 years ago "with a sense of mission and purpose".
He has since played "several critical roles" in Temasek, including a two-year stint as head of the Americas, based out of New York. In 2019, he was appointed CEO of Temasek International, where he was responsible for the investor role of Temasek, managing its investment and portfolio activities. Mr Pillay will stay on as Temasek International CEO after Oct 1.
In his new role as Temasek Holdings CEO, Mr Pillay will be responsible for the stewardship role of Temasek, "particularly in respect of Temasek's constitutional responsibilities to safeguard its own past reserves", said Mr Lim.
In the announcement, Mr Lim paid tribute to Ms Ho for her leadership roles over nearly two decades.
“While there are some months to go before Ho Ching retires, the board wishes to recognise that she has led Temasek through a remarkable period of transformation. We have evolved from a relatively passive owner of the shares in former government-owned companies in Singapore to a globally recognised and respected investor, forward-looking institution and trusted steward.
"It is hard to call out Ho Ching’s many achievements and there will be more time to do so before she retires later in the year. Perhaps above all else, Ho Ching will be recognised for her unwavering commitment to build Temasek as a trusted steward, committed to the highest standards of integrity and governance.
"She has laid out and consistently applied the standards we expect of companies, and of ourselves as an owner," Mr Lim said.
“Ho Ching believes we have a stake in the well-being of our communities and the responsibility to exercise good stewardship through our contributions. Under her leadership, we set up Temasek Trust and Temasek Foundation as our philanthropic platforms to support public good and social causes in a sustainable manner over time.
"She also passionately convinced and committed Temasek to play a leading role as a champion of sustainability.
“On behalf of the entire Board, I thank Ho Ching for her unwavering commitment to build a forward looking institution of character and reputation,” Mr Lim added.
When Ms Ho was first appointed CEO in 2004, Temasek's portfolio stood at S$90 billion, mostly in Singapore. It has since tripled to more than S$300 billion, "notwithstanding the impact of the global financial crisis and now COVID-19", said Temasek in its news release.
Mr Lee Theng Kiat will also retire from his executive role at Temasek Holdings. He will remain a non-executive member of the board and continue as non-executive chairman of Temasek International.
"This will provide continuity during this leadership renewal, as well as allow us to continue to tap on his experience as a business builder, as well as his commercial network," said Mr Lim.
COVID-19 DID NOT AFFECT LONG-TERM PLANS: HO CHING
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Ms Ho said the COVID-19 pandemic has not derailed Temasek's long-term plans.
"The pandemic doesn’t derail our long-term plans. I'm actually very happy, very comforted, that we have a team in Temasek led by Dilhan, that has spent the last couple of years thinking ahead what it means, what the future means," she said.
"And in some sense, many of the trends they've identified, we have seen them being accelerated by COVID-19 rather than delayed by COVID-19 - digitalisation, the knowledge economy and the way the world is changing."
In the media release earlier, Ms Ho said she was happy to be passing the leadership baton to Mr Pillay.
She said Temasek is a "remarkable institution with deep roots in the ethos and founding values of Singapore" and that she was "most proud of" its people, whom she described as "highly dedicated and driven, methodical and passionate, but always with a heart for the larger good, always trying to make a difference, especially for the less fortunate and those in need".
Each generation of people at Temasek "was willing to make bold moves, try new ideas (and) push their boundaries", said Ms Ho. Every generation was also "willing to lead by example, willing to sacrifice the short term for the long term and to demonstrate solidarity during times of crises and need".
Mr Pillay and his team have "the same character and sense of purpose", she said, adding that she knew Mr Pillay "will take Temasek to the next level".
"FOCUS WILL BE ON DOING RIGHT AND DOING GOOD": PILLAY
Mr Pillay said he was honoured to take on the new appointment.
"I am especially grateful to Ho Ching and Theng Kiat for laying down a strong foundation for Temasek as it navigates a world of continuous change, increasing complexity and ambiguity.
"In continuing our mission to generate long-term sustainable returns beyond our current generation, core to our success will be our commitment to build a better, more sustainable world," he said.
“Our collective focus will be on doing right and doing good, even as we strive to do well, with conviction and purpose, as we continue to do things today with tomorrow clearly on our mind," he added.
At the media briefing, Mr Pillay said he was heartened by the fact that the Temasek team is committed to its plan for the next decade.
"The main part is to translate the plan into strategies and to execute well on them," he said. "Be prepared to pivot, if we have to, make sure that we have the right people in place - I believe we have a very good team right now. That team will be augmented in the next few years and beyond."