A clarion call to OS: "Carpe diem!""
Distinguished Business Leader,
Mr Koh Boon Hwee
Almost 200 Overseas Singaporeans in London seized the opportunity to get up close and personal with Mr Koh Boon Hwee, Chairman of DBS Bank. A former OS student in London himself, Mr Koh kept everyone captivated throughout his hour and a half long, off the cuff address. Mr Koh was the 9th Distinguished Business Leader (DBL) speaker in the Series and the 3rd speaker in London. In what many OS described as a most passionate, spontaneous and sincere address, Mr Koh answered questions on maintaining DBS Bank’s competitive edge, confidence issues surrounding the subprime problem, and the unprecedented economic growth and exciting developments in Singapore and Asia.
Mr Chiang Chie Foo
(Permanent Secretary, PMO)
giving the introductory speech
He had this advice to give: Even when opportunities out of the realm of your imagination present themselves to you, do not hesitate to seize them. Always take comfort that even if you ultimately fail, you can always go back to what you were previously doing. This belief has taken Mr Koh through different industries ranging from manufacturing, telecommunications, aviation and eventually to banking.
(L-R) Mr Roy Quek (Director, OSU), Mr Chiang Chie Foo (Permanent Secretary, PMO), Mr Koh Boon Hwee (Chairman, DBS Bank).
Mr Koh interacting with the Overseas Singaporeans
He headed companies as varied as HP, Wuthelam Group, SingTel, SIA and DBS Bank. Mr Koh shared that he approached all his businesses from two angles. First, as an entrepreneur going with gut feeling. Two, as a business strategist.
Saying that he always believed that Singapore and the Asian region would do well, Mr Koh explained his conviction then in the 1970s for wanting to stay and work in Singapore. This belief still holds true today. Singapore, Mr Koh said, would continue to stand in good stead as a financial centre as long as there continued to be stability, proper governance and rule of law. If we cannot be an innovator, we must at least be a quick follower. At the end of the evening, Mr Koh shared a story about how he had convinced the union to cut pay across the board, with more senior managers taking larger pay cuts in order to avoid any retrenchments in HP during the economic downturn in the mid-1980s. He urged the OS to always remember that when they were in positions of power, they must conduct business with integrity, dignity and morality as their decisions would have ripple effects on the many others down the line.
Click here for career details of DBS Bank.