Business

Singapore OCBC’s CEO to step down after a decade

SINGAPORE, Jan 17 – David Conner, chief executive of OCBC, Singapore’s second-biggest bank, is stepping down after a 10-year stint that saw him spearhead the bank’s expansion into Indonesia and purchase ING Group’s Asian private bank.

Samuel Tsien, senior executive vice president and head of its global corporate bank, will succeed Conner (picture) as CEO of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, the bank said in a statement today.

Under Conner’s leadership, OCBC overtook United Overseas Bank as Singapore’s second-biggest lender by assets after DBS Group Holdings.

Conner’s retirement could hurt the bank, one analyst said.

“It is definitely negative for the bank given that many investors associate him for the success of OCBC,” said Anand Pathmakanthan, a banking analyst at Nomura. “We are entering a period of uncertainty in terms of management.”

Connner’s departure was expected by markets, but timing was uncertain, analysts said.

Conner, who joined in April 2002 from Citibank N.A., helped OCBC take control of insurer Great Eastern Holdings, buy Bank NISP in Indonesia and swoop on ING’s Asian private bank for a deal worth US$1.4 billion (RM4.38 billion) in 2010.

OCBC’s statement came after the close of trading hours. The bank’s shares ended 2.4 per cent higher in a broader market up 2.1 per cent.

Conner’s departure was expected by the markets, but the timing was uncertain.

OCBC shares have doubled in the last 10 years, largely in line with the rise in the benchmark Singapore stocks, but outperforming shares of DBS and UOB. The stock however fell by about 20 per cent last year, making it the worst performing banking stock in Singapore.

INTERNAL CANDIDATE

The designated CEO Tsien, an internal candidate, joined OCBC in July 2007 after spending 30 years with Bank of America.

Conner worked at Citibank for 25 years and did stints in Japan, India and Singapore. The US-born executive will remain on the OCBC board as a non-executive director. Conner was paid a total of about S$7.5 million (RM18.30 million) in 2010.

OCBC, which earns more than 80 per cent of its income from Singapore and Malaysia, is expected to post a net profit of S$2.3 billion, little changed from a year ago, according to an average from 22 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The bank reports results in mid-February.

Senior Executive Vice-President Ching Wei Hong was also named as OCBC’S chief operating officer. The bank also said it will divide the global corporate bank into corporate banking and commercial banking, which will be led respectively by George Lee, currently head of investment banking, and Linus Goh, head of enterprise banking and financial institutions. – Reuters

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