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Singapore Inc revamping leadership ranks amid volatile markets

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's top state investment firms are shuffling senior management to help navigate choppy global markets.

Investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte said on Tuesday that its Americas President Boon Sim is leaving as it appointed two new presidents in the latest management reorganization to help it navigate "challenging global times." GIC said last week it gave Group Chief Investment Officer Lim Chow Kiat, the additional title of deputy group president as part of a leadership shuffle appointing seven managers to new roles.

The changes at the top echelons at Singapore's most prominent investment companies come amid intense market volatility as concerns about slowing global growth coincided with uncertainty on the timing of Federal Reserve interest-rate increases. Markets around the world have swung between gains and losses in recent months, and the Shanghai Composite Index has declined 16 per cent this year to rank among the worst-performing major benchmarks.

"Together with changes at GIC, we will look at it as a kind of review at the top levels of Singapore's investment companies," Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking in Singapore, said of the leadership revamp at Temasek. "It's been five years of below-trend global growth and volatility in the financial markets, so the worry is this period of sub-normal growth will persist for much longer than before."

Chia Song Hwee and Dilhan Pillay have been named Temasek presidents and the firm will reallocate some functions across groups to strengthen the focus and improve collaboration, it said in a statement Tuesday. It will bring together its sector and market investment teams under a single Investment Group, create a new Portfolio Strategy and Risk Group, as well as a new Sustainability and Stewardship Group.

Temasek on Oct 1 named Lee Theng Kiat as chief executive officer of Temasek International, the management arm in charge of all staff other than the CEO and chief financial officer. The appointment was seen as a first step in the succession planning after Temasek Chief Executive Officer Ho Ching took a six-month sabbatical in 2015. Mr Lee was also made director of the investment firm's board from April 1 this year.

Mr Chia joined Temasek in 2011 and was previously chief operating officer at Globalfoundries. He is joint head for Singapore as well as the investment group and portfolio management group, according to Temasek's website.

Mr Pillay joined Temasek in 2010 and was previously managing partner of Singapore law firm WongPartnership LLP. He is now head of Americas and also joint head of Singapore as well as the firm's enterprise development group and investment group.

"The changes we're making position the organization to protect and work the Temasek portfolio, and continue to build capabilities as we grow," Mr Lee said in the statement Tuesday. "In the future, we may continue to add additional capabilities to the business, as Temasek grows its investment portfolio and global footprint. We are always looking to create new opportunities to attract talented people to Temasek."

Mr Sim, who was also head of Temasek's markets group and head of its credit portfolio, according to the company's 2015 annual review, is leaving May 1. He will become advisory senior director and continue helping the company strengthen its network in the US, serve on some boards and advise on projects, the company said in an e-mailed statement in response to Bloomberg queries.

Mr Sim indicated a desire to relinquish his executive positions since the end of last year for personal and family reasons, Temasek said. He was hired in 2012 and was previously global head of mergers and acquisitions at Credit Suisse Group AG. He didn't answer a call to his US mobile phone seeking comment.

North America and Europe made up 17 per cent of Temasek's country exposure in the 12 months to March 31, 2015, an increase from 14 per cent the previous year, as the value of its holdings rose 19 per cent to a record S$266 billion. Singapore accounted for 28 per cent and Asia ex-Singapore made up 42 per cent of its geographic exposure.

Temasek will also appoint Fidah Alsagoff, Michael Buchanan, Png Chin Yee and Juliet Teo as senior managing directors, it said. The appointments take effect on May 1.

There will be some changes in responsibilities among senior members of the team, the company said.

Temasek is "reinforcing the message that we have talents in Singapore," said CIMB's Mr Song. "While we want the best out there, what has been proven is that there are also talents here and now they are being given a chance."

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